Editor’s Note: Anna Flynn is a retired teacher who lives in Houston, Texas. She was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 1988 but first had symptoms when she was in high school. She has decided to share her story in advance of Fibromyalgia Awareness Day on May 12.
I’ve done everything all the tests, all the doctors, all the different medicines. I tried alternative treatments like naturopathic medicine and acupuncture (that was the worst!). I have had lots of muscle pain in low back and sacrum. Imagine having needles sticking out of your back, thumbs, toes and nose. The pain just became worse. Of course it did because there are f@#&ing needles searing thru your muscle fibers where fibromyalgia originates.
When I had back surgery last fall I had a major episode. My doctor wanted me off medicine that has worked for 25 years (amitriptyline) and put me on norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor SNRI (Cymbalta). I became very anxious immediately and couldn’t sleep. I didn’t sleep more than 2 hours a day, became very sad (I hated that). I felt like there was a black veil over my face and I couldn’t think about anything but my pain. I had recently retired from teaching and I felt strongly that I wanted to get this pain under control and get on with my life.
I needed help.
I contacted my Doctor again and she still did not want me to be on amitriptyline even though I brought research showing how it works in fibromyalgia cases.
She decided to change the Cymbalta prescription to Effexor another SNRI. It didn’t work. My moods got darker and still no sleep. I was feeling horrible, my doctor wasn’t listening. I was in a very bad spot. Even thought, the hell with it, maybe it’s easier not to go on.
But I had counseling thru my health insurance and my counselor really helped me. He provided good advice and helped me make a plan to convince my doctor to help me.
I’m lucky. My husband Mike was by my side through all of this. At the counselor’s suggestion, Mike and I wrote a 6 week daily diary which got the point across. It was actually Mike’s comments that helped the doctor understand the pain I was feeling. (Like she couldn’t believe me!)
So she took me off Effexor and put me back on amitriptyline. I immediately started sleeping again and after 2 weeks I was beginning to recover.
Something else happened that I’m convinced has helped me rally. Mike and I don’t have children. During the darkest time I sat crying with Mike saying we don’t have a family or kids and I don’t even have a job anymore. As a teacher I always had plenty of kids. I told Mike I wanted to get a puppy.
He said “No, let’s get two puppies.” So after a month of being back on my meds we started to look around and adopted 2 maltipoos. My life and pain are not focused on me anymore. I have 2 little puppies (Bonnie and Aengus) whose lives I’m responsible for.
No, they did not cure me. My fibromyalgia is still there but my meds are helping and I just started seeing a pain management doctor. I’ve always known that exercise helps and I get lots bending down to play with my puppies or pick them up or stop them from fighting.
- Stand up to your doctor. They will listen, but sometimes you have to make them listen. My argument with my doctor about what prescription was best was difficult. One of her patients had had a bad experience with it, which understandably colored her judgment. It was when she read my diary that she realized that I was right. By the way, I’m still seeing her because now I think she’s listening. If she hadn’t finally listened, I’d be seeing another doctor.
- Get a dog (or a pet). Puppies are great therapists. If you or a loved one is stuck in a bad place the way I was, consider an animal as a possible pain remedy.
It’s hard to believe how much better things are now.
When I say better, there’s one more thing. My husband Mike, who has been an unbelievable partner in my fight against fibromyalgia, is now fighting his own fight–against bladder cancer which was diagnosed earlier this year.
He’s doing ok. Keep a good thought for him.
The unconditional love of two puppies and a loving, concerned husband are my prescription in the fight against fibromyalgia.
In hindsight, it seems rather simple.
All I know is it is working!