Fibromyalgia · pain awareness art

What it takes


Getting through a day can be such a daunting thought. The ache in my bones, the crust covering my eyes, the numbness through my hips, the stinging in my back and feet, and the inability to turn my neck have all vetoed any plans and ideas for the entire day, and I haven’t even gotten out of bed yet.

My alarm is abused, having been hit over ten times already. I was going to get up early and make coffee while throwing in a load of laundry. I don’t need to do the laundry now. I don’t even really need to make the coffee, but I do need to get up. My soul says “Maybe in ten more minutes I can do it,” and my body says “NO!”

I’m groggy. I wonder how long I’ve had this virus, this sickness – and then I suddenly remember, as if I could ever forget yet somehow I did, that it is not a virus. This has been going on for forever, and it will be here for forever.

The list in my brain is quickly whittled down to necessities only. No laundry, no coffee, no shower, no cooking. Truly, the only thing I need to do this morning is get my little boy up, dressed, fed, loved, and off to school. My body doesn’t want to but my heart and brain say it must happen, even though neither know how it will happen.

Someone is ahead of the game and has crept into my bedroom. He is giggling while moaning like a cartoon ghost. I playfully “Eeek!” as he jumps into my bed, but then my whole body cringes and spastically retreats when he places his elbow on my thigh and I release a pained grunt.

“Oh, sorry momma!”

“It’s ok, baby.”

It still hurts, right where he touched me. I could draw it on my skin with a marker, the outline of the deep, intense, burning. It continues as I crawl out of bed and begin laying out his clothes.

We manage well this morning. Even though we had to finish a last minute school project, we have time to spare. I find myself wishing I had gone ahead with signing him up to ride the bus. Yes I’m up and dressed, but my joints are popping in and out of place, my muscles are burning and heavy, and I am still unable to fully turn my neck. Driving does not sound like fun.

Our chatter distracts me from my body as I navigate us towards his school. The roads are fairly clear of traffic and for a moment I forget what street I am on, nearly missing our final turn. Once parked in our regular spot, which is as close as legally possible to the school, we start walking.

It is only about a half block’s walk from our car to his spot in line, but by the time I’ve made 20 steps there is a sharp burning radiating from my hips into the softness of my belly and the small of my back. In the middle of these pains, along their path, are tight barbed strings being pulled taunt with each movement. My son decides he’s going to hop and stop right in front of me, jarring me to a standstill and I don’t know if I will be able to start again.

Will. I will myself to move, and I do. But now my spine is cracking and popping, and with it comes the stabs of rib pain that threaten to reach completely around me. My hands, wrists, and forearms are tingling with a combination of burning, stinging, and weakness that I have come to call “gloves of pain”. We’ve reached his line on the playground, and all I can do is gently rock and sway back and forth, side to side, to ease my body.

I’m suddenly aware of everyone around me; parents who look fantastic. I wonder if they can tell that my hair hasn’t been washed in two weeks. I start scolding myself.

“Two weeks? Stacy! You can do better than this, you can. You should. How can you not wash your hair in two weeks?! They all must think you are nuts!”

But my son is happy to have me at his side and no one is truly staring at me. The babies hooked in the crook of their mother’s arms, scattered all around the playground, still pass by and they still like me, so, clearly I cannot be that hideous. And all of my son’s classmates have been talking to me since we arrived. So I reason that I have pulled it off for yet another day.

When the bell rings, all I think is how I can finally go back to bed. My mind is instantly pissed off as thanksgiving is being held at our house and there are a month’s worth of dishes to wash. I take a breath. I tell myself that I often get huge bursts of energy once my body has properly rested, and that if I feel this awful right now the best thing to do is rest. Everything will work out just fine. I don’t feel convinced.

I walk into my house and it seems that little bit of self assurance has paid off – I no longer see a huge disaster. I smile and find my spot on the couch. I tell myself I am resting and that as soon as the energy comes I will tackle the dishes bit by bit and that everything will be ok.

Before long, my fingers have found my sketch pad app and I have visually expressed how my body feels today. I’m proud. I sip my coffee and take many deep breaths. When I enter the kitchen to refill my cup, I am struck with enough energy to consolodate the dirty dishes and fill the sink with water, soap, and all of the glasses and silverware. Although “letting them soak” has been the demise of every good dishes plan ever, I still promise to come back soon.

What it takes to get through the day… it’s only noon. My left hand is nearly useless now as I finish typing this, despite my best efforts to massage the muscles and pull the joints into less painful positions. All of my morning pain is still here – neck, shoulders, chest, ribs, back, hips, feet.

I don’t feel sorry for myself, though. I’m not sad; this is just a pretty normal day and although I would rate my pain as an 8 out of 10, I know it could always be worse.

There is a very hot bath in my very near future – it wil ease some of the ache. I’ve started my back stretches but am really wishing I had a better, more in tune, physical therapist. I’ll continue taking my medicatons, but they are truly more preventative than reactive, meaning they won’t take away my current pain but they will continue to prevent other types of pain.

Mainly, though, I will listen to my body and try to resist “pushing through” just to get things done.

So… this is what it takes to get through a portion of my day.



4 thoughts on “What it takes

  1. Thank you for writing this, and I think the image that goes with this post is especially beautiful for some reason. I can relate to much of what you wrote, and I’m glad you’re able to continue celebrating the joys that you do have, despite the difficulties.

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