One year ago today, I discovered that my rib cage has pain issues. Costachondiritis, the doctor said, which is basically inflammation of all the connective tissue around and between your ribs, which leads to issues with everything connected to that--in my case, my left arm always feels a little swollen, my collarbones ache, where my ribs connect to my spine aches, and it makes my boobs hurt. I still can't wear a bra and some days even the cute little sports bras I've switched to are too much. Its upsetting that some days, a year later, are as bad as when I went to the doctor scared I was dying 12 months ago.
Since then, the pain issues have expanded from being o my in my ribs to being everywhere, and we're pretty sure it's fibromyalgia. Its nice to have a name for it, but its not at all nice to always have pains to work around, and to have some days just randomly so bad I can barely move. It's made keeping in shape hard, and sleeping isn't great, and some days all I can do is try not tone a terrible person, and if I manage that, I call it a win.
But its not all bad. I've also learned that I can avoid certain foods to keep flare ups minimal, and I know that my desk chair is not the best place to work because it has no support, so I've started working in other places and switching it up. I've cut back on how much caffeine I take in, and upped actual nutrients, which helps with my mood and mental clarity as sell as the pain, so that's a nice perk. I try to remember tone calm, to move slow, and to not push myself too hard. If my condition has only improved maybe half way, my self-care skills have improved immensely!
One of my goals for this year is to make enough money that I can sign up with a good doctor of holistic or functional medicine and work on getting me back into balance, because I'm pretty sure a lot of this is because I've been out of balance and out of whack for a long time; if I can find balance again, some or all of it should improve, and it would be nice if I had bloodwork and expert opinions to help guide me, not just googling and gut feelings!
In the meantime, I try not to dwell. Technically I now have a chronic condition that is invisible but very much affects my life. I'm hesitant, though, to make that a central part of my identity, because its not the thing I want to focus on like that. I want to focus on writing and nail polish and craftshows and reviews; I don't want to focus on how much I'm hurting beyond how much that means I can put on my daily to do list! I mark on each day's page in my journal what the pain level is and note what's hurting, and then I move on. This whole thing makes me way too aware of my insides and it feels worse when that's all I'm thinking about, so my tactic right now is to acknowledge it and move on.
Its frustrating. It often feels like there's no end in sight. It makes me feel damaged and slow. But its also been a learning experience and its made me be more conscious of how I'm living my life and how I need to be living it. It was like a warning shot that got a little close, a "hey, pay attention". That's my silver lining: all this trouble has made me really look at how I've been handling things and get my act together. Its not easy, any of it, but its a start.
That's where I am, at the start.
Where are you?