Running from Pain

Ever tried on pants that were several sizes too small, stretching the seams to the max? This morning, the muscles across my upper back felt like overburdened seams, straining and ripping. I was angry, depressed, cynical, and miserable. I begged my girlfriend to tell me everything would be fine. She couldn’t. So I went for a run.

I made it 61 minutes and 42 seconds in the Florida summer heat. An absolute fury built inside me while I ran. My upper back and neck felt like a feather being pulled apart down the middle, and I could’ve sworn someone stabbed me in the collarbone and left the knife there. The worse the pain, the stronger the fury.

I lucked out today. It’s hard to say that athletes with fibromyalgia luck out with much, but the fury cooking inside me allowed me to wrench loose some of the locked facet joints and muscles spasms. I swung my left arm at an odd angle while I ran, and by the half-hour mark, the tearing sensation gave way to crepitus and popping. And then release, physical and emotional.

Not all days bring such luck. I’ve run many miles where I couldn’t even turn my head to look for cars because muscle spasms locked me in a straight-ahead stare. Sometimes my hips and knees feel like they’re on fire when my bodyweight lands for a footfall. But not today.

I hate fibromyalgia. It may kill me one day, but I’m going to fight every second not only for my life, but for my lifestyle as an athlete.

Fibromyalgia and Sleep

Sleeping is vital to life. It promotes recovery, which is something athletes need especially after hard training days. For athletes with fibromyalgia, sleeping can be less of a restful experience and more of a nightmare.

I experienced the nightmare for almost three years before starting Lyrica. Various medications and supplements would help a little, but for the most part, each night was a painful battle to sleep as little as two hours. Physical pain and anxiety are a deadly, sleep-robbing cocktail.

I tried everything within reason, and a few things outside of reason. Natural cures. Iridology. Acupuncture. Valium. Fancy pillows, cheap pillows, cervical pillows, no pillow. We paid a fortune for a memory foam mattress. The mattress put me into the 4-hours-per-night range, but nighttime still brought extreme anxiety. It’s really crappy when all you want to do is go to sleep, but your body won’t let it happen.

Lyrica allows me to sleep, and is especially effective if I’ve had a very long, hard workout during the day. I still have to plan every single aspect of a night’s rest, from pillow position to clothing (tags or screen prints irritate my overly sensitive skin and even cause muscle spasms) to the should-I-or-shouldn’t-I-take-ibuprofen-question. I can’t travel much, and I desperately need to be on a memory foam mattress. My cervical pillow goes with me everywhere if I have a chance in hell of sleeping.

There’s nothing quite like the deep depression and hopelessness that comes from not sleeping. Fibromyalgia has taken me to depths I never thought I could reach. Sleeping again has made those depths much more bearable.

Athletes need sleep. We blissfully destroy our bodies with strenuous repetitive motions, maxed-out weights, and ambitious endurance training. If we don’t sleep, we die. As an athlete with fibromyalgia, I was dying. Now, I’m sleeping—even if it is a ridiculously planned and choreographed event. It’s entirely life-changing to say “goodnight” as an actual pre-sleep ritual. Goodnight.