Desperation—muscle spasms, joint aches, a persistent rash on my left hip—has led me to my latest attempt to cure fibromyalgia. The last reasonable solution I haven’t attempted is veganism, and as of today, I’m giving it a chance.
I was a vegetarian for much of high school and college, although not a particularly healthy one. My meal choices centered around cheese pizza, tater tots, soda, and ice cream. Not eating meat isn’t a huge leap for me, but veganism is. I’ve been on a mostly organic-based diet for years, but that includes organic cheese, free-range meat, and even organic ice cream. I cut out refined sugar for five months and saw minimal results, but I’m hoping that going with a strict vegan diet will finally kick fibromyalgia out of my life.
This morning, I had our local co-op’s version of energy bars for breakfast. They’re fig-based squares with cocoa powder, goji berries, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds. I’ve eaten them for years before a long run, so this day so far hasn’t been much of a foray into veganism. I have a feeling that it won’t be for three or four days that I really notice how closely I have to watch my food choices to stick to the vegan way of life.
Pain can make a person crazy. Fibromyalgia combines pain with a special kind of erratic yet constant crazy. If almond milk, fig paste, and Brussels sprouts can fix this hell, then I’ll raise a glass of kombucha to the vegan cure.
Fibromyalgia and rough seams do not get along. I’ve worn my running socks inside out for years to avoid blisters, which gave me the idea for a solution to the daily fight with shirt and bra seams. Sports bras and wicking t-shirts have some of the most unforgiving seams on the clothing market. When fibromyalgia’s flaring, and my body gets that flu-like don’t-touch-me feeling, the seams dig into my back and shoulders like emery boards.
At the risk of looking stupid, I’ve started wearing most of my workout t-shirts inside out. Seam problem solved. Since I wear sports bras that don’t have individual cups, I’m also able to turn the bras inside out. It’s a whole new world. I can bike, run, and hit the gym without feeling like my clothes are sawing away at my skin.
I get very tired of making adjustments and lifestyle modifications to accommodate fibromyalgia, but I can live with inside-out clothes. If my workout clothes are going to be stinky and sweaty anyway, they might as well look funny, too.
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.
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.