My pain and fatigue worse than ever, I decided to talk to my new doctor. Sure enough, my symptoms matched those of fibromyalgia. From Unraveling the Mystery of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder.
Researching the disorder on the Internet, I discovered exactly what I had suspected I would. Like autism, the disease was genetically predisposed. It was thought to be triggered by an insult to the immune system such as extreme stress, injury, or virus. I knew that the term “autoimmune” was being overused for modern illnesses, but it was suspected that fibromyalgia fell into that category. Many FMS sufferers controlled their illness with a combination of moderate exercise, yeast control, and allergy elimination diets. Oddly enough, suspect foods included the nightshades that my mother avoided because they gave her “arthritis”: tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant.
Dutifully, I eliminated those foods, which were among my favorites, and found immediate relief from my pain and stiffness. I consented to a prescription drug that helped me sleep more soundly and regularly. As a result of those two factors, for the first time in my adult life, I maintained an exercise program without missing a day. I discovered that eggs, oranges, and coffee had been causing my stomach problems. I took supplements of glucosamine, which also seemed to help control the joint pain.
Maintaining a low-sugar diet was important, too. When I was having a bad day of pain and fatigue, I usually found myself craving sugar to an almost unbearable extent, and it took great willpower to stay away from it. But now I knew what it felt like to feel good, and there was no going back. Although I still had some difficult days, for the most part I was well.
My house became cleaner, my office more organized, my thoughts less foggy, and my current relationship with my husband and daughter came sharply into focus. The tornado had blown through, and now it was cleanup time. I began making lists of things to do, instead of obsessing about how behind I was. I planned one-on-one time with Laura and made myself slow down enough to enjoy it. The exercise was time-consuming, but left me more clearheaded. I was able to accomplish more in a day and knew when to quit.
“You know, you look great,” Alan said one day as I got ready for bed. “You look like a model.” I laughed. I had always complained of being ten pounds overweight. Then I looked in the mirror critically and realized that I had gone down a size. My waist was slimmer and less bloated. My skin looked healthy, and I appeared younger somehow. The difference was striking. The only thing that remained the same was the worried look in my eyes, the eyes of someone who knew too much. But the rest of me was in better shape than it had been in my entire adult life. The monster had invaded my home but had brought its own gifts. And I no longer believed in symptoms without cause.