“Side effects include nausea, constipation, drowsiness, difficulty sleeping, dizziness, etc, etc..” These are all the things I should have read before taking the Cymbalta. I didn’t. I resigned myself to my fate and I took the pill. I do wish someone had mentioned the withdrawal aspect to me ahead but then I probably wouldn’t have taken it. Thankfully, it was the lowest dosage available since my doctor was aware of my very vocal distaste for taking any type of medication if I don’t absolutely have to.. yes, doctors love me (insert sarcasm here).
I steer clear. My mother had a dependence on prescription drugs. Having grown up living that, well.. lets just say I have hang-ups. Add to that the fact that medicine almost always affects me adversely.. I steer doubly clear. This should give a hint to what level of pain we fibro sufferers feel.. let me say it again – I TOOK THE PILL.
Now, I am not going to lie and say it was magical. All of my symptoms didn’t disappear and I lived happily (and pain free) ever after. The first week or so was not fun. I was dizzy and woozy all the time.. and I drive an hour to work everyday. I had random sharp shooting pains. I had headaches. I was super queasy. I’d rather cut off my leg then be queasy. I was constipated (I know, I know.. but it’s important because I have diverticulosis). I would fall asleep for a couple of hours just to be restless all night as the slightest sound woke me. I was tired.. well, more tired. I would have just stopped it but by that time I had read of the horrifying withdrawal.. so I stuck with it.
Here’s the thing – for me it worked. Most of the earlier side effects subsided eventually and my pain went down considerably. I felt near normal on many days. I am glad that I didn’t read into the scary stuff and am most days better able to deal. I am aware it doesn’t work for everybody, but so far it has given me some of my life back and for that I am thankful.
“Did you get the message that was left for you?” This was the first thing said to me. “Yes”, I replied and then proceeded to explain that I was worried.. so many people who’s stories I read seemed to have lost a good deal of mobility. I already had days where I had to shuffle through. I was just in the garden that past weekend trying to plant under the tree and the pain in my hips was excruciating. There was a bit of commentary on how we tend to do too much as women and sometimes we give up and resign ourselves to the pain.
I wasn’t sure if this was meant to commiserate or as a hint to suck it up. I was in my head a lot and feeling very dismissed. I forgot all the questions that I had wanted to ask and my steadfast rule on not taking medications flew right out the window. I just wanted some relief. I just wanted to be normal. That day I drove around for hours, prescription in hand and crying. Then I went home and cried some more. Later that afternoon, I did suck it up.. and I trudged into the pharmacy.
I’ve read that it’s often called the unseen disorder – fibromyalgia.. difficult to diagnose, unseen symptoms, and a stigma of disbelief. I have only recently been diagnosed after two years of misses, multiple tests, and an escalation in pain carrying over ten years. It was my husband that insisted I finally get checked out. Process of elimination, I was told.. my diagnosis was left on my voicemail. Harsh as the delivery method sounds, I was glad to have a name to put with the face. Soon after, I would revisit my rheumatologist for a game plan.. and meanwhile, since I didn’t know much about it, I put on my big girl panties and started researching.
Once I passed my “what fresh hell is this” stage – there isn’t a lot of positive vibe out there, I realized something.. those of us living with this, WE are the unseen. We often wear a mask to push through the pain, and when we are lucky to have days where we feel almost normal, we carry that stigma of disbelief. We are perceived as being okay at best.. faking the extent of what we feel at worst. There are no definitive tests as of yet that we can hold up and say to the universe “see, my pain is real!” So much misinformation exists. It’s hard to keep your chin up in such circumstances, but I am trying. I wish I had the answers. I am at least blessed with a supportive husband and I have a doctor who is working with me. I can hold my head up and speak from the depths and say my pain exists.. and I support those like me who need to be seen.