I’m a man — an outdoor person — with fibromyalgia: I love backpacking, survival in the wild, biking, chasing, archery, agriculture, medieval rehabilitation, forest management, home building. Fibromyalgia has changed my life and identity while removing much of what I used to do to alleviate stress and anxiety. I have learned over time to redefine and find new ways to feel useful and capable.
I didn’t know what my condition was when I first began to develop. I only knew, and it frightened me, that I could not do what I used to. I told a doctor that I took Ibuprofen 2400 mg per day to continue to move. “Well, all of us got older” she said. “Ma’am, I’m 22, I’m 22.”
After graduating early, I skipped most secondary school, began my own business, worked hard, spent hard. Ask me if I’m all right every time I’m not moving. Whenever I’ve been pig-headed to push too hard. Finishing a five-mile course on a badly squeezed knee took me most of a season, but not so badly. When I ask for assistance, warning bells are supposed to ring; tell the doctors.
After some of the more serious, visible effects began to kick, it became easier. “My fingers’ today are a little swollen,” I’d say, and the eyes of the doctor are going to bug out. Then next time I told them I was in pain, they would listen. When you saw that my blood pressure normally was cool 90 or 60. It was a little more attention when you saw my blood pressure. Tests, tests and more tests were then conducted.
I have received a diagnostic, if you can call it, after three years of testing. After 8 years, maybe 20 doctors, a broken marriage, a broken company and a homeless place, I still fight a holding action — losing slowly.
I’m bound to a wheelchair during a bad day in winter. I can sling hay balls with the best of them on a good day in the summer. Actually, I must. I know the more I do in summer, the better I can cope with winter. Better muscle tone, higher moral fitness, means sliding when the weather becomes cold.
How can I keep the rest of the time insane? I teach that. I teach. Artisanship, herbology, archery, skills of survival. I got people rolling me out on bad days into the range of the archery. I couldn’t shoot, but I could watch its form, listen to the subtle twang of a misfire, or look at a bow leaving an underspined arrow fishtail. I can shoot some days; I can help other days. I’m going to say: it hurts. It hurts to watch someone does and can not do something that you love. But I feel sorry for myself and sit down at home.
Many of the people I helped shoot better now than ever. At all occasions, I teach people crafts. My (new) wife and I talk about disaster preparedness and traditional skills in the church. All I’ve learned, I write down. I’m going to teach her everything I can as my daughter grows older. One person did the stuff I did when I was well. I now watch the skills increase in others, as I’m sick. My disease has made one corner of the world better in some slight and immeasurable way.
It hurts still, but pain for one reason is far better than pain for no one. I’m a bit more sleeping. A little less frequently, my wife must tell me to sit down. My young daughter is not frazzled and grumpy. But, I know I make a difference, I let it be … at least until it gets a little warmer. I want to pick it up again.
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