People Just Like You

Alexandra Henry

Bodily pains have been a common theme in my life at least since middle school. I remember having some backpain as young as 12 years old because of the overstuffed book bag I carried over my shoulders. But bodily pains didn’t make a huge impact in my life until I was 18 years old when my right foot was mysteriously swollen. The summer of my freshman year of college was spent on communicating with foot specialists and elevating my foot which was all the medical advice they had come up with. Eventually, the swollenness disappeared, but two years later, my left foot became mysteriously swollen…and it STILL is! Some doctors had stated that it was lymphedema and to simply wear stockings and elevate my feet because there’s a high chance that the swollenness would expand upwards to my legs. 

I thought this was going to be the only “problem” with my body, but as I was battling depression and eventually high levels of anxiety due to self-image issues, my neck, shoulder and back were paying the price of my emotional and mental rollercoaster. From my head to my toe, there was a war going against each other. And I was playing the victim. I didn’t know what to do with the intensity of pain and fatigue. The unanswered prayers from God made it even worse for me because I didn’t know how to pray while experiencing constant bodily pains. No doctor would diagnose me, but it wasn’t until 2019 that I got a new rheumatologist who cooperated with me in reaching a diagnosis of my chronic conditions. I felt a sense of relief when I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Not because I wanted to be diagnosed with it (Who does?!), but because now I have a direction. Now I can work on gaining knowledge and a level of expertise when navigating my life with fibromyalgia. Although there was a sense of relief, there was also a wave of grief that crashed into me: I have fibromyalgia. I have fibromyalgia. I am diagnosed with…fibromyalgia. I didn’t want to believe these new statements in my life.

Going to therapy for my emotional struggles with my diagnosis has helped me tremendously to view my health conditions through a solution-oriented perspective. Along with therapy, awareness of my mind and body helps me to easily identify the pain points in my current emotional, psychological, spiritual, physical, etc state. Practicing awareness has helped me to realize that I need to accept fibromyalgia as it is in my life–and stop trying to anxiously “fix” my body. Not to work against my illness but working with my illness. The ideal situation would be that I am healed from fibromyalgia, but if I perceive fibromyalgia as a block to living my ideal life, then I am missing opportunities of joy and the beautiful gifts that God has in store for me. Learning what my body needs is part of body-awareness–which is often challenging, but so helpful. Instead of falling into victimhood of my fibromyalgia flares, I can take more responsibility and work on taking preventive measures to reduce the likelihood of my fibromyalgia flares (not guaranteed, but it is helpful). Yoga has been helpful to me in the morning. Sometimes throughout the day, I’d take a break and do a quick stretch for my muscles. 

There are loads of other things that are part of my pain management, but each person is different. Talking to at least one person whom you trust, even if it’s a therapist, would be helpful. We need to be heard. It’s important to vocalize our pain. It’s easy to complain, but it makes a positive impact on our mental and physical health to simply talk about what you are feeling in your body and what thoughts and feelings come up because everything is connected. 

The Acceptance Journey (Blog)

Songs of Freedom by Alexandra Henry