Living With Fibromyalgia – Cassidy’s Story
My name is Cassidy Cooper. I am a fashion photographer with a background in all things creative, from styling to session singing and jewelry design.
Life Leading Up To Diagnoses
Life leading up to my diagnosis was a long, treacherous road. My teenage years were challenging, and I often experienced periods of intense pain. When I was 18 years old, I self-discovered Fibromyalgia and was able to be diagnosed. Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that causes widespread pain throughout the body. Chronic fatigue, brain fog, and trouble sleeping are just a few of the symptoms. Although it tends to run in families, so genetic factors likely contribute to the disorder, very little else is known about the cause of Fibromyalgia. Most of what I’ve been able to learn about Fibromyalgia has been by self-educating and incorporating my many doctors’ research into my own understanding of it.
My diagnosis of Fibromyalgia was only confirmed after many doctor visits, countless tests, and eliminating other symptom causes. The treatments they gave me, and the diets I followed that were supposed to help, never brought relief. I continued to search for answers to my chronic health problems without much luck.
After searching for answers for almost ten years, only recently, at the age of 26, I was given my “final” diagnosis. In addition to Fibromyalgia, my diagnosis now also includes Ankylosing Spondylitis & Psoriatic Arthritis. Due to the high cost and intense side effects, I am currently not taking any medication.
Fibromyalgia has always been classified as a chronic pain disorder, but some new studies suggest it may actually be an autoimmune disease.
Ankylosing Spondylitis is a rare type of arthritis. This is a lifelong condition that causes pain and stiffness in the spine. Over time this disorder can cause some of the bones in the spine (vertebrae) to fuse together.
Psoriatic Arthritis is a type of inflammatory arthritis that can occur in some patients with psoriasis. Some of the symptoms include joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, which may flare and subside.
Receiving my diagnosis has made a big difference in my life. I no longer carry a heavy weight on my shoulders, questioning what my future may look like. In addition to physical pain, it took a toll on me to be unsure where my pain stemmed from or if I would ever understand it. Knowing that I have finally been heard and seen by my doctors and have the words to express my experience is a big relief.
Although the progression of symptoms varies, I’m at least better capable of knowing what boundaries I need to set. I have a better understanding of what my abilities are for me to keep myself “ok.” I also know what will happen when I ignore or push those boundaries. This is a vital part of navigating living with chronic pain.
The search for knowledge about my condition has made me highly passionate about reading medical texts. Science-driven books regarding both mental and physical health fascinate me! Experiencing these chronic disorders firsthand has sparked an exciting love for understanding this complicated world of human design. I have also found sharing my life experiences to be helpful for myself and sharing with others. I believe that holding space for others to express their feelings and share their stories is important to the autoimmune community.
Doing so has also been important in my own journey. Giving me a perspective that alleviates some of the stress that living with an autoimmune disease can bring. I hope to use any platform I have to help bring greater understanding to our community so that people can get quicker diagnoses and overall destigmatize self-care.
Tips For Living With Fibromyalgia
Having a love hate relationship with exercise is understandable. But low-impact workouts like walking and swimming are some of the best ways to deal with Fibromyalgia symptoms, as it eases fatigue and pain. Regular exercise can also help improve your sleep quality.
Don’t Overdo It On The Good Days
Energy levels can change drastically from day to day when you have Fibromyalgia. Some days are a struggle to get out of bed; other days, you have tons of energy to run around! But even on the good days, it’s important to take it easy and not overdo it. Trying to do too much, even if you’re feeling good, can trigger a flare. It’s easier said than done but learning to pace yourself on your good days instead of trying to make up for lost time will be much more effective in the long run.
Learn To Say No
It takes time to learn to say no and not feel guilty about it, but it’s essential when it comes to protecting your health. The small nonessential tasks that eat up energy add unnecessary stress that can lead to flare-ups.
Eat A Healthy Diet
Maintaining a diet focusing on nutrient-rich foods will give you more energy and help avoid further health problems. Keeping a food diary is a great way to track which foods make you feel good or worse.
Avoiding or limiting the amount of caffeine you drink is also best. Although it will give you an energy boost, studies show that high caffeine consumption can exacerbate pain symptoms.
Listen To Your Body
Trying to push through exhaustion and fatigue will worsen fibromyalgia symptoms. Listen to your body and rest when you need to.