Did you know that trauma can leave a physical mark on your body? Did you know it could manifest in such a way that your body wears it every day-- like a coat made of lead?
I had a sentinel year in 2014. I had a miscarriage, lost my dad, and lost my husband in a short four months. I also gave birth that November, about five months after I was widowed. The kind of stress I carried while grieving and caring for two babies under age two was something not all people would survive.
I did survive. Somehow, by the grace of God, we carried on. My daughters grew. I had a community around me that helped with childcare, let me cry over the phone to them, loved on me at church, brought me meals, and so forth.
That first year of my younger daughter's life, my body was always tense. Between breastfeeding round the clock, chasing a busy toddler, working full-time nights at the hospital, I was completely spent. I remember waking up one morning and both my arms were tingly and numb. I wondered if I was having a stroke, but decided I wasn't because the sensations were on both sides. This continued for several days, only upon waking for an hour or two. I finally connected the dots: I was holding so much tension in my neck and shoulders that it was impinging on the nerves in my arms.
I made time to get a massage and even the massage therapist was impressed/concerned by the tightness in my muscles. She kneaded out my knots which was painful but necessary. I didn't wake up feeling that way for a while.
I had another sentinel year in 2017. Within one week, I lost my grandmother, my aunt, and my dating relationship ended. Then three months later, one of my uncles died as well. My grief was so intense because the new hurts reopened the pain of my old hurts. It was like ripping out the scar tissue of an old, deep, wound and allowing it to get infected.
I've not slept well since my husband died in June of 2014. To be fair, I always struggled with insomnia, but it's been that much worse since Chris' death. My sleep struggles vary... I can have insomnia at times, frequent nightmares which leave me feeling unrested, frequent night awakenings, and migraines severe enough to wake me/keep me awake.
I've had multiple health issues for some time-- some which began in childhood and some which began more recently. In late 2018, however, things really began to unravel. I had all these mystery symptoms that not only seemed impossible to treat, but had an unknown cause. I began to think I was going nuts and that the pain was never going to end...
Ultimately I diagnosed myself (thank God that I was working on a Master's in nursing at the time) in late Summer 2019. I came to my primary care provider and told her I thought I'd finally put all the puzzle pieces together: fibromyalgia. Upon a little more testing, she 100% agreed.
It was a relief to find out the why I'd been suffering so much... and have a name for it. It was good to see that all I'd been dealing with in my body wasn't just in my head. On the flipside, I believed treatment would be a bit more potent than it is. Does my laundry list of medications and supplements help? Yes, they do alleviate some of my pain, mood issues, and anxiety... Sadly they do nothing for the fatigue and even on my best day, I still have daily aches and pains, at 33 years old. There are days all I can do is get out of bed for food and bathroom due to the extreme pain or fatigue I'm dealing with. This is while medicated.
This "new normal" has been a difficult adjustment. I was used to going full speed ahead all day every day... Having my body's functions fluctuate sometimes hourly, unpredictably, is a great loss. I've struggled with being able to do less as a mom and as a wife than I feel I should. Thankfully my family only shows support, grace, and love for me. My husband Don seamlessly steps in to take care of the kids or household duties as I need.
As for me, I will admit I'm still trying to process what this diagnosis means for me. I'm still trying to find the best ways to cope with my symptoms and the way it makes me feel emotionally. I will say this-- the Lord is good and He has been with me every step of the way. I am not alone in this fight.