Fat and Not Afraid

Respect and love are for EVERY body.

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Carolyn, Fat and Fibromyalgia

September 30, 2011

I was diagnosed with Fibromyaglia about 8 months ago.  Now, keep in mind, that I have been complaining about the same symptoms since I was about 10 years old.  Spine pain, deep leg pain, chest pain, and constant feeling of fatigue.  I have a 3 ring binder, filled with 15 years of medical history.  most of it says the same thing "patient is an obese female. recommend weight loss to improve symptoms."  Even when I was 17 and came in with a persistent eye twitch (one that was visible and had lasted multiple weeks).  I complained to the doctor about my fatigue and memory problems.  My chart says "obese female. recommend weight loss. stress is probably due to weight issues at school." If I had known of the phrase "head desk" at that time, I am sure I would have used it liberally.

Fast forward to 2011, and I was finally diagnosed with fibromyalgia due to the fact that the doctors simply can not find anything else to explain this constant pain and fatigue.  When my husband was trying to understand what Fibromyalgia pain felt like, I explained it as " imagine someone took gravity and turned it up to 11."  Everything feels compressed, heavy, difficult.  I have to plan my shower in advance because it often takes too much effort and requires a period of rest afterward.  Have you ever had your back adjusted by a chiropractor? That nifty move where they lay you face down, and then press on your spine with the force of a 40lb 3 year old jumping strait onto the middle of your back? That's what my spine feels like, though the pressure doesn't let up like the chiropractor does.

So you may be asking yourself, what does this have to do with fat? (you may not, but I am going to assume that since you are still reading that you were)  Having fibromyalgia often makes me look like a stereotypical super fat person.  In my brain, stereotypical fatness is the kind that causes heavy breathing when doing a mundane activity like folding laundry.  Heavy groans when getting up off the couch.  Walking at a snails pace or an inability to climb stairs.  That general idea that fat people are so burdened by their weight that their body becomes completely unmanageable.  That is often how I feel i am perceived.  When I stand up out of a chair my body responds like its 85 years old.  When I walk down the street with my husband, I often walk slower than most other pedestrian traffic.  The other day, I was in a rock/mineral store that had about 5 steps leading from one area to another.  I took probably a full 30 seconds to traverse the steps, carefully shuffling both feet onto each step, one at a time.  People looked, but no one said anything.  I felt self conscious.

The self consciousness comes from the fact that I am fat.  No one can look at me and see the chronic pain or the fibromyalgia diagnosis.  People who don't  know me (and even some who do), assume that if I lost weight, all of my fibromyalgia symptoms would simply disappear.  Experience (and 20 years of dieting) have proven that this was not the case. I know plenty of people who have fibromyalgia and have thin or even "healthy" bodies.  No one ever recommends to them that if they just ate less and exercised more that their body would miraculously heal from this affliction.  Why is it then, that it is assumed that my body size has anything to do with my fibromyalgia and not that of the thin fibromyalgia patient?

I haven't really formed fully complete thoughts on this yet.  The pressure to lose weight is so insidious, that even I have moments where I think "what if I don't have Fibro? what if I DO just need to lose weight? Maybe I'm just lazy and out of shape?".  Of course that is ridiculous.  Precisely how out of "shape" would you have to be to get severe muscle fatigue from holding up a toothbrush.  It's not like I lack tooth brushing endurance.  I've brushed my teeth twice a day, religiously, since I got braces at 8.  Clearly, I need to exercise my tooth brush muscles more as they have obviously been degraded by my fatness.  I will definitely be posting more on this subject as my thoughts become more cohesive.

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In 1997 at the beginning of my endless quest for fibromyalgia treatment I happened to read my medical chart. Scrawled across the top in blue ink was "Weepy, obese 45 yr old woman." This had been written by a young, feminist,("I could never allow my daughter to play with a Barbie doll!") family practitioner who told me I'd have been better off with cancer becaue then they'd "know what to do." The thing is, I never cried in her presence and she even got my age wrong. She was the first in a long line of professionals who overmedicated me and dismissed my pain. Another was the ob/gyn from an all female medical practice who helped me give birth to a breech, 7lb, second twin (with no epidural or section)in 1993. I adored her at the time. When I went to see her several years later about my chronic symptoms, all she could do was tell me she didn't "believe in" fibro and recommended a chiropractor. The most recent would be the NP who, as a nursing student, attended the birth of my twins. We never realized it until years after I became her patient. I thought we had a kind of bond, as I had known her previously as a nurse at another doctor's office. But despite her new title, she couldn't prescribe painkillers, because they are "addictive!" She saw no corollation between being in constant pain and my high BP, but could only treat it with drugs that SLOW DOWN the metabolism, because, after all, "pain doesn't kill you, but hypertension does." But, doesn't a slow metabolism make you fat, which obviously kills everyone?! When antidepressants and antiseizure meds only made me worse, she decided my illness could be cured with weight loss surgery. I respectfully declined. The last time I saw her I brought some books aiming to discuss hypothyroidism, but she was terrified to actually treat me, and wouldn't call me back with my labs as promised. I decide not to go back in to the office to give them yet another co-pay for bad service.

I literally have felt your pain.

Please do yourself a favor and investigate 1)food as medicine and 2)stress reduction. It could help, and not hurt. I wish I had those years of my life back, never mind the money that I wasted on people I believed were willing or able to treat me.

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@ Jen - heck yes! A giant F-You to all disease!

@ Cat - Thank you for sharing your story. I always have mixed feelings for other Fibro sufferers. I am happy someone understands and so very sad that someone else has to experience it. I hope that you have found what works for you and can live with less pain. <3

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ve struggled with since childhood and only been diagnosed as an adult. The struggle with mental health treatment and (mis)diagnosis since I was a teenager has had a lot to do with the physical *and* mental stress that lead to my having Fibro. Getting the right health care is vital but incredibly difficult, even in our NHS.

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I think I probably have fibro, but my doctor (well, she's now my ex-doctor) wouldn't come right out and say that I do have it, the most she would say is that I "probably" have it. This after pressing all down my spine, and when she got to the area just at and below my waist I started swearing like a sailor and telling her if she didn't lighten up with her pressing, I was going to deck her ass. This after me telling her that I couldn't stand to have either of our cats walk across my thighs or stand on my chest (one weighs 15 lbs, and one weighs 11 lbs). This after every time I saw her and she asked me how I was, I told her I was tired and I hurt all the time. And what did she prescirbe? The Nightmare on ELMM Street, of course. In spite of the fact that she knew I had dieted, done amphetamines, done phen-fen, and had a failed WLS, and was fatter after all of that than I was before I started. But diets work, donchaknow, and it's calories in/calories out, and if I just lost 200 lbs yesterday, I would be magically cured of all my aches and pains. Is it any wonder I walked out on her in the middle of that appointment, slammed the door on her, went home and fumed for a week before I wrote her a 2-page letter firing her?
She's also the same doctor who refused to prescribe Celebrex for my arthritis because I'm fat and therefore it would cause me to have a heart attack and die as soon as I took the first pill (despite the fact that I don't have hypertension and have NEVER had hypertension). Thank Maude my orthopedist isn't fat-phobic and he saw no problem with prescribing it for me (and I've taken it for almost a year and a half now with no problems).
She's also the doctor who told me 4 years ago that my enlarged thyroid was nothing to worry about (even though she knew my grandfather had his enlarged thyroid taken out when he was 87, it was cancerous, and it was so large they couldn't take it all out). I finally forced her to refer me to an endo (before I fired her) and had my thyroid removed last month. the surgeon said it should have come out 4 years ago, when it was first found. It was so large, it was almost wrapped around my windpipe and esophagus (the surgery took 4 1/2 hours instead of the 3 she had planned). Yeah, nothing to worry about, all right.
It makes me wonder if/how fibro and thyroid problems are related, ya know?

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@ Liz - thank you for stopping and sharing a comment. I agree that it is extremely difficult to get proper care, especially for conditions that have so much effect on each other like mental health and physical pain. I hope you are able to find proper care.

@Vesta - Wow. your doctor makes me all punchy-faced just reading about her! I might have to crochet myself a pair of angry eyes just for this occasion. Seriously, wtf is wrong with people?

I understand some of the pain you are describing. I use to really enjoy back rubs from my husband, but now 95% of the time I have to ask him not to touch me because the rubbing feels like I have an extremely bruised sunburn. I have a 5lb chihuahua who will occasionally run across me while I'm laying in bed and it feels like 150lb great dane just crushed my spine. I too have an enlarged thyroid, but it is "only" a 3cm mass on one side. Despite the fact that I tell my doctor that it hurts, and hurts to breathe, they say it's fine because it's benign and hasn't grown lately. I'm right there with you wondering how thyroid problems are connected to fibromyalgia. I hope someday we have an answer. Thank you for sharing your story. I was apprehensive about writing about fat and fibromyalgia and it's been a relief to know that I am not the only one who struggles this way.

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