Since 1997, millions of individuals and their families set aside a day, May 12th, to observe National Fibromyalgia Awareness Day. Fibromyalgia affects more than 12 millions Americans, including yours truly.
Back in 2014, I began to feel severe fatigue and pain and went to my primary care provider. They ran scans, took blood tests, changed my diet, and told me to lose weight. I did everything my medical team told me to do, but I received negative test results while my symptoms only worsened. Eventually, doctors diagnosed me with fibromyalgia.
But what is this mysterious disease like for afflicted celebrities like Lady Gaga or mere mortals such as myself?
Fibromyalgia is first and foremost a disease of exclusion. Although doctors once counted tender points to diagnose patients, there is no test for this chronic illness. It tends to affect many more women than men. It is a musculoskeletal syndrome that causes a myriad of symptoms, from chronic pain and tender points to irritable bowel syndrome and insomnia.
Personally, night time is the worst for me. I can’t fall asleep because the room is too hot and then I have to get up to pee. Then my blanket hurts my skin and I forget that I got up to pee. As I lay back down, my bladder reminds me that I needed to visit the bathroom and I silently curse fibromyalgia as I get out of bed once again. Trust me, it’s super fun! I know you’re jealous of the glamorous life I lead (not).
So how do people like me manage their symptoms?
Believe it or not, there are several different treatment options. Massage, exercise, antidepressants, and prescriptions help manage pain and allow for a better quality of life. In some instances, medical professionals recommend physical therapy in conjunction with other therapies. What can be terribly frustrating is that since fibromyalgia is still a disease of exclusion, there are medical providers who think it’s “all in your head.” To endure fatigue, crushing pain, and embarrassing cognitive lapses only to have a doctor dismiss you is terribly invalidating.
That’s why on May 12th of each year, we bring awareness to this disease. The more awareness we bring, the more research happens. Although fibromyalgia is a mostly invisible illness, plenty of famous faces have been diagnosed.
I caption this: “chronic pain, but make it fashion.” In her documentary, Gaga: Five Foot Two, the famous pop artist reveals that she lives with chronic pain from fibromyalgia. As she dances across the stage and dives into football stadiums during halftime shows, though, Lady Gaga proves chronic illness doesn’t have to keep you down.
Yes folks, even God himself has fibromyalgia. Many things can trigger fibromyalgia, such as pneumonia, chronic stress, or even car accidents. Freeman was in a nearly lethal accident in 2008.
Real Housewives can get real sick, too. Star Kyle Richards has said she became ill when her mother battled cancer; the stress of the event was possibly a contributing factor.
Carrie Ann Inaba
Even dancing queens and judges aren’t immune to chronic illness. Inaba has been more open in recent years with her struggles with fibromyalgia and other diseases.
So how can you observe Fibromyalgia Awareness Day?
There are lots of ways! Read an article about the disease. Reach out to a diagnosed friend or family member. You can even do something as simple as a social media post with the hashtag #FibromyalgiaAwarenessDay so people like me feel a little less alone.
Feature Image via Instagram