After reading many articles and scouring tons of websites on Fibromyalgia, as well as doing countless hours of research on this still very mysterious condition, I couldn’t help but notice that there were very little articles about how chronic illness ties into wealth and how health effects wealth,(more on this topic to come) and not only wealth but finances in general. For this article though, I will be talking about the non-monetary gains that have enriched my life. For me, as someone who has suffered with Fibromyalgia for over a decade, it has recently come to my attention just how much ‘money’ I have lost, but more importantly how much ‘value’ I’ve gained, I realize how much further financially I could be; should be, but instead I have to deal with the cards I was dealt. I think that envy and jealousy has also been something I’ve struggled with as well, I see others my age with so much more (I’m just talking about things with a monetary value) than I have and I can’t help but fight that little green monster from time to time. Then, after a moment of clarity, I think about all that I really do have and how ‘rich’ I really am. I can’t help but feel sad for the people who haven’t been challenged with something so life changing and profound that makes money seem not as important anymore. For me I almost feel like I’m in fight or flight ‘survival’ mode with this illness and to focus on money and stuff, just seems trivial. I think we as Americans in general have gotten way off track and a lot of us could use some re-direction. I am now in the process of downsizing because ‘stuff’ just doesn’t seem that important anymore to me, but having my health improve.
So am I rich? Only in experience, hope and faith. No, I’m not monetarily rich, but I am rich in so much more. Sometimes something so monumental happens in your life that you can’t help but be forever a different person, for the better. For me, this event has been living with not one, but two chronic invisible illnesses, Fibromyalgia and CFS. For those of you that don’t know, Fibromyalgia is a very painful, debilitating condition and CFS, is also a debilitating condition that can turn a healthy person into a bed ridden one seemingly overnight with profound fatigue. The two of these conditions go hand in hand and a huge number of Fibromyalgia patients have both.
So how has my life become ‘rich’ as a result of chronic illness? Here are the things that have happened in my life as a result of living with fibromyalgia. First of all, the compassion I feel for others has been forever changed. I wouldn’t say that I was uncompassionate before this illness, to say that would be untrue, but how I view others is much different, I have become more empathetic, rather than just sympathetic. One day at a red light I looked over and saw a man with a sign that read “hungry, anything helps’. I stopped and opened my trunk and gave him a package of muffins I had in a grocery bag. Before you think something like “and then he got in his Mercedes”. I realize that this happens and people do try to get others to feel sorry for them with bad intent. Maybe he was trying to get people to give him money, but that didn’t matter to me, what if he was hungry? How many people that day would drive right past him not even looking or giving this man a second thought? If I hadn’t stopped I know that I would have been thinking about this all day. No, I don’t stop every time I see someone with a sign, but that day I did feel compelled to do so. And I have on many other occasions.
Another thing I noticed that happened in my life is that I’ve found a sense of purpose. I had always been a writer and a creator but I was always too busy working to explore my creative side. It took my body forcing me to slow down to really evaluate who I was and what I truly loved spending my time doing, some people just know, I was not one of those lucky people, it took me a long time to figure it out. Some say the best way to figure out what you want to do for a career is to look back on things you enjoyed doing as a child. I loved writing even as a child. The first real writing experience I had with writing in any kind of professional since was when I was in high school, on the yearbook and newspaper staff. As an adult my love of writing got put on the back burner. I didn’t start writing again until I was forced to take it easy. Really some days, when I’m having a really bad pain day, all I can do is write and honestly I can’t think of a better way to spend my day, It’s honestly all I want to do, when I’m doing other things, I often daydream about my next project or my next e-book or article. I feel a sense of purpose and accomplishment through my writing, which makes me feel like I’m helping others. I have also found a love for teaching that I never really imagined I had. I started recording Youtube videos on various instructional topics like sewing, makeup application, DIY projects as well as blog related and business topics. I also had time to figure out what I’m really good at. I think for me that has always been writing and creating. How many adults never find out what they truly love and what they are truly good at because they never have the ‘time’. I really think ‘time’ is just an illusion, if you truly love something you will make the time. I started making purses when I first started dealing with the symptoms of my illness just as a creative outlet, or more like escape from the reality of this illness and the insurmountable pain I was having. Sewing was kind of a creative outlet that took my mind elsewhere and helped me de-stress. I remember some of the first months and even years being very dark because I was going from doctor to doctor and being told there’s “nothing wrong”, or “your results are normal”, or even “ maybe your depressed”, etc. These are things we as Fibromyalgia sufferers have all heard before we were finally, years later in some cases, diagnosed. Dealing with the stress of not only not feeling well, but then having doctors and often times family and friends as well not believing you, gets to be a lot more than a lot of us can handle. That’s why the suicide rate with these types of conditions is so high. It is emotionally devastating as well as physically depleting.
However, looking back on the course of this illness I have lost a lot, I lost income that’s for sure, thousands of dollars. I often wondered what kind of career I would have if it wasn’t for this illness because I am a pretty ambitious person, maybe I would be an investment banker….or not. Other things I lost; friends who didn’t understand when I had to cancel plans, or I couldn’t even commit to plans at all. I guess I can understand how someone could take this the wrong way and think that you don’t want to be their friend or that you are pushing them away, it’s really not the case. Fibromyalgia is not easy to understand for anyone; patients, friends and family or doctors even. The only people who truly understand are people that are living with this illness. On the brighter side though, I actually found my best friend as a result of not only this illness, but also because I started sewing, I decided a year ago to post an ad on Craigslist about alterations, turns out the person that responded is my age and she is also dealing with Fibromyalgia as well. It’s so hard to find a friend that truly understands, and to find someone to relate to that’s going through the same thing has been amazing! Being ‘rich’ is just a matter of one’s own perception.
If you are going through this horrible illness, just know you aren’t alone. I know from experience it can be easy to feel like you are all alone, or that no one understands. I have found that the more you focus on the negative aspect of fibromyalgia the worse it can be. If you look that Fibromyalgia as more of a gift than a curse then it becomes easier to deal with. Think of living with Fibro as just a chapter in your life that’s all a part of your devine propose. And when things get really bad, think of it as just a chapter in your best seller that you were forced to write because of this illness.