Chapter One continued..

Fibromyalgia: Behind the Walls of Silence

….I gave and forgave way too much. By the time I was brave enough to get divorced, I was an empty shell of the woman I once was, void of peace, void of joy, almost in-human on the inside and unrecognizable even to myself.

It’s true that sickness can attack within a blink of an eye and change your entire life. Before my divorce, I married my dream man, so thought, completed LPN school at the top of my class, was in RN school and was working full time. I noticed after work, I couldn’t sit and relax, but the pain in my back made me have to ease down. I was so fatigued, I would fall asleep while eating dinner. That’s how my search to find out what made my 22-year-old body feel as if it were 82 instead. Three years later, I was finally able to put a name to my condition due to a doctor whose wife had just been diagnosed herself. I didn’t realize it, but only God could have put me in alignment with him. For three years, I was told the pain was in my head, I was crazy, making up symptoms and even that I was begging for attention once the depression had set in. At one time, I was on 13 different medications. So I was so happy to have found this doctor. Fast forward.

After nine years of a hurtful marriage and with two suicide attempts until my belt, I was blessed to get out with my dignity intact. Dealing with constant unnecessary infidelity left me feeling inadequate as a woman, a person, and mother. But still, I didn’t feel completely unconnected to that which had caused me so much pain. I would allow my ex to come in and out my life for the next decade.

Nearly four years since my divorce, I’m found myself in a relationship with the young man who was there for me six months before my divorce was final. I can see now, he never had a chance. He wasn’t the man I loved with all my soul my entire adult life. That man, he didn’t want me and it hurt like hell. The mental pain was almost as bad as the physical but I was hiding it well. I made it appear that my pain was all in my muscles, ligaments, and joints when in reality, it was spread evenly within my body, my heart, my mind, my soul, and my spirit. But four years is a long time to still want to be something you never were, his everything. My ex hadn’t seen our two children in three years. He was a few hours away but got his freedom and ran with it. He kept me just hopeful enough at reconciliation that my current boyfriend/fiance could not make me happy, not completely, but at no fault of his own. I was emotionally unavailable, unable to juggle everything that was happening to me mentally. I was still a young mother, writer, college student, business owner, and the list went on. No matter how many things I piled onto my resume; content, happy, or just being back to myself, was not on that list.

During my original fibromyalgia diagnosis, the doctor told me two important things about this disease. One, there was no cure; and two, it would get worse as I got older. Well, both came to be true and life was difficult. My children were school age now in kindergarten and second grade. Even though I didn’t really know God then, He was present in everything happening in my life and placed a young girl name Kai in my daughter’s second-grade class. I would become best friends with her mother the following year. I’m not sure what I would’ve done without my mom, my high school best friend and her taking up some of the slack for me. Through constant hospital stays, bouts of illnesses, and more diagnoses associated with fibromyalgia, I was still the mother who did the sleepovers, big birthday parties and hosted weekends with 17 of my daughters closest friends, but things slowed down as my body slowed down. Needless to say, I didn’t get remarried, nor did my relationship last beyond the four years. Before we broke up, I had developed a severe stress seizure condition and hypothalamic seizures which were diagnosed after I was accused of pretending to seize or making myself seize. So I was supposed to be doing this to myself. Having seizures so severe that my face would distort until I was nearly physically unrecognizable. I have burst capillaries around both my eyes from how tightly my eyes closed during a seizure. I do believe I have some nerve damage in my face that makes my left side drop ever so slightly. I had to fight and claw my way back to some resemblance of my old self. I used to be so happy, talented and joyous. The end all of this relationship was the answer to one question. I had begun to get a little better. I could finally go a few weeks to a month without seizing. My pain level was down some. But I felt like just as his previous relationship, I was the damsel in distress to this young man. After Tyler Perry’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman was released, it got me thinking if I wasn’t sick, would we last? I could see myself fighting for my freedom from fibromyalgia, but could he? So I asked him, could he see past my pain to a real relationship between us? He actually said no and eventually so did I. I don’t blame him. He stuck in there with me longer than most men would and let’s face it, after about a decade living with fibromyalgia, I was not easy to love.

Therefore, after that relationship, I found myself still alone and still empty. For the past few years, I made excuses for my kid’s dad as he still chose to be absent from their lives. To me, fibromyalgia had robbed me of my children father, my livelihood (my nursing degree was medically suspended), my husband or any man, my home, my family and friends (most turned their backs on me), my joy, my hope and most of all, my peace. Left in my corner, I had my mother, my children, one brother (out of five siblings), my ex-mother in law and one friend who was barely hanging on by a thread. Still very sick and getting worse again, I decided to focus on myself for a while.

I’m going to pause here to insert this original poem. It’s been 17 years since my divorce and I have been in love twice since then, thank God. So I can honestly say this piece is not about one person, but my feelings concerning love in general.

You Were Loved

How is it that I still think about you?
Still, wonder how you’re doing?
Why do I still smile at the memory of us when you and I haven’t shared the same space in so long?
How does my heart beat still rise ever so slightly as I think about remembering…
how I loved you?
how did I know you?
how I hoped you loved me?
It seems like a lifetime ago
Too short a moment to rewind the hands of time
When in reality we have been apart longer than we were ever together
And though my heart still pumps to your beats
Your heart no longer finds the rhythm of mine
But knowing that does not taint my memory of loving you
Because my heart was pure and true
I always thought if life separated us
we would still be able to talk about old times and laugh
See one another and smile
Be able to breathe in the essence of what made us fall in love in the first place
But even if that never happens and we are to never again spend together another moment in time
I can only hope
that you know

Written by: Valerie Furr-Collins
(September 29, 2018)

The first time I allowed myself to fall in love again was…

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