Aside from having Fibromyalgia the three most irritating things associated with it, to me at least, are hearing people wonder if it’s a real illness or something dreamed up by doctors to shut up hypochondriacs, second would be the perception that it’s a disease found only in women, and finally the list of symptoms and associated conditions that reads either like a witch’s drew of unpleasantness, or a something that could only happen to a person through a really nasty voodoo doll.

Aside from having Fibromyalgia the three most irritating things associated with it, to me at least, are hearing people wonder if it’s a real illness or something dreamed up by doctors to shut up hypochondriacs, second would be the perception that it’s a disease found only in women, and finally the list of symptoms and associated conditions that reads either like a witch’s drew of unpleasantness, or a something that could only happen to a person through a really nasty voodoo doll.

Probably the worst perception is the comment along the lines of “Oh, they finally came up with a medical term for laziness.” My initial reply to that would probably be profane and rather scorching, but on most occasions I have a good brain to mouth filter that kicks in and tells me that saying that would probably be a bad idea. In my own case I can honestly don’t think the term lazy could be applied. For most of my career I was the first person at work and the last to leave, I ran fairly regularly and could knock out five miles in under 40 minutes.

Slowly but surely that became harder to do, I started noticing I was waking up tired, and all of a sudden I was having trouble keeping up with the younger troops, but I was getting closer to 40, so I figured “old age” was catching up to me. I worked on the flight line, year after years in a grinding pace to keep aircraft flying, a little tip for you, aircraft are like cars, the faster they go the more work it takes to keep them running. I’ve seen temperatures from -30 to 140F, and 12 hours or more are average days. Its demanding, but if you like watching a jet scream down a runway in full burner and know that you’re the reason why its doing that, its rewarding, but the pace can leave you tired and sore more days than not.

Then I couldn’t help but notice I was seeing the doctor more and more for a variety of things and after I had blew my knee running I really seemed to go down hill in a hurry after surgery to fix it, but only a few of the symptoms seemed to relate to a knee. Looking back on it, with 20/20 hindsight, the knee was 5 years ago, but the symptoms started trying to be noticed ten years back.

So, lets look at what the standard symptoms are. Not every person with Fibromyalgia has the same symptoms, which makes diagnosis interesting to say the least, some will have a few others will have a lot. It depends person to person, but the basic list looks like this and you’ll find them on a multitude of websites on the subject in more technical terms that I’ll bother with:

Persistant Pain in muscles and ligaments:
Everything is sore and your stiff around the joints, you feel like you got a wild hair and decided to use every machine at the gym the day before, all on the maximum setting. It’s a deep muscle ache all over. A hot bath becomes your best friend, I take a few every day when the ache gets really annoying.

Unrefreshing Sleep, Poor sleep:
You close your eyes, you open them and you wonder what happened in the middle. Time passed, but it doesn’t feel like you slept. You wake up all night long, sometimes you remember looking at the clock, sometimes you don’t, and many nights you can’t recall dreaming at all.

Fatigue (mild or totally drained feeling) :
You learn to pace yourself, because if you don’t you may run out of steam, and when you push it and keep going you spend the next 2-3 days feeling with absolutely no energy at all. It doesn’t matter how active you were before, you’re not that person anymore.

Recurrent Headaches:
I started getting migraines right around the time I turn 30. These suck. Severe pain, nausea, dizziness, vomiting. Light and noise are pure pain, all you want to do is be left alone somewhere dark, and if you aren’t careful you’ll bite somebody’s head off.

Morning Stiffness:
I stretch every morning and everything creaks and pops, until you get things stretched out you, this is another time that a hot bath or shower is a really good thing, and in the winter we have a heated mattress pad that helps keep things from tightening up. Its not only in the mornings, sit still too long or get cold and it’ll be back.

Cognitive/Memory Impairments:
If I’m doing something I’m fine, distract me from what I’m doing and I immediately lose my place. I’ll be reading something and decide to Google it and in the time it takes for the page to load I forget what I’m about to look up. So I mumble a lot, because saying it a few times helps lock it into memory.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome:
Its hard to describe this without being gross, but I’ll be the first to tell you that “irritable” is a real understatement. I get irritated when somebody drinks the last cup of coffee and doesn’t make a new pot, this is the “irritable” you’d feel if somebody stole your credit card and charged it full on hookers and room service and the card company won’t believe they aren’t your charges. I think I am nor qualified to rate every pubic restroom in a 60 mile radius, because you’ll spend a lot of time in bathrooms, and other times with what feels like a granny knot in your gut wishing you could go.

Environmental Sensitivity:
To me this is strong smells, bright light, loud noise, being hot or getting cold. Why is it that so many shops feel the need to burn scented candles or incense? And why do some people feel the need to marinate in perfume or cologne? Light, smells and noise can trigger migraines, cold makes the muscles ache and heat makes you feel sick and miserable and triggers your IBS.

Irritable Bladder:
Thankfully I don’t think I have too many problems with this, one of the main symptoms is frequent urination, but I spend a lit of time in the “reading room” so who would notice? Other side effects include pelvic pain and painful intercourse, so I’m quite happy not to have noticeably acquired this symptom, knock on wood.

Numbness and Tingling Sensations:
For no apparent reason my hands and feet, and my face will fall asleep. How in the world do you wake up a face that has “fallen asleep?” I suppose the correct answer is that you let it pass.

Muscle Spasms/Twitching:
My legs do this a lot, my hands to some degree and my neck as well. I hate neck twitches, its always something they show in crazy people in movies.

Vertigo sucks, its not only getting dizzy, but if a car at a light starts to creep up beside you, you feel your own car is rolling backwards. This will drive you nuts! I’ve had my leg cramp from standing on the brake.

Impaired Coordination:
I type while looking at the keyboard, so how do my fingers keep hitting the wrong keys? My spell checker wonder’s how I got out of high school some days, and heaven help me if I don’t carefully reread everything I type. Then I trip over things a lot, and drop stuff quite a bit, not just whoops, but that thing where you drop it and bat it all over before it finally hits the ground.

Chest Pain:
Three times I’ve wound up in emergency rooms, and one of those times I had a probe run from my groin into my heart trying to figure out what was causing it, no clue yet.

Intolerance to Heat or Cold:
As I said before, cold causes pain and stiffness, heat makes you feel sick.

Frequent Abdominal Pain:
Back to the granny knot, and you have to be vary careful what you eat. Gassy foods and tomatoes can really help set this off.

I’m doing nothing and out of the blue my wife asks me why I’m breathing funny. You have no idea, so you feel silly and play it off, but all of a sudden you don’t feel like you can get a good greath, its like the air is too slippery to grab a hold of your lungs.

Frequent Eye Prescription Changes:
Thankfully not for me, I have the same prescription I’ve had for years, but there are times my eyes don’t want to focus, tired eyes I always say and try and relax them for a while.

Dry Eyes and Mouth:
Eyes, not normally, I’ve developed hay fever lately and some things set that off so I have more trouble with watery burning eyes. I blamed dry mouth on a medication they gave me to help me sleep, it was also an anti-depressant, just in case I started getting depressed, but it made my mouth so dry it my tongue would stick to my teeth and the roof of my mouth and it would feel like ripping off a bandaid when it came loose. I still get a dry mouth, its not as bad and at home I normally have something to drink close by so I don’t notice it as much.

Skin Rashes:
Itching, miserable and annoying. Out of the blue there it is. Too much sun can trigger it, so can allergies.

Sinus and Allergies:
I was in my late 30’s without any allergies, then I got hay fever. Its also strange because out of the blue a soap can annoy you, things like fabric softeners, dryer sheets, and who knows what else. But then it’ll stop, and you won’t have any trouble, until it decides to come back.

Subjective Swelling:
My fingers, legs and feet will blow up for no apparent reason. For a while the only shoes I could wear were slippers. Mainly its my fingers and ankles, and that is almost daily.

Mood Swings/Disorders:
I get grumpy in a hurry, sometimes on to a full-on mad, over next to nothing. Normally I just clam up and keep the worst of it in, but its there. I don’t think I have any depressive moods, but I’m told that acting like a hermit can be a sign of that, so maybe I do and just don’t know it.

Now that’s the 23 main symptoms, but you can also have “associated” conditions, this is only a few, because most are addressed above.

Anxiety disorder and panic attacks:
I don’t think I get “panic” but I have noticed when I’m in a situation that really brings up the adrenaline, like hard exertion and irritation at the same time my chest tightens up and I have trouble catching my breath, and another trip to be wired up in the ER to make sure I’m not having a “cardiac episode.” Its been suggested that Fibromyalgia might cause sensitivity to adrenaline. Could be.

Restless Legs Syndrome:
Night cramps and a feeling of restleness in the legs, if I sit still for too long my legs atart bouncing without me noticing it, guaranteed to drive the wife crazy, and my legs will jerk hard in the night. I don’t thing I’ve kicked in my sleep, but the leg jerk can shake the bed.

Raynaud’s phenomenon:
Fingers and toes that get really cold and discolor, most nights in cool weather my feet are ice and my toes a really disconcerting shade of white, a long soak in warm water will pink them back up. Its more common in my feet than in my hands. Interest enough, it is more common in people with migraines than without.

This one surprised me, because I actually have mild scoliosis, it was found about 15 years ago when I threw my back out. I didn’t have it when I enlisted though, and that was a very thorough physical, trust me there. Its things like this that make me wonder if I didn’t start showing symptoms much earlier than I thought.

Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJD:
Basically a click in the jaw, mine comes and goes but sometimes when I’m chewing it’ll pop so hard it feels like I was stabbed in the ear with an ice pick, it actually feels like its bleeding for a minute and the volume on my tinnitus goes to high volume.

Fibrocystic breast disease and endometriosis:
Painful cysts in the breast, another symptom that you wouldn’t think could happen to a man, but in April I had to get a good-sized and thankfully benign mass cut out of my chest. Luckily for me, men don’t have a uterus.

Fortunately for me, the VA and military seem to be a little ahead of the curve on Fibromyalgia, it is even listed as a disabling condition. This is likely an offshoot of research into PTSD and Gulf War Syndrome, which is often listed as a similar condition in much of the reading I’ve done, along with Hypothyroidism, PMS, Hypothyroidism, Lyme Disease and Postpolio Syndrome. But its been studied as far back at the 1800’s when it was called “muscular rheumatism” or “fibrositis,” the term fibromyalgia cam in 1976. There is a lot of information out there, Google will give you about 12,500,000 hits, likely some of them are from people that don’t think it exists, but I don’t see any of them offering to trade place with me, or the rest of the 2% of the population that has this condition. Then again, it wasn’t that long ago that many believed PMS was an imagined illness either.

© 2008, Tim Boothby. All rights reserved.

I was born in the Midwest and grew up in Iowa, Missouri and Texas. I guess you could say I had an eventful childhood, at least it was a helluva lotta fun! I enlisted in the Air Force in 1984 and retired in 2007. I saw a whole bunch of the world and racked up a lot of experiences in the process. Now I'm retired and enjoying life to the fullest!