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Fibromyalgia is a Masterclass in Observation

Updated: May 29


I have to say that I am pretty proud of myself, most days. I will also say that pride in your abilities is a powerful tool in manifestation. Pride really is rooted in a deep appreciation and gratitude for our own accomplishments and it reinforces faith. And, when you are dealing with a chronic pain disease, faith is everything.


Explaining fibromyalgia to be people has been tricky. Most people either have a hard time believing that someone who looks perfectly fine, could be so sick. The others shift into ‘worry-mode’, and look at you as though you are frail. Both of these options are rather disheartening, because if you are like me, you struggle with both of these judgements of yourself, from yourself.


My overt positivity, which has been the source of my strength on so many occasions, often backfires when it comes to the real acceptance of my diagnosis. Unfortunately, this past fall was a brilliant example of reality when I had to follow through on a promise that my body was incapable of. For the past 5 years I have been working as a Part Time Illustration Instructor in the Fashion Design Technician Program at St. Clair College in Windsor, Ont. This job has been extremely rewarding and challenging, and I have found myself growing as an Artist each year through the process of teaching. When I first began, I taught 3 different classes, occasionally in multiple sections. At various points throughout the years I would drop down to just 1 class, sometimes 2. I didn’t mind the pace, but once I recovered from my cancer experience, I really felt like I wanted to take on more hours, and teach more classes. It was a struggle as I felt like I was really fighting for something that seemed like it was never going to happen. I was frustrated with paying my dues and tired of meeting resistance. The funny thing is, the universe is ALWAYS communicating with you, if you are quiet enough to listen. I wish I had listened.


The intensity of my fibromyalgia experience has been steadily increasing over the course of the last 3 years. I will admit that I had been sticking my head in the positivity sand, not really facing the fact that I was deteriorating. Even getting to the point where I was regularly seeing a Rheumatologist to start the diagnostic process, was slow. Getting options for help, even slower.

I have a incredible respect for doctors and the medical system. I know that in the spiritual community there is a healthy ‘skepticism’ of the traditional medical system (namely due to it’s disinterest of anything holistic - for the most part). I however, cannot relate entirely to this. I am staunchly against the over-prescribing of medication when many ailments can be fully cured through lifestyle change. However, my experience with the compassion and dedication of doctors and nurses has been amazing.


Wake Up Call #1 was INTENSE

Earlier this year, I was finally offered to take on full time hours, teaching 5 classes, in the Fall of 2019. By the time that I was offered this opportunity, I had been facing many fibro flare-ups (days, weeks, sometimes months of intense pain throughout my body). I wasn’t sure that I would be able to handle it. In fact, everything within me said I would not be able to handle it. However, there is still remnants of that old competitive Christy still alive in the corners of my being that decided to go for it anyway. By the second week of classes, I already knew I was way in over my head. By Week 5, I was severely struggling clinging to my latest fashion accessory - my cane - in desperation.



I had to request to drop a class, knowing that I would not make it. Within a week of making this request, I ended up in the ER with extreme pain and severely dehydrated. The 48 hours surrounding that event were “Wake Up Call #1”. I knew, that if I continued working I was sacrificing the quality of my life to a reality of suffering. With that, I made the difficult decision to leave teaching once the semester was over. Thankfully, this episode made my situation very clear to my boss, and he granted my request to drop a class. By the time I finished out the semester, I was ragged. I was detached from my life, not having seen anyone aside from my husband and immediately family in months. There was no time for art. I felt like all I was doing was surviving, not living.



With that I decided it was time for a change. The intense pain flare up and dehydration mid-semester was triggered by a glass of wine. Up to this point, I rarely drank knowing full well that it often intensified my pain experience. After that evening, I decided complete sobriety was my best option. My only drink since then was on New Year’s Eve and even then, it was small. At the end of the semester I knew, I needed to clean it all up. I have been a vegetarian for close to 12 years now, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I was heating healthfully. At this time I switched to a primarily plant based diet, aside from yogurt and the occasion milk in my coffee. My husband, invigorated with his own new healthy lifestyle, has taken it upon himself to cook amazing, ultra clean, protein, vitamin, and mineral rich vegan food daily. Before this time, we were eating out, 3-5 times per week. I will admit, a copious amount of nachos were consumed. We decided to cut eating out to once or twice a month. We went out for sushi recently, and for the first time in a LONG time, eating out felt like a date. That was a nice surprise.

I also started walking around my neighbourhood everyday. When I began I was hobbling slowly with my cane.

With all these changes, I have a new sense of vigour for my life. I found hope that I can have the life I have been actively manifesting.

However, I have fibromyalgia. It doesn’t just go away with a healthy diet and semi-active lifestyle (even though these things have helped!). When a flare up comes - it comes, and NOTHING stops it.


New Year’s Day was my “Wake Up Call #2”. My husband and I had been on vacation in Chicago for a few days around the New Year. On New Year’s Eve, we visited The Art Institute of Chicago, and I totally over-exerted myself. Come the following day, I found myself unable to last more than 10 minutes walking through The Field Museum, and spent the day in a wheelchair. That night, I could not sleep. I realized that if I did not truly dedicate myself to strengthening my body I would probably eventually end up completely reliant on more than just my cane. This was a devastating thought.


Since then I have purchased a gym membership and have been working on slowly shifting from a quick walk to a slow jog.



I am 99% cane free!


All that being said, the last 3 days have been increasingly more painful. I went from being able to do a light jog on the treadmill to barely being able to walk again. Last night, for our walk, I needed to use my cane for the last stretch home. I AM stronger, and will continue to build endurance. I will not give up, despite the pain and stiffness.


But, I have fibromyalgia. I have tried so many holistic approaches to heal. I have used many natural medicinal options. I have meditated. I have soaked in endless epsom salt baths. I have lathered myself in cannabis coconut oil. I have used essential oils, mushroom coffee, tens machines, acupuncture, trigger point injections, massage (oh god...), CBD oil, etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. But still, today I am in extreme pain. My attempt at a delicate mix of Aleve and Tylenol will somewhat reduce the pain. I will be mostly bed bound. This is all part of my journey.


The observation part, at least for me, comes with an understanding that my healing comes through acceptance. I have fibromyalgia but it doesn’t have me. This being said, I find myself being triggered constantly by people, who mean well, telling me about all these amazing cures found in books or in some course by some healer. I hear all about every natural cure there is out there. It is extremely difficult because there really isn’t anything I am being shown that I haven’t seen myself. I live with this everyday, and research this constantly. I am actively trying. I just want understanding and support. It’s hard because I want to tell people that “I got this, please let me figure it out” without seeming unappreciative. I am working on figuring out how to set that boundary in kindness. That IS something I could use a suggestion for, lol. I can understand they mean well because they sincerely want me to feel better, but it is overwhelming and frustrating.

I want to just scream sometimes. I want to get angry, and occasionally I do. I want to cry. I want to understand why after all the suffering that comes with cancer do I have to now endure this (what I am frequently reminded by my doctors is a) lifelong illness. I want to understand why it seems like everything is too much for me. Why does of my list of physical issues keep growing when I am working so actively on my spiritual growth? It’s all very confusing sometimes.


Ok, obviously I am frustrated today. That is ok. Authenticity means telling the truth - not just to everyone else - but to yourself as well. I am blessed with insight, but still have much to learn.


Today, I remind myself - I am love. I am whole. I am strong. I am HEALING.



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© 2020 Christy Litster, Art & Illustration