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Weather and Stress Trigger Fibromyalgia

October 15th, 2010

Over the summer I felt that I had made an almost full recovery from my Fibromyalgia. Modifying my diet to one that consisted of low grains, no gluten, and no processed foods changed my life. I felt like a new person. The summer has ended and so has the concept that diet alone affects my Fibromyalgia flares.

Fall has always been a rough time on me because of the change in weather; the decreasing sunshine and the cooler weather can wreak havoc on most sufferers’ Fibro. In June of this year I was diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency, and so I made a big effort over the summer to get morning sunshine so my body would make its own vitamin D. I just felt like the supplements the doctor put me on wouldn’t be absorbed properly given the current state of my digestive system. My gut is still healing from the years of abuse from chemically treated processed foods. Now that I am back to my work as a middle school librarian, I’ve been missing my morning walks in the sunshine. Is that why this year’s fall fibro flare has been so bad or is it something else entirely?

I have been back to work for about 8 weeks now, and on average have taken about one sick day per week. The pain and stiffness have been so bad at times that it was difficult for me to hold a phone to call the doctor. Of course there have been days that I have gone to work and suffered through times when trying to carry just a few paperbacks was a chore. It has gotten so bad that several people have mentioned the “D” word – Disability. I cringe. My response is that I am only 32 years old and I have a Masters degree. I want to work. I want to have a career. I shouldn’t feel like this.

So I went back to keeping a food journal, and also started tracking my work activities, along with my chemical exposures at work using Google calendar. My doctor diagnosed me with environmental illness upon my return to school because I was reacting to fragrances the students wear, along with the VOCs the laminator puts off into the library. The days the lamminator is on I feel extreme nausea, fatigue, dizziness, and the fibro fog hits me so hard I can barely walk around the library.

I’ve tried all kinds of medications, and most of the time the side effects seem to make me feel worse not better. However, as a last ditch effort, my family doctor wanted me to try Savella. I was optimistic that it would help. If medicine will help me cope I will take it, but if it is not effective I don’t see the point in overtaxing my liver and kidneys. I was only on the Savella for 3 days before I was advised to discontinue the drug due to chest pain. I was still on the lowest dose in the titer pack, and was feeling dizzy, nauseous and that fog came back. I am just baffled that Savella and Lyrica are marketed for Fibromyalgia treatment, when the side-effects they cause can be so similar to what they are trying to treat. I don’t want to feel like a walking zombie, and I don’t think I should have to suffer with chronic pain either.

I hit rock bottom about a week ago. I am so sick of trying to figure out how to cope with this syndrome, but yet I persist because I am only 32. I want to work and I have an almost 4-year-old son. What I discovered while tracking my day to day schedule, with my food diary and chemical exposure, will not surprise you. It may annoy you because you have heard it many times before, but I think this not-so-hidden trigger is really just stress. I went from enjoying my summer holiday, to being thrown into the lion’s den that is middle school. My fight-or-flight reflex has gone into overdrive triggering a horrible Fibromyalgia flare.

So at my lowest point, I went back to my rheumatologist begging him to help me cope with the pain caused by the stress and anxiety. The doctor laughed at me and offered to put me on some medication. He wanted to try Savella, but I told him of my bad experience with it, and he said, “Well I would like to try it again.” I told him it hadn’t been a week since I had taken it. He said, “What about Cymbalta?” My response to that was, “Isn’t it essentially the same thing as Savella?” It is also an SNRI, and I just thought that I would probably react to that one with chest pain too. “So we will go back to the Lyrica then.” Ugh.

I told the rheumatologist that when I was on Lyrica before, that I could barely drive. I was so fatigued and foggy headed that I almost got into two fatal car accidents! His response was, we will just put you on a low dose and you can take it at night only. We will pair it with Flexiril, a muscle relaxant. I just said “Okay.” Obviously this doctor was not going to listen to me. I had to spend more time explaining to him why my job was stressful than we dealt with treatment. Shouldn’t the fact that I work in a middle school be red flag enough that my job is stressful? He said, “How do you want me to advise you? Maybe you should leave your job.” And do what exactly? I love my job, even though looking at my calendar I discovered that most of the time I am literally suppose to be in two places at once, the broadcasting studio and the main library. Instead of just giving me some drugs that will make me numb, how about you refer me to someone that can help me cope with stress? But I guess it is easier just to give me some drugs and send me on my way than actually do anything to prevent triggering the Fibro flares in the first place.

I left his office and headed for the pharmacy. I was still debating whether or not I wanted to go back on the Lyrica, but I had to pick up my Vitamin D pills for the month anyway. I decided to speak (I mean cry) to the pharmacist. She suggested trying Nerontin over the Lyrica, if I decided to go back on that type of medication. Mostly she recommended I find a new doctor. I seem to go through doctors like water.

I spent the afternoon trying to find someone that specialized in environmental illness with no luck. Many mainstream doctors, like my lovely rheumatoligist, don’t seem to recognize it as a valid diagnosis. Remember when the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia didn’t hold any water? Well at least Fibro is becoming more recognized today. Pharmaceuticals are marketing drugs for treating it so, now doctors have options for helping treat patients with a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia. I think perhaps the only way someone with environmental illness will be able to be treated is through holistic medicine. Giving me more drugs doesn’t seem to make me feel better. Sure you can numb my hands and arms so I can’t feel the burning pain sensations, but that doesn’t really fix my problem.

Besides going to the rheumatoligist, I went to Dr. Charles Turner’s office for a somewhat weird body-balancing treatment (BBT), that uses accupressure to sort of reprogram your body not to react to certain foods, chemicals and emotions. This is based on Nambudripad Allergy Elimination Techniques (NAET), which comes out of more eastern medicine practices. I’ve only had two treatments, and I do seem to improve each time I have one, but I have no idea why this works. More than the BBT, I think the adrenal support supplement they gave me is helping me get through each day. I seem less emotional, I have more energy, and less pain on the supplement.

I didn’t start back on the Lyrica, and I am hoping that I won’t have to do so. I’m continuing to research adrenal insufficiency and stress coping mechanisms. I’m a type A perfectionist, people pleaser to the core. Learning to say no without feeling guilty is the next thing on my to do list.

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  1. shauna
    October 16th, 2010 at 12:35 | #1

    If you’re not already, I would strongly suggest seeing a therapist. There’s a lot going on, especially with your stress level, and I think it would be good for you. If you are on James’ insurance, it’s free to go through the Purdue WorkLife Employee Assistance. The initial therapist will ask you lots of questions and then refer you to another one that is better suited for your specific needs.

  2. elizabeth
    November 4th, 2010 at 09:55 | #2

    I agree with Shauna. Why did you go to a rheumatologist to ask about stress and how to deal with it? They will only give you a script. You need to see a therapist who can teach you different ways to handle stress and to handle your pain better. While my therapy has not gotten rid of my pain, it sure helps for me to know how I can deal with it better and also have someone to complain to about the pain! Family and friends get tired of hearing about it =)

  3. November 8th, 2010 at 09:32 | #3

    Elizabeth,

    It came up when I was talking to the doctor about what is triggering my Fibro Flare. I didn’t go there just to talk to him about stress. Thanks for the feedback though.

    Kelly

  4. SL
    February 9th, 2011 at 15:58 | #4

    I have some of the same issues. Will you comment/post if you find a solution.

    Thanks

  5. Girish
    April 23rd, 2011 at 22:25 | #5

    I feel as if I am writing this article. Went through same things which you are describing here. My symptoms improved by following indian food and regulgur gym. There was a time when I could not able climb 10 step stair case, now can easily run for two miles. Only thing bothers me is brainfog in winters. My engineering job is very demanding and have responsiblities sometime my brainfog interfers. I would like to get my MBA from good school, and my worry now is how i would perform on GMAT mba entrance exam. Sorry for spaking too much. I am 34 yr male.

  6. grace
    August 25th, 2011 at 11:55 | #6

    Seems like you got better enough to stop thinking about fibro so much, since your blog entries ended. Probably weird to hear, but you sound lucky to me. I spent most of my 20s and some of my 30s on disability. I’m older than you, and don’t have a Master’s degree (although I’m super smart) and don’t have kids. I feel the loss of those years everyday. Just proves it’s all relative. I’m not saying I don’t hear your pain. Fibro is terrible. But you will get better! And that Master’s will come in handy. And those kids will seem like a great accomplishment someday.

  7. Lisa
    November 8th, 2012 at 05:32 | #7

    Hi, I have a bachelor’s and master’s degree also, and was a school psychologist until my combination of severe fibromyalgia and stage 4 endometriosis made it impossible for me to work anymore. I have been on permanent disability since I was just 37 years old. It has been difficult to cope with working so hard in school for the degrees and a career, but since my immune system is so weak, I am also at risk for contracting viruses easily. Working with many children and people in close quarters in general is a feeding ground for people that have weak immune systems, I would suggest to limit the number of people you come into direct contact with as much as possible, and let people at your work know you are allergic to many odors that most don’t even smell. I have just come out of a fibro fog, and finally felt well enough to go out for a small dinner tonight. The master’s degree has come in handy since I have become a well-known tutor for college students who need assistance writing, and now I have no idea how I made it working full time every day with all the viral-carrying children I love so dearly. My energy is totally drained and I didn’t even remember driving to school the last 3 weeks of it. Please make sure you aren’t putting your health on the line just for your degrees. You may find other things you can do from home that are just as rewarding but not as demanding.

  8. Emma
    April 9th, 2013 at 17:37 | #8

    Hi Kelly, I was flicking through the web and reading about fibromyalgia and came across ur page…I cant believe the things you have written as I am experiencing very similar difficulties due to fibromyalgia which has taken over my life for the last 8-10 years and I am only 28!Like you I have a degree and am working full time and it is the hardest thing in the world to do, I struggle every single day and sometimes feel like giving up when the pain and tiredness becomes unbearable. Like you I would not wish to give up work, it is so hard and I completely understand how you feel it is the most frustrating thing ever! I would love if you wrote back to me to see how you are getting on now…where are you from, NI?

  9. April 9th, 2013 at 23:01 | #9

    Hello Emma,

    Thanks for reading my blog. I’ve been seriously ill for about 7 years now, but my whole life I have had ups and downs. I finally left my job and was awarded long term disability payments from my insurance company. I got a good lawyer and it was approved in about 15 months. It is nice to have some flexibility and rest when I need to. The chronic fatigue is the worst. I get tired from walking my dog to the park which is only a couple of blocks from my house. I’m currently living in the midwest, but I grew up on the east coast. I think my first tick bite was at very young age. Multiple tick bites later on in my life have certainly worsened my condition as they went untreated. Feel free to follow me on Twitter or Facebook. You can drop a private email to kelly@glutenfibrofree.com

    I wish you better health and pain free days!

    Kelly <3

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