Fibro Warrior of the Week (#55)
Location: New Ipswich, NH, USA
Facebook: Celine Songs
Fibro Warrior of the Week #55 Debbie Ferguson suffered a harrowing accident as a child, leading to a Fibromyalgia diagnosis as an adult. After her Fibromyalgia diagnosis, Debbie exercised a great deal and lived remarkably well, but she suffered a severe setback that left her depressed and feeling hopeless. Debbie has definitely experienced a lot of tough times, but she maintains a sense of humor and has learned to appreciate her “way with words…”
FD: : Tell us a bit about yourself – Where were you born, where do you live now, family, interests, etc.
Debbie: I’m going to be forty-nine year old in May. I was born in Somerville, Massachusetts (the Boston area). We moved around a lot until we moved to Groton, Massachusetts when I was eleven. I lived there until I married when I was twenty.
We had a wonderful marriage until I was pregnant with my second child (a child that was planned.) After he was born, my husband decided he didn’t want to be married anymore and that he didn’t want to live the family life. So when my oldest was three and my baby was four months I became a single mom for eight years, to two beautiful boys. I was both mom and dad so it was up to me to make sure they grew into responsible, respectful and loving adults.
When my youngest began going to school full time, I decided I wanted to go to school myself so I could better provide for them and teach them how important it was to better yourself in any way you can. When you set your mind to do something, you do it as best as you can and you will achieve anything in life. I became a pediatric nurse. I love nursing and helping those who are in need. It is a very rewarding and fulfilling profession. I now live in New Ipswich, New Hampshire, with my current husband (we’ve actually been together for twenty years, but got married seven years ago) where we raised the boys and now have an amazingly awesome two and a half year old grandson!!! I should also add that I am a Celine Dion fanatic!!!! It’s a big part of who I am. Her music has helped me through some very difficult days. Because of my love of Celine, I have also made some wonderful friends online.
FD: When did you first suspect that something wasn’t right? What happened?
Debbie: I injured myself back when I was nine years old. I did a backflip off of a diving board, hitting the back of my head on the board. It knocked me unconscious and my older brother had to jump in and save me from drowning. After that, I had what the doctors called “neck colds”, which I now know to be neck spasms. So I always had problems with my neck, but then it got really bad about sixteen years ago. I would cry, thinking that my neck felt like it was broken. I couldn’t understand the pain. I finally saw a physiatrist for two years. He did everything to alleviate my pain, from manual manipulation to acupuncture to trigger point injections to finally prescribing medications as a last resort. He was the first doctor to tell me I had Fibromyalgia.
FD: When you received your diagnosis, how did it affect you?
Debbie: When I was first diagnosed, I was very upset to think I was going to have pain for the rest of my life with it possibly getting worse as the years went on. Then I decided I was not going to be a “victim”. I started working out every other day during the week. I did this for five years until I started nursing school. I felt wonderful, strong and healthy. I had occasional flares, but nothing I couldn’t deal with.
FD: Since then, how has your outlook on life changed?
Debbie: I began working the night shift as a pediatric nurse. I loved it, but the hours were difficult. My sleep schedule was completely different than the rest of my family and friends. Some days I would go twenty-four hours before I could get sleep. I think this is what triggered the flares to begin again, only this time it was much worse. I got injured at work and was put on light duty and then I eventually had to take time off which led me to being on short and long term disability. I was out of work for four years because of the pain. It was so intense!! I tried all kinds of pain meds, even Fentanyl patches. I became more and more depressed. My family was very understanding at first, but then they got tired of hearing about my pain, which I completely understand. At that point, I felt alone even though I was living with a family who loved me very much. I tried to find a nursing position in a doctor’s office, but was told I wasn’t experienced enough because I worked in a hospital. I looked for three years, off and on, with no luck. I felt worthless, insignificant…like I was no longer the person I was before. I felt like my life was over. I got to such a bad place in my head that I took a handful of pills because I just didn’t want to think anymore. My family had been worried about me for quite some time. They immediately came to my home to have a mini- intervention. I agreed that I needed help and was hospitalized in the psych ward for a week. It helped a little, but I still feel like I can’t live with this pain. Because I took all of those pills, my doctor now doesn’t feel that he can trust me to continue prescribing Vicodin for me. So now I live with this constant pain with no pain meds.
FD: How does Fibro affect your day to day life?
Debbie: I had to finally consider working outside of the nursing field. I had to ignore the fact that I am in constant pain and just suck it up, get a job and work through the pain. I now work three ten-hour-days a week as a receptionist. I like it, but I am in so much pain by the end of the day that by the end of the week I feel like I can barely hold my head up. When I get home, I immediately put the heating pad on my neck and back. It helps somewhat; then I go to bed and get up the next day to do it all over again.
FD: What can’t you do anymore because of Fibro?
Debbie: I can’t do any housework. I don’t cook for my husband. I have terrible guilt because I can’t take care of him the way our friends’ wives take care of theirs. Before I started working, I very rarely left the house. I didn’t want to see people because I had gained weight. I used to be in great shape because I exercised and took good care of myself. Now I feel like a completely different person. I don’t want to socialize because even though I have fun, I am always in so much pain. Just having a conversation and nodding my head caused intense pain. But I don’t want to complain… by the time the visit is over I am physically and mentally exhausted! So I just stay home. I just don’t want to do anything because it causes pain.
FD: Name something you do now that you never would have imagined happening before your diagnosis.
Debbie: I used to take a shower every day and now I sometimes go four to five days without showering. It is painful and exhausting to clean and shampoo. Since I started working though, I now take a shower one day and wash my hair the next. I never thought taking a shower would be such a difficult process.
FD: : What has been your experience with seeking medical treatment for Fibro?
Debbie: I have been told, “I can heal you in two months,” or “Go to this doctor, he works miracles!” and more. Then, after a year of treatments, one doctor finally decided that because she couldn’t help my pain go away it was all in my head!!! She actually said those words!!! After that, I decided I was done. After being in the hospital, I came to realize I am the only one who can help me. I need to try to have a positive attitude. So I decided to try a pain clinic where a group of clinicians (psychiatrist, social worker, PCP, physical aquatic therapy) work together to help me with my pain. I just began this process so I’ll have to give you updates to let you know how it goes. (Please do!~FD)
FD: How has Fibro affected your relationships, friends, family, partners?
Debbie: It has put a strain on my marriage because I couldn’t work for so long we began having financial issues. He often felt like I was just sitting home doing nothing. It is hard for him to always be understanding about my pain. He does try though. I often don’t want to have sex because I’m in too much pain or I just don’t have the energy. I often feel so alone. I live about an hour away from where I lived for many years. So I’m away from my family and friends. I stopped answering the phone when my friends called because I didn’t want to have to pretend to be happy and I knew they didn’t want to listen to my complaints. I find myself texting more than anything. I think my friends have finally given up on me because I don’t hear from them anymore. But… I don’t call them either. I feel guilty about that, too. What kind of friend am I?
FD: What is the biggest challenge you face living with Fibro?
Debbie: My biggest challenge it trying to not let it affect my everyday life. It’s so difficult and exhausting to pretend all the time. When I’m at work, I have to pretend I’m not in excruciating pain. When I’m with my family and they ask me how I’m feeling I don’t want to tell them what I’m really feeling so I say, “I’m okay”, but that always makes me feel worse because I’M NOT OKAY!!!
FD: What inspires you to keep on fighting?
Debbie: I have a grandson and I love him more than I could ever have imagined. Both my husband and I say he is the only thing that makes us happy. I want to be able to get on the floor and play with him and just enjoy our time together without thinking about my pain.
FD: What advice do you have for other people who are living with Fibro?
Debbie: I’m not sure because I don’t know what to do myself…I guess maybe to just keep on fighting and don’t ever let anybody tell you your pain isn’t real.
FD: Sometimes humor provides relief when dealing with chronic illness. Do you have a funny Fibro story you can share?
Debbie: I am constantly saying words in the middle of a sentence that come out of nowhere and have absolutely nothing to do with what we are talking about, LOL!! That always gives whoever I’m talking to a good laugh. I just laugh at myself because there’s nothing I can do about it. It actually is pretty funny, LOL!!
Follow Debbie on Facebook: CelineSongs
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