Shortly before I sat my A-Level exams, I began to lose use of my wrists – not completely, but enough. I couldn’t write for more than 10-minutes, and I could only do so slowly. This was an issue because 1) I’m a writer and 2) I had three-hour exams.
Society often shames us into hushing-up our symptoms. At the time, I hadn’t been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. My answer to “What’s wrong with you?” was always a defensive, “Well, technically nothing, but—”. Despite having “technically nothing” wrong with me, I did what seemed to be impossible. I asked for help – something noone ever should never be afraid to. I was permitted to use a computer, which, although It still hurt my wrists, made exams much easier. And I came out with some pretty-damn-good grades.
Now, I’m studying Creative Writing at University. It’s increasingly difficult to balance chronic illness with my studies. I was officially diagnosed with Fibromyalgia this January, and it’s around that time I got worse. Moreover, I was receiving no treatment. There’s no cure for Fibromyalgia – but there are ways to cope with it.
I knew none of these ways.
Fibromyalgia became my life. I knew nothing other than Fibromyalgia. It was like an elephant living inside my skull. Heavy. Too big to be there. It’s still like that, but I’m learning ways to deal with it.
Fibromyalgia effects studying in numerous ways. Here, I shall list the main ones and how I personally cope with it. It should be said, everyone experiences Fibromyalgia in different ways, and what works for some may not work for others.
As said earlier in this post, it hurts to write. The muscles in my wrists are so weak, I struggle to put pen-to-paper for more than ten-minutes. This is particularly horrific as I’m a writer. I find it easier to type, but if I do it for too long, typing grows unbearable, too. Not to mention, I find it easier to work on paper – it’s clearer to think that way.
I combat this issue in two ways. One: I take regular breaks. Not only does this help the pain, but it refreshes my brain. As a writer, you often get caught up in different worlds. Two: I use a wrist rest when typing. This keeps the wrists in a more neutral position, putting less strain on the muscles, consequently easing the pain.
Another huge issue is the fibro-fog, or in other words: concentration. In fact, when writing this, I asked a friend, “What would you like to see in this post?” because I couldn’t think. They said, “How it affects concentration.” Touché.
Again, one way I deal with this is to take regular breaks. If you can’t think, staring at the screen won’t help. So, stand up. Stretch. Take a short walk around your house. And then, resume. I always find when I do this, my fibro-fog induced writers-block disappears.
When Fibromyalgia is so bad that I cannot think of anything else – which is sadly often – I write about it. That way, I get work done and I’m able to raise awareness it. And, sometimes, good comes of it. My recent article, ‘15 Things Fibromyalgia Really Is’ was actually published on The Mighty. So, if you don’t really know what it is – go check that out.
If you’re out there, balancing Fibromyalgia with your studies, let me tell you this: I appreciate you. The fact you’re living with a chronic illness and putting yourself through pain to learn – you’re unbelievable. Don’t let the Fibro kick you down.
By Isabel Tyldesley.