Several doctors cautioned me against opting for long-term disability. Their concern was that I would become bored and depressed. I won’t say I didn’t have moments; but, in general, it was the best decision for me.
Yes, I was sad to leave a job for which I’d trained and struggled to obtain. I grieved my loss of identity, and I was fearful of my financial situation. The lack of interaction with friends and co-workers also was a huge loss. Without family in the city where I lived, it was difficult to establish a new social network. Most people who stayed at home all day were retired. I was only 51.
But (and this is a very big BUT) the positives far outweighed the negatives for me. My aching, exhausted body was so relieved to be free from the stress of my corporate finance job that I did little other than sleep for the entire first month. In addition, I was free to take the quantity of pain medication required to control my pain without worry that I’d be too sleepy to concentrate.
In time, I began participating in therapeutic activities that had been too strenuous or time-consuming during my lengthy workdays or less necessary than the household chores I had to accomplish on weekends. The first thing I did was resume swimming. When my symptoms were under control, I swam regularly on my way home from work. It was one of the first things to go when my symptoms worsened and fatigue became overwhelming. Now, I had the luxury of the entire day. I could swim when my energy level was highest – between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. It was helpful for my body, but it didn’t fulfill my need for social interaction. There were few people in the pool at that time of day.
Then I added yoga to my life. I experimented with schools or types at first. Ashtanga yoga was too physically demanding, and I ruled out Bikram yoga because of the heat involved. I finally found a Kripalu yoga class, and there I stayed. This particular practice is an interaction of body, mind and energy. I found it to be stress-relieving and pain-reducing, as well as a source of inner peace. One word of caution here if you’re a newcomer to yoga: Avoid classes at gyms. They tend to be workout-oriented rather than emphasizing stretching and flexibility (the two most helpful benefits for FM sufferers).
Once I’d settled into a comfortable routine that included frequent exercise, a healthy diet and plenty of rest breaks during the day, I felt the need to be productive. That’s when I began writing.
My desire to help others prompted me to record and publish my unique experiences with FM in the hopes that I could prevent other patients from making the same mistakes I had made. Writing a book was a huge goal and a painful, lengthy process. I could write for only short periods of time. Otherwise, my neck would cry, my arms would ache, and I would be bedridden for days. I learned to take frequent breaks, but each one interrupted my train of thought. So the book, Tender Points: A Fibromyalgia Memoir, took nearly 5 years to write.
Do I recommend long-term disability for everyone with fibromyalgia symptoms? Absolutely not! No two cases of fibromyalgia or financial situations are the same. It’s a life-changing decision that requires extensive research and knowledgeable advice to make a reasonable choice for yourself. Please do not make the decision lightly or quickly, but do not discount it, either. Perhaps for you, as for me, long-term disability may change your life for the better.
Note: Fibromyalgia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Fibromyalgia News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to fibromyalgia.