I have fibromyalgia. This isn’t a particularly rare disorder. It’s not even breaking news. In fact, I’m starting to think it’s a writerly type of syndrome, given how many writers I know that have it. Maybe sitting in front of the computer for a long time messes up our central nervous system. Maybe it’s because we type so fast. No idea. All I know is that I was diagnosed in 2001 after four years of confusion and insomnia and pain and searching for answers.
What does that mean for you? Well, I can’t actually hold down a regular-type job these days so I won’t be making coffee for you anytime soon. However, I can write through pretty much anything. I can sit in my pj’s even when I can’t stand up. I can write when my back hurts or when my skin is freaking out. I can write through migraines (that took a bit of practice but I finally figured out the trick of it: don’t focus too hard on the monitor).
Finally, in a strange way, it helps me empathize with my characters. You see, I know what it feels like to be injured. Or falling-down drunk. Or anxious. After so many years of this particular disorder, I’m used to it. I exercise a lot so I know about that, too. I know what it’s like to be in a hospital, doctor’s office, etc. I have a ton of experience managing stress and illness. And even though I have fibromyalgia I also know random things about bicycling, dancing, gardening, cooking because a central nervous system disorder does not define who I am. I am not the sum of, oh, a broken ankle + vertigo. That does not equal me.
Also, I’m in my 40s now, so I know a lot about a lot of other stuff. I grew up in a blue-collar household so I know something about engines. And fixing shit up yourself and the smell of 4:30 am. How to duct tape a window back together. I went to college so I know what it feels like to fall asleep in a dorm room. I know what’s it’s like to juggle three jobs at once. I worked in New York city for a few years so I know what that’s like, too. The rumble and stench of the train in summer. The insane wind that tries to push you over when you just want to get back to the Port Authority and get home because it’s late and freaking freezing in January on 41st street. How to sit in an office with an amazing view and the politics of wooden desks versus steel.
These days I live in rural Pennsylvania, so I know what it’s like to stare a deer down late at night through my windshield. I know what the winter feels like in the woods: the crinkle of dry leaves and the intense joy of stomping on a frozen puddle of water. I know what it’s like to drink freshly pressed apple cider and eat corn that’s just been picked an hour ago.
Given all that experience, you’d think fibromyalgia would make me feel weak. Depressed. Pissed off maybe. And it did, oh my yes, it certainly did at different points of my life. But right now? When I can’t really stand up without listing to the side? It’s not so bad. You see, I can’t vacuum or cook or do anything else except sit in front of my computer right now. This would be a problem if I was still trying to hold down an office job, or a retail position, or some other work that required regular hours.
But since I’m a writer, fibromyalgia is mostly not a big deal. I can usually still type, which is kind of awesome.
And it’s always more fun to dream/make-up-shit/torment-your-characters in your pajamas, anyway.