My name is Isabel M. Diaz, and I live in Weehawken, NJ. I am a caregiver for my 90-year-old mother, who suffers from Acute Chronic Vertigo. To me, she embodies positivity and strength. My passions are photography, nature, writing, crocheting, painting, and advocating for those who cannot. Most of these I have learned to help me relax, since I was diagnosed.
I have had some time to really reflect on when my symptoms first surfaced, and I would have to date them back to when I was a child. I had a traumatic event happen to me. Ever since then, I felt sick all the time, I was nervous, I simply was never myself again.
I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in October of 2013, I was 51 years old. The diagnosis came after many years of going through multiple doctors, tests, fear and frustration. I felt a huge relief to finally have a diagnosis and know that it was not all in my head. I had never heard of Fibromyalgia, so I had to do a lot of research and find ways to try to manage my illness. There were many trials and failures, such as medicine, treatments, etc. But, along the way I have found some healthy new lifestyle changes that helped.
I have had drastic changes in my life since my diagnosis. I am unable to work anymore, which is so difficult for me, because I have been working since I was 12 years old. The biggest change was eliminating negative people from my life. A game changer. I find solace and a sense of worth by volunteering for The Fibromyalgia Care Society of America, writing for The Mighty, changing my diet, light stretches, meditation, lowering stress (not easy), photography, etc.
My mom, my aunt and I, were very confused and concerned when I first received my diagnosis, as to what exactly Fibromyalgia was and how it would affect my life. They have always supported me during my flares and my determination to research and find relief. They know I am a fighter. I could not find many doctors who either believed in Fibro or knew how to treat it.
My other family members had no concept whatsoever and believed I could still visit them, do the things I did before, thought it wasn’t that bad, or did not believe me. I have not received much support from them. I always thought it was harder for me to say “no, I cannot go” then it was for them to hear it. I have had to let go of a lot of negative folks in my life, and I am ultimately grateful that I chose to do that.
The most challenging aspect of Fibro to me I think is adapting to the constant new symptoms the illness brings. There are always surprises, which bring anxiety and uncertainty. Also, accepting and embracing that I would have a lifelong illness, while I try to live the best way I can and not let it run my life. I have Fibro, but I refuse to let it have me. The worst is how limited I am physically. I still think, after all these years, that I can do things like a healthy person.
I have been open with my friends since the diagnosis, because I think it is crucial to bring awareness and raise my voice in hopes that I can help someone else and know that I am not alone. Not everyone is supportive or wants to hear about it. It can come across as complaining to some. I try to advocate the positive side, that we have this illness, let’s talk about it, let’s find relief together, let’s be there for each other.
Besides Fibro, I have Degenerative Disk Disease, Neuropathy, Radiculopathy, Glaucoma, and Arthritis.
The best advice I have received is to breathe, pace myself, to listen to my body, learn to rest, and learn to say no without feeling guilty. Set boundaries.
I manage my fibromyalgia with meditation twice a day, light stretches, eating healthier, screaming and cursing at it when I must, pacing myself, managing my emotions. I am always looking for new ways to introduce self-care into my life.
My biggest inspiration has been my mother, she is so strong considering she suffers from Vertigo 24 hours a day. She tells me “This is what you have, so find ways to make your life has as much quality as possible.” “Be you, and don’t lose yourself” “Get up every day and do things that bring you joy.”
My biggest battle is my physical struggle with mobility. It’s feels like I am trapped in my own body. I confront it daily by trying my best to remember to pace myself and do the best I can. To not feel guilty because I cannot do everything. It can be very frustrating and depressing.
The best thing that has happened to me due to my illness is that I have found an incredible sense of strength and resilience that I never would have imagined that I had. I fight for myself and others. The worst thing would be emotional roller coaster that accompanies my illness.
I am recently disabled and can no longer work. Balancing my personal life with my illness can be tricky, because I do not know from one day to the next how my body will be. I cannot make plans, and I do things that do not require excessive walking or traveling. I have lost a lot of “friends” along the way. But, I always look for things to do and enjoy.
I do struggle with both anxiety and depression. I meditate twice a day, I write in my journal, crochet, paint, nature, “me” time, self-care, I try to be mindful and breathe. I try to notice when my moods fluctuate and dissect it as to why I am reacting to a situation, in hopes of not repeating it in the future. There are times when it can feel heavy, I face it, embrace it, and move on when I am ready.
My words of encouragement for others living with Fibro are that, I know how overwhelming this illness can be, so I think it’s important for everyone to know they are not alone. Find ways to find relief, the healthier the better, talk to others with Fibro, join a group, get involved, bring awareness, and educate the medical community. Learn to pace yourself, rest and listen to your body.
The one thing that I have learned is how strong I am. It still amazes me sometimes. I am not strong all the time, but I do face things differently. I have found advocating for this illness has been a blessing. I am also resilient and have a lot of Faith.
The best advice I can give someone newly diagnosed with Fibro is to never give up, research, join a group, advocate, find doctors who understand. I would like people to know that this illness can bring us down, can make us feel alone, can change our entire universe – if we allow it too. There is so much in this life to be grateful for, to fight for, and you may just surprise yourself with how strong you really are. We all have our battles, and we treat each other so much better when share them with one another. When we go deeper, we care deeper.
I am involved in raising awareness for Fibro by being a committee member for The Fibromyalgia Care Society of America, and a writer for The Mighty. Being a member of the FCSA has opened many opportunities to meet and speak with folks about Fibro. I am blessed. I let everyone know I have fibro and my door is always open if they wish to talk. I have tried to educate many members of the medical community, which desperately needs it.
I feel I am a Fibro warrior because I am resilient, I try to find the positive, the gratitude, the Faith, the beautiful moments that outshine the illness. You will find me smiling, trying my best, and helping anyone I can.