The Stretch: The Fear of Taking on Too Much When You Have Fibromyalgia

I have fibromyalgia. Some of my days are good days, and I feel as strong as I ever was, stronger even, in some ways. I can climb all the metaphorical and literal mountains that I used to climb. Other days, I feel so fatigued, it’s as if the weight of all my former aspirations and dreams and losses have manifested into 10-pound weights that are hanging all over my body. I fantasize about lying down on the floor and resting. I never know which day I am going to have, but I have more good days than I used to have.

I have more good days than I used to have because I relentlessly axed, axed, axed burdens and responsibilities from my life. I changed how I do everything. Then, after spending far too many months doing hardly anything, I slowly built myself back up. Those months were dark. They were bleak. They included far too much crying. Every day was a bad day because I didn’t know how to see any good in the hot mess that had become my life. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, so I didn’t have the medications that had made my life more manageable. Slowly, ever so slowly, I reclaimed some control over my life and have reached this kind of equilibrium with my fibromyalgia. My life isn’t what it used to be, but I can manage and work and have hobbies. That’s not so bad!

Still, I’m always filled with longing for more. I have goals and aspirations that I want to see if I can manage. I’ve always wanted to pursue an M.A. in Latin. I was even admitted last year, but I deferred for a year. When I had tried to take a Latin class last in anticipation of this M.A. program, I had bitten off more than I could chew. I had just returned to work at 80% partially in the office, partially at home, and by spring break, I was sobbing in my professor’s office for an hour. (True story). Every task and responsibility in my life was just too much still. Choosing to defer was the right decision, and my professor worked with me to help me manage my coursework. I remain immensely grateful to her empathy, and I sought full-time work from home as an accommodation. I reached my as-happy-and-productive-as-can-be therapeutic level with medications and accommodations.

For the last several months, I have been wavering on the decision to pursue that deferred dream of having an M.A. in Latin. I love Latin, and I love school. I don’t want to give this dream up. So, I stepped in the waters this summer and am taking an online class that relates to my area of interest in Latin. At the same time, my job situation has changed; I may be promoted to a position that requires more time in the office. I am taking on the workload of two people because my supervisor left, need to spend more time in the office, and should work closer to 100% than the 80% employment I’ve been doing for the last year. Yep. I’m stressed. I’m exhausted. The fatigue has been difficult (though not unmanageable) the last couple of weeks. I’m also immensely worried about whether I’m going to bite off more than I can chew and end up sobbing again in my supervisor’s or my professor’s office. I don’t want to go down that route.

So, I’m faced with a really difficult decision. Do I stretch outside my comfort zone and risk sparking a series of flares that last until December when I give up (another) dream? Do I stay safe? How do you play this fine line that is my life with fibromyalgia? As I’ve decided to pursue the promotion with its changes to my work accommodations, I grappled with whether to pursue my own personal intellectual interests and hobbies. The Latin course was on Plautus, an author and genre I’ve never read. I also wanted to take a master gardener course and volunteer through that program. If I took the Latin course, I’d not be able to do the master gardener certification. If I opted to delay taking another course to give myself time to adjust to the new position, I’d not be able to take another Latin drama course for two years. The master gardener certification would be less work than the Latin course I wanted to take.

And so, I’ve decided to stretch. I’m pursuing the promotion and my intellectual dreams and deferring the master-gardener dream to some other year. I am terrified. I can’t really articulate that deep pit of nerves that is my stomach. I don’t want to go back to those long horrible months of endless fatigue and bad days, but I also don’t want to give up more. I’m so much better than where I was a year ago, and it’s hard to know how much of that is due to which things I axed out of my life. I’m hoping the fatigue I’ve felt over the last couple of weeks will mellow as I adjust to these new changes. I’m hopeful to continue pursuing the hobbies and crafts that bring me so much joy. Otherwise, December seems far, far away.

Wish me luck in this stretch, and I’ll wish you luck in yours.

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