Fibromyalgia warrior, Natasha Atkinson, suffers from Fibromyalgia. Natasha has agreed to add her face and story to Faces & Stories of Fibromyalgia. I’m so grateful that she has agreed to do this, as each story told raises Fibromyalgia awareness and helps fellow sufferers.
You can connect with Natasha Atkinson by following her on Instagram.
A little about me before I tell you my Fibro journey. I’m Natasha, I’m 27 years old, and live in Nottingham, UK with my husband Luke, (we’ve been together for 11 years and married for 7 years), and daughter, Anamaria (8 years old). I work in a secondary school helping as a cover teacher and mentor. It’s actually the school where I first met my husband, back in 2005/6, when we both attended the school.
My Fibromyalgia journey started a few years ago. At the start of October 2017, during my lunch break at work, I ended up having to go to the doctors as I was having really bad back ache and stomach cramps. They were like nothing I had ever experienced before. The doctor sadly informed me that I had suffered an early miscarriage. That day was a really hard day. I had no idea that I was even pregnant. I had no idea how or what to feel. I already had a daughter and I didn’t want any more children, but it was still hard to hear that I had lost our baby. Leaving the doctors and going back to work is a blur. I still have no idea how I managed to teach two Technology lessons that afternoon. I ended up having two weeks off work as I had sunk into a massive depression. Since then, I have always had aches and pains and probably, like most of us, put it down to other stuff like not sleeping enough, sleeping funny, being too busy, being too stressed, etc. So I just got on with my life and tried to get through each week.
Fast forward to November 2018 and my Mum was rushed into hospital with a burst Hernia. When she arrived, they performed a scan and found a tumor. They said that it needed to be removed as it was growing too fast, and if they didn’t act soon, she wouldn’t have much time left. She ended up being in hospital until mid January 2019. She was ready to start her chemo after the doctor managed to remove the tumor.
Around this time, my back ache returned but this pain was different. The pain was reaching around my sides and was leaving me feeling really sick and almost passing out from it. I tried to ignore it and concentrate on looking after my Mum and my younger sister, who is autistic, and struggled with Mum’s cancer diagnosis. I eventually went to the doctors and when they pressed my sides, I screamed in pain. The doctor sent me straight to the hospital as he thought my appendix had ruptured. When I got to A&E (Accident & Emergency), I had a scan and it turned out that it was actually an ovarian cyst that had burst. This was not the only problem however. I also had kidney stones and one of them had cut me internally when it moved from my kidney to my bladder. This caused an infection which was not detected on any previous tests. I spent roughly 5 weeks going back and forth between the hospital and the doctors as the antibiotics didn’t work. I’m allergic to Penicillin. The opiate based painkillers that they gave me didn’t work as it turns out my body is immune to them and so we had to find an alternative to treat me. All I can say is, God bless the person who invented hot water bottles! During that time I never left the house without a hot water bottle or heat pack over my kidneys. Even when back at work, I had heat packs over my kidneys for another 2 months to help me to walk and be able to get through each day. Sadly, just like Fibromyalgia, there is no cure for kidney stones either. There’s things you can do to help, like changing diets, but basically my kidneys don’t filter properly and so there will always be a build up which can result in another stone.
In October 2019, we received some devastating news about a student and this caused me to go into a massive depressive episode and I had to deal with some demons that I had suppressed from my teenage years. I finally built up the courage to go and talk to a doctor about my mental health. I was diagnosed with severe Depression and Anxiety and the doctor booked me off work for 2 weeks in order to give my medication enough time to start working. When those 2 weeks were nearly up, I went back to the doctors as I was now in agony every day. I was spending most of the day on my sofa, in and out of sleep, but never feeling rested. I’m so grateful to the training doctor who I saw as she said that it sounded like Fibromyalgia, and started to rule out other conditions straight away. She really was amazing and for the first time in a long time I felt that I might finally have an answer to all my unexplained pain. At the start of December 2019, I was finally given the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia. When I first heard that, all I could think of was would I end up like my brother in law, who was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia 7 years ago and is now in a wheelchair. Even though I was happy to have a diagnosis, I felt like all my future plans had been robbed from me and my family. I was also worried about what medication I would have to have, as I mentioned already, my body is immune to opiate based painkillers. It took some research to find a non-opiate based painkiller that would work and we finally found Nefopam; a drug that is usually given to help cancer patients deal with chemotherapy pain. Alongside this, I also take medication to help my Depression, Anxiety and Insomnia. I can honestly say that since I’ve started taking all of these medications, that it does help me. Of course I’m not pain free but as long as I’m not having a bad day, pain wise, I am normally able to get about and do the things I need to do.
It has now been 2 months since my diagnosis and I honestly don’t think I’ve thought about the future as much as I have in these last few weeks. I had an idea of how I wanted my life to be prior to my diagnosis, but now I’ve realized that I can still do what I wanted to do, but I may have to take a few more breaks than I originally planned, and go to part time work instead of full time. At the end of January I decided to make a new Instagram account to help me navigate the ups and downs of my new life with Fibromyalgia and I’m so glad that I did. The Chronic Illness community is amazing! It’s so nice to be in contact with people who are in similar situations and understand what I am going through. It is probably one of the first things that I’d recommend to a newly diagnosed person; find a support group, it is so important to be able to talk things through with people who understand.
I honestly believe my Fibromyalgia wasn’t brought on by one traumatic event but rather multiple traumatic events over the last few years. My body has now finally said enough is enough, I can’t handle it any more. I am no longer angry or upset with this diagnosis but actually welcome it, as it has made me take a step back from my stressful life and actually put my needs first for a change, and listen to what my body wants. There will always be days when I compare the me now, to the me prior to diagnosis, but as long as I still continue to fight and make it through each day, I know I’ll be okay.
I know I’ve written a lot but I’d like to leave some suggestions that have helped me.
- Finding a doctor who actually understands what Fibromyalgia is.
- Talking with the doctor and both coming to an agreement on medications.
- Finding a support group – I have Facebook groups and a Fibro Instagram account.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Hot water bottles on a bad back does wonders.
- Don’t be embarrassed if you have to use a walking aid. I’m 27 and use a crutch/walking stick every day now.
- Purchase dry shampoo – Magic in a can, especially when you ache too much to wash and dry your hair.
- Listen to your body – if you need to rest, rest. You will thank yourself the next day.
- Do a daily puzzle – I use an app that has crosswords, sudoku’s, word-searches, etc.
- Buy a nice water bottle – a lot of medication can cause dry mouth, so make sure to drink enough water. I find a nicer bottle makes it easier to drink more than out of a cup.
- Think positive – you may be having a bad day today but try and find the good in each day, even if that good thing is just having a cup of tea in peace.
If you’ve got this far, thank you for reading my story … well a summary of it. If you wanna check out my Fibro journey on Instagram my name is @fibro.fighter,nat I’m happy to help or chat.
Hopefully together we can raise awareness for Fibromyalgia and other chronic or invisible illnesses.
Thanks Nat x.