This week I’m interviewing Fibro Warrior, Kim Penix from Southeast Michigan. She has been married to her loving husband for 26 years (impressive!). They have two kids and one grandchild (she certainly doesn’t look old enough to have a grandbaby). They also have a dog and a cat. She enjoys blogging, reading, cooking shows, crafts, and family time. She was diagnosed in 2209, at the age of 39.
What lead up to your diagnosis (symptoms, dr visits, etc)?
I had been having a lot of pain all over my body and no energy. Weird things like noise and cold air were literally hurting my body when they never had before. Stress was a big problem! Over a period of about two years, I had gone to numerous appointments trying to get my doctor to listen to me. He just kept prescribing Motrin 600’s. At one appointment he literally asked if I was happy being fat-most women prefer to be in shape and if I was in shape, I wouldn’t have any problems. (I wasn’t enormous, I was a size 16 at the time.) My husband got mad and had me schedule an appointment and went with me. He told the doctor I was not being a hypochondriac and everything he saw taking place with me. The doctor didn’t address me and just spoke to him. He did refer me to a rheumatologist at that time. The rheumatologist diagnosed me and I changed general practitioners. The next one wasn’t any better. I asked what I could do to help my symptoms and she patted me on the back and said nothing. I changed dr’s again and now I’m pretty good with the one I have.
What was your life like? (
I was/am married and my husband was on steady afternoons. We had two kids in high school and I was working full time in senior management at a credit union. The stress of the job was huge and then I’d come home and have the house and kids to manage. I almost felt like a single mom since we only saw my husband on Saturday and Sunday mornings. We left the house when he was still sleeping and when he got home we were already sleeping.
My sister had just passed away in 2008 of cancer and I was caring for my dad who was dying of cancer and passed away in 2010. Have I mentioned I was under a lot of stress. 😉 I would go on my lunch hour and after work to my parent’s house or the hospital (wherever they were at the time) to help my 80 year old mother care for my dad.
I’d get home exhausted and had to sit in a hot tub every night to get the pain to ease some. Felt like a failure of a mom because I didn’t have to the time to cook right or do things with the kids.
I spent my career in the financial industry in senior management. I walked away from my job in October of 2011 to focus on my health and family. It was getting too hard to keep up as the stress was making my health worse.
How did your family initially handle your illness?
They knew something was going on and were glad when I finally got a diagnosis. They have always been very supportive of the physical side of the illness. The stress and mental side is where they struggle. I know there isn’t any way they can truly understand. The things like needing stuff organized to help the stress level or helping more around the house have been the hardest issues with them. And understanding how you may be putting up with quite a bit of pain that is so irritating and then when stress or other things are added it puts you over the edge. Unfortunately I can tend to get quite crabby when it gets to those points.
What do you feel is the most challenging aspect of Fibro?
Never being able to do the things I really want to do. Sometimes it feels like a form of solitary confinement. Cold weather will keep me locked in the house. The pain, fatigue and brain fog stop me from accomplishing things I really want to do. Even simple things like keeping the house clean. Just feels like a prisoner inside my own body. Also, the lack of attention span. It makes it hard to read or balance the checkbook or even remember what you needed to do that day.
Do you have any other co-existing conditions?
I have polycystic ovarian disorder. It adds pelvic pain to the long list of pain and discomfort. I have chronic fatigue syndrome and the lack of energy makes it hard to add yoga or exercises to my day even though I know it would help. Let’s see, I have adrenal fatigue as well. A naturopathic dr ran a bunch of tests and found that my body is not producing or retaining vitamins B or D. I have to take both of those three times a day to maintain relatively normal levels.
What (if anything) have you found/ done that has improved your symptoms?
Things suggested by the naturpathic dr have helped the most. My Vitamin B & D regimen and also taking d-ribose for the fatigue helps. Sleep is a huge issue for me and I have to try to keep as regular of a sleep schedule as possible. Hot baths or showers at night can help relax the muscles that have tensed from pain during the day.
Another thing that helps, but I really struggle with, is lowering my expectations of myself. Life just isn’t what it once was.
How open are you with friends & family about your illness & symptoms?
I am very open with family; I haven’t held anything back with them. With friends I’m a little quieter about it. It’s the whole insecurity that comes with an invisible illness where you’re not sure just how much friends believe.
What inspired you to start blogging about your illness?
I started blogging in 2010 when I quit work. The theme of that blog was a search for joy. As time went on I noticed that my illness was coming up more often and that there was a group of people out there that needed to talk and have someone they could relate to. In November of this year I started my new blog that focus on health, family, and faith. I try to be as open as I can because I know there are people that feel they are all alone in their illness and they need to know they aren’t!
What is the best advice you’ve received regarding Fibromyalgia?
The importance of sleep! I have to keep up with a normal sleep routine because lack of sleep makes the Fibro symptoms worse and sucks any bit of life from my energy levels already low from my CFS.
What was the worst advice that you followed?
Taking the Motrin 600’s from the doctor for years. It didn’t help the pain. It was hard on my kidneys and I end up with kidney infections a lot now. That was before the diagnosis though.
What is your favorite way to cope with your life as a spoonie?
Honestly, writing on my blog seems cathartic for me. I feel like I give myself permission to talk about things there with others who I know understand. Plus, it keeps me reading up on news and other information so I can share things with others. It makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something that helps others.
What is it that inspires you to keep going, despite your illness?
My family and my little grandson. I want to make memories and enjoy life with them to the best of my ability. I’ll push myself to do things with them that I may drop off the schedule if it was just for me.
What is one thing you’ve learned about yourself since your diagnosis?
I’m stronger than I give myself credit for. I can handle a lot of pain and not let it show to those around me.
What is the most important piece of advice you would give to someone newly diagnosed with Fibro (or even still seeking a diagnosis)?
Know the enemy. Learn what you can about your illness and experiment with things that are known to help others. Each case is different so what helps someone might not help you but don’t give up. Try something else. Become your own health advocate.
Give yourself a break. Don’t feel guilty that you’re ill. Don’t feel like you have to convince people you’re sick.
Now that you’ve gotten to know Kim, make sure to visit her blog and say hello. You can also catch up with her via email, on twitter @KimberlyJPenix and Facebook.