Georgina Harvey is 28 years old and did not spend a single day totally free from pain due to fibromyalgia. Here is your testimony.
When was the last time you felt pain?
Whatever it is, – a headache, a shoulder contracture, kidney stones or a blow to the toe – chances are you’ve recovered.
But imagine how it must be to get up every day in agony, knowing that surely this discomfort will not disappear.
This is life for people living with chronic pain. Many are frustrated because their symptoms seem to be invisible in the eyes of others and often people do not understand and underestimate them. September is the international month of pain awareness, and to better understand what it’s like to live constantly with this condition BBC Three has invited Georgina Harvey, a 28-year-old Englishwoman with fibromyalgia, to share her testimony.
“It’s as if all nerve endings have been burned.”
“One morning in July 2016, I woke up as usual, but when I tried to move I felt a very intense pain going through my body.
It’s as if all the nerve endings have been burned and I could just scream.
The smile on the pictures does not show the pain that Georgina Harvey suffered every day for four years.
My mother came running to my room, took me to the side and stayed with me until the feeling disappeared. We knew I was having a fibromyalgia outbreak, but it was the worst I’ve had since diagnosis two years ago.
My problem began with the need to stretch my neck when I was 19, shortly after recovering from meningitis.
After that, she grew in a penetrating sensation of tingling in the shoulders and a deep pain in the back.
I thought it was due to poor posture, but by the time I turned 21 the pain was almost constant.
I did x-rays, blood tests and MRI scans, but nothing was seen.
They gave me strong painkillers and the doctor increased the dose or type each time the pain became unbearable.
I described the discomfort as the worst stomach pain imaginable, but on the back, combined with intense pressure on the chest, as if it were bursting into my ribs.
When morphine was the only alternative I had left to deal with, they gave me medical leave and referred me to a rheumatologist, which led to my diagnosis.
“The impact was everything: work, exercise, social life,” says Georgina.
He explained what fibromyalgia is: chronic pain from a central nervous system disorder, but said there is no specific treatment or cure, just ways to deal with the problem.
I had spent years trying to do the things I suggested – pills, yoga, swimming, physiotherapy, and cognitive-behavioral therapy, but nothing soothed the pain.
Although it was a relief to finally have a diagnosis of what was happening to me, which left me devastated to think that this would be something that I would have to live with.
“It Affects Everything”
Today the pain spread to my hips and feet, and I also developed stomach problems.
Everyday activities such as talking on the phone, wearing a bra or just sitting in a chair can be triggers for an outbreak of pain, and taking a shower can be exhausting.
The pain gives Georgina a sense of mental weight that prevents her from thinking clearly.
I have never felt rested, because fibromyalgia affects me to sleep and has generated fog in the brain, a feeling of mental weight that prevents me from thinking clearly when I have a lot of pain.
I’ve always been a bit shy, but now it’s even harder to hold conversations. In general, I think that made me an anxious person, because I’m always on the edge.
The impact was everything: work, exercise, social life. The recommendation they make to me is to “keep going,” but when I have a bad episode I can not do anything, so it’s a vicious circle.
When I make plans, I have to think about whether I’m going to have to stand or sit and how long I’ll have to get away from home.
Most of the time, if I can, I struggle to move on with the plan, because I do not want the pain to stop me or my friends think I’m excusing myself.
But often I have to move to an isolated place, usually a bathroom, when the exhaustion and pain are very strong.
– Managing Pain –
There are some things that can make me feel better, like a bottle of hot water or a soft blanket, I’m actually obsessed with things that generate well-being or that have a nice touch, since my body is very sensitive.
I also like to walk, but I have to do it at my own pace. It helps me to prevent outbreaks and always improves my mood.
Sometimes a bottle of hot water helps.
Last year I left my London job in event marketing to avoid the 90-minute round-trip, and that made a difference to my well-being.
Although I never have a totally painless day, some are more manageable than others. I always remember that there are people who suffer much more than I do. My family also encourages me. I live with my parents and they give me a lot of emotional support.
My boyfriend also does everything he can to help me, but I feel guilty when my condition affects our relationship. Recently, after a romantic dinner, we walked towards the car, but it was cold on the road and the tremor almost made me fall to the ground.
For me, it is important to disclose information about how to live with chronic pain, because whenever I say that I have fibromyalgia, nobody has heard of the problem and, as it is “invisible”, unfortunately there is a lot of stigma. People underestimate it and several bosses told me they do not understand.
Anyway, I understand: I make jokes. I do not limp when I walk and I put smiley photos on Instagram. But these photos do not show that I was under the strongest analgesics I have, nor that when I get home I start to cry.
I do not want my condition to define who I am. Yes, it’s part of me, but I have the determination not to let it dominate me.