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Maria's story – fibromyalgia

Maria was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2012 having had symptoms, particularly in her back, neck and feet, for many years. She feels disappointed that it took so long to get a formal diagnosis and to find the best combination of treatments.

Maria admits that she has ups and downs with her condition: 'I've had to accept that my life has changed,' she says. Maria feels this is the key to learning to manage the condition, even if she does still need medications at times to help her through a bad patch.

'I'm very lucky that my family and my husband in particular are really supportive – and my young son too, although he does sometimes find it difficult to understand why we can't always do all the things that we'd like to together. Sometimes it comes down to a choice between going out and relying on my walking sticks or not going out at all. But as he grows up he's starting to understand a little bit more all the time.'

Maria’s fibromyalgia was diagnosed by a pain specialist – the second one she’d seen – who suggested a pain management programme. 'These programmes are fantastic,' she says. 'It’s all too easy to become isolated with this condition especially if you have to cancel social events because of it. Talking to other people who’ve gone through similar experiences, who really understand the problems you face, helps so much.'

Maria is so enthusiastic about pain management programmes that she’s become a voluntary tutor. 'It’s so good to see people on the courses grow and move on with their lives. The courses are also a good place to pick up tips on things like healthy eating and exercise – things you wouldn’t necessarily think about if you’re at home feeling ill.'

Talking about the condition can sometimes bring other benefits too: 'I was very open with my son’s school about the difficulties my fibromyalgia causes – and they’ve been really good about letting me park in the school grounds when I come to pick him up.'

Fatigue is often the worst aspect of fibromyalgia for Maria and this was especially challenging when her son was younger. Maria says she hasn’t slept well for many years and this has undoubtedly contributed to the absolute exhaustion she’s experienced at times. But she says she has found relaxation techniques have really helped her to manage stress and ‘fibrofog’.

Maria would strongly encourage anyone with fibromyalgia to consider a pain management programme: 'I don’t think there’s enough known about the availability of these courses, and it’s such a shame that courses sometimes have to be cancelled through lack of referrals.'

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