As I lay sleepless due to the throbbing in my joints, I had a very long night to reflect. My screeching nerves decided that Brandon Sanderson got something very right in his novel, Elantris.
Sanderson's protagonist, Prince Raoden, is stricken by the Shaod, a terrible affliction that renders its victims immortal, freakish, and hungry. He is thrown into Elantris, a decaying city whose wonder can no longer gleam through the filth. The Shaod leaves them without a heartbeat. No injury will heal, and the pain of each injury never fades. Eventually, the cumulative agony from hundreds of small injuries, coupled with an unrelenting hunger, drives them mad.
For me, it started with low back pain, then constant headaches. Soon my hands were always cold. Then, I broke a bone in my foot from walking crookedly. Most of the time I could ignore it, or at least put it to the back of my mind, but even if I wasn't consciously thinking about the pain, its weight was always there. I grew increasingly anxious, depressed, and despondent.
Doctors told me I had TMJ. They found spinal deformities and told me that was what caused the back pain. Somewhere in there was some physical therapy. More than one doctor thought I was nuts because they couldn't find a diagnosis that explained everything. I half believed them. The broken bone in my foot never healed, and I couldn't avoid constant walking in my job. It was excruciating, day in and day out.
Three surgeries and thousands in medical bills later, I find out it's fibromyalgia. I have good days and bad. Many of my injuries, like the one in my calves from aerobics two years ago, never heal. Though my heart is still beating, the Shaod is the best analog I've ever found for what it's like to have fibromyalgia.
It's cumulative. It builds up. Eats your rationality. Finally, something happens, usually something small, that takes you over the edge and makes you scream for anything that will stop the pain. Sometimes it stops. More often, it doesn't. Today is bad. Yesterday was worse.
In the book, Prince Raoden makes it his mission to give the residents of Elantris a sense of purpose, a reason for being, and something to do other than go ape-shit crazy.
Thank God for purpose.