Coffee & Fibromyalgia

I'm sure you're wondering where this is going and what, if anything, Fibromyalgia has to do with my coffee house. Truthfully, it has a lot more to do with how I got here than you might think.

Fibromyalgia is a misunderstood chronic illness. Although it's often talked about, it's one of those 'invisible' illnesses that are so difficult to explain. Though it may be invisible, I definitely feel it every single day. When I was initially diagnosed, in 2016, after years of believing I had arthritis, I was in a haze of disbelief. As a psychotherapist, I had treated many people who suffered from this misunderstood illness and yet, there I sat, staring the doctor in the eye, hearing that I fit all the diagnostic criteria, that they had ruled out every other possibility and that I was "one of those people who truly have Fibromyalgia" as he put it. Whatever that meant.

The diagnosis itself didn't really change much. I'd had the symptoms for years already, probably even longer than I realized. Only when I started taking medication did I notice just how much pain I'd actually been in. A simple touch no longer was unbearable, I didn't need to cut the labels out of my clothes anymore, I was slightly more flexible and so on, and so forth. Until I wasn't anymore. One thing that's very difficult to understand with Fibromyalgia is that it changes in intensity from one day to the next. There are a host of factors, internal and external, that affect the symptoms and the person's condition, and unfortunately, you can't live in a bubble. So, some days are much better than others.

At the time of my diagnosis, I was still working as a psychotherapist and I did a trial of different medications. Once I was weaned off of one medication because it left me agitated, the intensity of the symptoms came back at a level I'd never experienced before and I reached my breaking point. It took a leave of absence from work, psychiatrist visits, multiple doctor visits, psychotherapy, medication and a lot of self-reflection to come to the realization that I could no longer go on with the life I'd lead. Working full time was no longer an option, especially that my job involved sitting for most of my day and left me wanting to cut off the lower half of my body. But Fibromyalgia isn't only physical. I found myself extremely anxious, subject to intense irritability and random (completely random) panic attacks. I knew something had to give. Especially that the brain fog, the forgetfulness and the constant searching for words, left me worried.

That's when I started thinking outside the box. I knew I needed to do something different. And, long story short (or maybe not so much), I bought the coffee house. Things didn't magically get better. I worked very hard on acceptance. That my body could no longer keep up. That I would be in pain day in, and day out, regardless or medication, yoga, meditation, diet or whatever else. That I would need to listen to my body and be patient (the hardest thing for me to do) with myself.

I continue to live with chronic pain all the time, and I will for the rest of my life, barring a miracle injection or pill. But being able to move around helps keep me more flexible and decreases my hip flexor pain. I'll likely always struggle with anxiety and irritability. But no longer having a high stress, fast paced job has been a huge help. So has slowing down. I now only work part-time, and I do something that I truly enjoy. The constant brain fog and forgetfulness are still present, but generally speaking, people are pretty understanding and forgiving when you forget a glass of water or a coffee. The chronic fatigue remains a pain in the ass, and completely unpredictable. But my new lifestyle allows me to nap in the afternoons, when I feel the need. Also, the nightmares are way less frequent since I no longer practice psychotherapy. Getting overwhelmed now can be more manageable because I can step out if I need to. I also don't always have to be sharp, so if I need to take a muscle relaxant, I can still work (unlike before).

But the best part of all of this is that my chronic illness is no longer the main focus. When I hit that rock bottom, I hit it hard. I couldn't see myself functioning anymore and I knew there had to be something I could do. Turns out, small business ownership was my answer. If I need to sit, I sit. If I need to stand, I stand. If I really need to go home, I bring staff in and go rest. In slowing down my life I've also gotten so much better at self-care. I take time for me. More than ever. I enjoy doing absolutely nothing on Sundays because it's my day off and that's what a day off is for.

It's hard for me, like I'm sure it is for anyone with Fibromyalgia, to explain all that it entails and to live with it. But business ownership has allowed me to feel some sort of normalcy, and no longer always feel like the 'sick' one. I have this illness that slows me down most days, and it hurts like a bitch sometimes, but it doesn't have me anymore.

And that, my friends, mostly because I bought this little coffee house.

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