Can an over-achiever ever find peace of mind?

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by Valentina, Sep 15, 2003.

  1. Valentina

    Valentina New Member

    Hi Everyone!

    I'm new here, and am thrilled to have found a community of people who can actually relate to what I am going through. I'm 29 (I'll be 30 next month), and I have had severely disabling Fibromyalgia for 3 years. Before I got sick, I was the epitome of the quintessential type "A" personality. I graduated at the top of my class with every honor from UC BERKELEY. In my last semester, I took 22 units (15 units is a normal load) and wrote an Honors Thesis. I have worked since I was 10 years old (I started with babysitting and went from there)- I even worked full-time throughout High School. I've always been an independent and capable person.

    When I got sick in 2000, I was no longer the superstar Academic and Artist (I have an academic degree but I am also a Fine Art Photographer and Sculptor)who was looking forward to graduate school and had a bright future ahead of her. Instead, I was a woman who had horrifying pain in every single part of her body and couldn't even move her fingers without crying. I felt like my whole life was taken from me - just as things were finally going so well!

    I was misdiagnosed for more than a year, and my symptoms got alarmingly worse. I dealt with more incompetence, bureaucracy, ignorance, nastiness, and lack of empathy than I thought was possible for one person to face in an entire lifetime. My family is VERY toxic (long, long story that reads like some awful novel you buy in the supermarket - full of disfunction, abuse, misery, and shocking details), so when I got sick, they showed their worst sides (to say the least).

    I wound up having to leave the United States because I had nowhere to live and couldn't get any help from the US government - regardless of how disabled I was. I was told on more than one occasion that I would become homeless because there was no housing available. I was denied welfare even though I had no money, couldn't work, had no family support, and was extremely sick. It took me 2 years to get any money from the government, and when I finally did...it wasn't even enough to rent a room with.

    I am lucky and have friends in another country who took me in. They live in a society that believes in helping people in need...not punishing them and leaving them to die on the street because they are sick and have no family to help them. Anyway, long story short, even though I am well aware that my over-achieving behavior and difficulty dealing appropriately with stress are HUGE contributors to my disability, I still find myself dreaming of going back to my "old life" where I was so "driven" academically and otherwise.

    Even after 3 years of being in excruciating pain and being forced to curtail my daily activities to the extent that I am mostly house-bound, I am still unable to relax. I can't wait to someday continue my education and work again. I feel like a prisoner in this body = I want out! I know that even attempting to go back to my old way of being would bring me nothing but misery because my body can't take it, but I feel so horrible and useless. I keep telling myself that this is my "new" life and I am going to have to find some other less stressful way of being, but my mind is very stubborn and is eager to get me back into "over-achiever mode" - even if it can only be a mental state because my body won't cooperate.

    Is anyone else dealing with this?

    Thanks,
    Valentina
    [This Message was Edited on 09/15/2003]
  2. Juloo

    Juloo Member

    I remember the other woman I was. High achiever, definitely. My problem is fatigue, w/a side of FM twinges. It just about killed me when I had to put my professional license on suspension when I had a huge downturn following a miscarriage, and I couldn't do the required continuing ed to keep it current. I'm in a male-dominated profession and had been focused on 'being' and 'staying' for so long, that it was very depressing and it felt like FAILURE.

    After about a year hiatus, I did reapply for my license, and it was reinstated. I do still work, about 20 hrs/week, but it takes the four-day weekend of resting to bring enough energy to the table to do those 3 days. Found help w/an alternative clinic last year, and am somewhat better (Zoloft down to 1/3 of last year).

    Many people I've met with this are just like us -- driven. And whether that's driven to achieve, driven to know, driven to explore, driven to perfect, our inner voice doesn't always speak with that other part of the equation -- our body.

    I know this is going to sound really out there, but for most of my 20's (I'm 40 now), I had a strange premonition that ahead of me was a serious challenge, and that when it was over, surviving it would be the achievement, and after, my life would take a different path and focus. In my 30's, I had my son and took care of my mother through her battle with cancer. That was what knocked me down to begin with -- the miscarriage sort of finished me off. But I look back on it and realize that I have learned so much about myself, my limits, my motivations and my weaknesses.

    I still have a copy of the 10th grade high school newspaper in which I am quoted to want "To say NO more often" for my New Year's resolution. It has taken this fatigue and pain to *make* me sit still long enough to reevaluate -- and I can tell you what you already know...it takes a LOT of strength of character to discipline yourself to go at a pace that is healthy for you when the entire world has left you in the dust. Give yourself time for the dust to clear -- other paths may be strewn at your feet. Mourn the old woman, but give the new one a chance to find her voice. I know this sounds corny, but a lifetime of achievement cannot buy the understanding for others that is forced on us by having to first find patience and acceptance with ourselves.
    [This Message was Edited on 09/15/2003]
    [This Message was Edited on 09/15/2003]
  3. Juloo

    Juloo Member

    Thank you for your enthusiasm -- I am feeling very metaphorical today. Would it be too zen to say that sometimes we can only move forward by sitting still?
  4. NanceZ

    NanceZ New Member

    What a true and inspiring post Juloo. Thanks for putting my life into words. I am yet on the journey to the new me and sometimes mourn th eold me....but not too often really. My biggest trouble is simply figuring out hwo to do this new path.

    maybe we somehow can see the new path as a great life challenge (it sure is!) and in this way go about it with the same kind of dedication we've given to many other aspects of our lives.
  5. keeponsmiling

    keeponsmiling New Member

    Yes, I can certainly relate to this.

    When I was in my 20's, I was the epitome of what is now known as a Type A personality. Driven, goal-oriented, always busy, busy, busy. I strove to be the perfect wife, housekeeper, student, employee, daughter, etc. There was nothing I couldn't do... or so I thought. (sigh) I get tired just thinking about the person I used to be.

    In some ways, I believe my chronic fatigue has MADE me slow down in order to find the person I really am inside. I am not the same woman I was before. My goals in life have completely changed, and I view "success" through a different lens now.

    I take the time now to truly enjoy life and the beauty that surrounds me, instead of rushing through it in warp speed. I don't sweat the small stuff anymore... life is simply too short. I've become more accepting of others and their differences, and try to understand perspectives other than my own.

    It may sound crazy, but my illness has made me a better person. And if ever there is a time that I'm free of this, I intend to remember the lessons that it has taught me.

    Peace to all of you.

    Cheryll
  6. Adl123

    Adl123 New Member

    Dear Valentina,
    Welcome to our message board. You sound like a wonderful person, and are well spoken. In answer to your question, yes, I have gone through the frustration of CFIDS and Fibro.. I used to be a Type "A" personality. I was a high achiever, musician and artist. I worked my way through university and taught award-winning art programs, frequently while working at another job. Then it hit! For the first few years I felt very much a failure. I was so non- productive! I was also terrified, as I saw myself on the verge of dire poverty. I am sorry you found no help in this country, but I an happy that you found it somewhere. You know, little by little I have come to accept my limitations, even though I always work to extend them. I am at peace. What has done it for me, is meditation. I have come to see my illneses as actually a blessing. I may be poor, but I have tme to paint, something I had always put on the back burner in favor of work. The way I look at it, if I can grow in compassion for others, then it is all worthwhile. That is not to say that you will be ill always. People get well all the time. Sometimes we need to let go, in order to grasp what we want. I actually love my quiet days, now. I am grateful for the little things, like the wonderful people on this message board, and the sun streaming throughthe trees in the morning. Joy comes easily to my heart, pain not withstanding. I hope you can find peace, too. You know, It was not until all this happened to me that I realized how much mhy self image was bound up in my work. Now my self image is bound up only in myself. Work to get better, and , and the same time,let go. God bless you. I will say a little prayer for you. Hugs, Terry
  7. JP

    JP New Member



    (peace of mind) please share it!!

    I hear what you are saying and can relate to a great deal of your story. I am happy that you have friends that know the value and necessity of caring for others. Generally speaking, the United States will never get it. It's part of the dysfunction of capitalism I fear. Those that can produce have economical/social value. I have extended my hand and home many times during my lifetime...not to enable, but to offer much needed support. No one escapes life without needing help.

    Take care...really, if you find that peace or a way to relax, I would love to hear more...Jan

  8. Valentina

    Valentina New Member

    Thanks so much to all of you who have responded and shared yourselves - quite a gift if you ask me! I appreciate the input and support.

    I alternate between being very "Zen" about it all and finding myself still frustrated and angry that I feel so useless. I think realizing that the past is the past is a good place to start. I'm doing my best to concentrate on every day being a new day. There is still so much that I have to offer as a human being (as I'm sure all of you have as well), and I just have to find new ways of doing that.

    One of the most difficult things for me is the invisibility of this illness - I look fine, I sound fine...so how can I be so sick? I know that's what almost everyone who sees me thinks, and it can be challenging to convince people to get past their preconceived notions of disability and illness. I am more aware than ever of how much we assume about someone simply based on their physical appearance. Having an invisible illness has absolutely made me less judgmental and more compassionate. I now assume very little about someone based on an initial encounter and the way they look - and that was not always the case.

    There is a saying that I remember as often as possible: "You never know what is good or bad" - and I find comfort in that. What looks like a total disaster can actually turn out to be a blessing in disguise, and vice versa. On my good days, I use this as my mantra. On my bad days, I am just filled with hopelessness, negativity, and despair. I feel very fortunate to be alive despite how hard things are, and I do believe there is light at the end of this tunnel.

    I am without a doubt going to try meditation in the future. I hear it can work wonders.

    Thanks again for the kind words!

    Valentina
  9. matn

    matn New Member

    I also had a similar background to you and I became ill when I was 24 (my graduation present)! I refused to let this condition break me down mentally even though there were times when I was very, very ill. I re-channeled what ever little energy I had into trying to recover. I researched as much as I could and I found going to physicians totally useless and sometimes dangerous. Drugs have just as many side effects as the symptoms of CFS and FM and my body could not tolerate any, even in the smallest doses. I think the key here is toxicity which can come from many sources ie. environment, food and water. The fact that you were an artist confirms to me that you were exposed on a regular basis to chemical toxins (I used to work for the chemical industry). If you combine the low level toxic environmental exposure with the adulterated food and water of today's modern society, its a wonder that everyone isn't ill. The symptoms of CFS and FM mimic the sypmtoms of chemical exposure by inhalation and ingestion. I removed virtually all of the toxins from my environment and my diet and finally after 20 years, I have recovered. The key is not to give up. Keep trying things that are noninvasive and that do not cause permanent damage. I believe there is a good chance that everyone can recover from these symptoms. You must remove the toxins and distance yourself from those who have no clue about your condition. I know it is very difficult to think positively when the body feels so horrible and you have little support, but do not give up. Keep trying new things and with time it is likely that your life will improve. And be patient, it took a long time for your body to express the damage and it may take a significant amount of time to recover.

  10. Bonnette

    Bonnette New Member

    VALENTINA,

    I LIKE THAT NAME. YOU SOUND SO MUCH LIKE MY DAUGHTER. SHE IS AN ATTORNEY AND HAS BEEN OUT OF LAW SCHOOL ONLY A YEAR AN A HALF. BECAUSE SHE IS SUCH A HIGH ACHIEVER AND PUTS SO MUCH ADDED STRESS ON HERSELF I WORRY THAT SHE WILL DEVELOP FMS. ATLEAST I DIDN'T DEVELOP IT UNTIL MY FORTIES BUT SHE IS STARTING TO HAVE PAIN. ON THE OTHER HAND MY OLDEST DAUGHTER DOESN'T WORRY ABOUT ANYTHING. SO I THINK SHE WILL BE OK. THANK GOODNESS. I WAS TOLD MANY YEARS AGO BY MY MOTHER-IN-LAW THAT YOU HAVE TO TAKE ONE DAY AT A TIME. THAT'S EXACTLY WANT I TRY TO DO AND BE AS POSTIVE AS I CAN. SOMETIMES IT'S DIFFICULT WHEN THE PAIN COMES BUT I GIVE IT MY BEST SHOT.

    BONNETTE
  11. Ritarose

    Ritarose New Member

    I did end up in the street and now live in a very stressful situation but on $401.00 $777.00 if SSI included and different in every state in the union, almost voted out in CA where I now live! Dito on crasy, sick, mean family too.

    I had my first FM flare's at age 19, used to pund my ar's and legs againt's wall's to numb the immediate pain. It wen into remission and then back with a vengence at age 50! I am now 57 and live with some form/symtom's every day.

    I was told if I didn't easy up on my stressful A type life I would be dead in a year, that was back in 1998, so they are not right about a lot of stuff.

    Anyway. Sence you are in a supportive enviorment have you considered writing a book about your life (name's and place's changed to protect the guilty or not) or fining other where you are that also have this disease and writing/photgraphing there stories? Ya need $.

    Is there a Clinic or social group that might help pay for film/ developing, etc? What country are you in? Is the country more supportive or is it the friends you have there that made you go?

    Meditation dose help too!

    Rita
  12. fibrotigger

    fibrotigger New Member

    It is so hard to learn to be a human "being" instead of a human "doing", but it can be done.

    Gentle hugs,
    fibrotigger
  13. Valentina

    Valentina New Member

    thank you to everyone who has responded! I'm so tired that I can't respond to each of you individually, but I really appreciate all your suggestions and willingness to share your stories with me - it helps to realize I'm not living in a vacuum!

    Gentle hugs to all of you,

    Valentina
    [This Message was Edited on 09/21/2003]