Our Mental Health Week: Chloe Gibb
Chloe Gibb, Communications and Engagement Officer, CiCS, shares her experience of living with Fibromyalgia and the impact it has on her mental health.
Fibromyalgia is unpredictable, it means that I never really know what condition I’ll be in at any given time. Up to 1 person in every 25 may be affected by this invisible illness and the symptoms will vary from person to person.
My fibromyalgia symptoms typically include:
- Chronic back, neck and shoulder pain
- Severe fatigue
- Poor quality sleep
- Cognitive problems (‘fibro-fog’) – memory loss and problems with concentration
- Extreme sensitivity – to certain foods and bright lights. Also heightened pain sensitivity.
I can’t recall exactly when I was diagnosed (blame the ‘fibro-fog’!) but I know it took a few years and several tests. Research is unclear on what causes Fibromyalgia, though I suspect mine started when I developed RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) from a data entry temp job back in 2007. It eventually progressed into chronic widespread pain across my back, neck and shoulders and never left.
It often surprises people when I tell them that extreme pain isn’t the worst symptom. The worst aspects are chronic fatigue and memory loss.
After a few years of grieving the person I once was and giving up on ever getting better, I found my motivation to pick myself back up and accept that my life has changed. I have come to terms with my limitations and I simply work around them.
I have tried lots of things to manage my condition over the years: CBT, Physiotherapy, clinical pilates, hydrocortisone injections, acupuncture, medication, exercise and diet. This summer I hired a personal trainer and completely changed my diet. It’s completely changed my quality of life. For the first time since 2007, I consider myself to have entered a (hopefully long!) period of remission – something I never thought would happen.
I’m always open about my condition and happy to use my years of knowledge and experience to support others that come to me for advice. My biggest piece of advice I could give anyone with this condition or similar is to learn to pace yourself. For example, if the quality of your work is fantastic but you can’t work as fast as the person next to you, then don’t try to. Give yourself a break and avoid comparing yourself with others, because it’s important to work comfortably. I felt guilty for many years for my “inadequacies” and would try to compensate by working longer hours and taking on more work. I feel lucky to be employed by the University, where there is a great deal of support available to me. The systems in place and services offered provide people with health conditions a sense of security which relieves some of the pressure. When my condition has been at its worst, the support available helps me to stay in work and thrive.