Fibromyalgia: The Gift I Didn’t Want (And Its Lessons I Didn’t Know I Needed)


Gift Bag With Text Overlay, Fibromyalgia: The Gift I Didn't Want (And Its Lessons I Needed)

Have you ever received a gift you really didn’t want? You take it out of the box, do the polite thing and thank the giver, then put it in a closet somewhere and forget about it. Sometime later, you might pull it out of its hiding place, decide maybe it’s not so bad, and start to use it. The more you use it, the more you realize it might be a better gift than you thought.

Fibromyalgia is not one of those things. It’s definitely not a good gift. The funny thing is, though, that it has taught me some lessons I didn’t even know I needed to learn. Although it isn’t something I would have chosen, I believe it’s making me a better person and teaching me things I might not have learned otherwise.

Life Lessons Like:

  • Attitude Matters – I mean, it really matters! It’s something we all know intellectually, but when you live with an illness that affects every area of your life, you learn just how important having a positive attitude really is. I’m not talking about always being “happy” or having a “unicorn and rainbows” outlook on everything. I’m just talking about remaining optimistic regardless of my circumstances. As I talked about in my post The ABCs Of Remaining Optimistic, we may not always feel optimistic, but we can choose to have an attitude of optimism.
  • Be Kind To Yourself – I’ve learned I don’t always need to be so hard on myself. I’ve always had high expectations of myself and it’s easy to feel disappointed when I don’t live up to my standards. I’m sure part of that came from my military career, but a lot of it is just how I’m wired. I’m finally learning to give myself the same grace I extend to others and realizing that self-criticism doesn’t serve me well and I need to let it go.
  • Decide What’s Really Important To You And Live According To Those Priorities –  Not being able to do everything I used to do has been exceptionally hard for me, but I’ve learned that in order to ensure I have the energy I need and make sure I don’t do something that will send me into a flare, I have to stick to doing those things that are most important to me. This has been one of the key factors in my being able to lead a fulfilling life even with my health challenges.

Lessons About Living With Fibromyalgia Like:

  • You Are Your Own Best Advocate When It Comes To Your Healthcare – I’ve always known this, but I’ve heard horror stories of how others have been treated by their doctors because of their invisible illnesses. I’ve been extremely fortunate, and both my family doctors I’ve had since my diagnosis have been very familiar with fibromyalgia, but many aren’t. Educating ourselves and working in partnership with our doctors to find our ideal treatment plan is vitally important.
  • It Takes Some Trial And Error To Figure Out What Makes Us Feel Our Best – This kind of goes hand-in-hand with being our own healthcare advocate. It can take a while to figure out what helps and what hurts when it comes to what we eat or what we do – in fact, it’s an ongoing process – but it’s worth the effort when we find something that gives us relief or provides additional energy. What works for one person may not work for another, so sometimes we just have to experiment.
  • Progress Is Not Linear – With acute health issues (things like the flu, a broken bone, etc.), you can usually see a pretty linear progression to getting better. Once things start healing, you start to feel better and better. Fibromyalgia doesn’t really work that way though. It often seems to be a “one step forward, two steps back” kind of thing. In Lessons From The Grandpa Tree, I talked about how I had gotten stronger and didn’t even realize it. I’ve had a lot of those aha! moments when I realized I was able to do something I hadn’t been able to previously. Sometimes we’re making progress and don’t even know it because it doesn’t fit that linear pattern we’re used to.

Fibromyalgia was definitely a gift I didn’t want, but I’ve chosen to call it a gift, because it has been and continues to be, such a learning process for me. These are lessons I probably wouldn’t have learned otherwise. I would have continued to go through life running from one thing to the next, rather than taking time to think about the things that are really important to me and using those insights to become the person I really want to be.

What are some of the lessons living with fibromyalgia or other chronic illness have taught you? Please share!




  1. Terri thanks for this reminder. I’ve also learned lots such as acceptance and pacing but despite this I’m at a bit of a questioning stage again as menopause is having an impact on my fibro & fatigue. I love the sense of purpose I get from my part-time job. My symptoms get worse when I ease down for holidays but some days trying to get through work is so exhausting and brain fog makes preparing for classes next to impossible. I’m looking forward to reading other comments and welcome any advice or similar experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry you’re having such a tough time right now Marie. I don’t know about you, but I seem to have to revisit the acceptance stage over and over…. I’ll think I’ve accepted the way things are, and then next thing I know, I’m struggling with it again. I hope you’re able to come to a satisfactory conclusion for what to do about your job. I know it has to be difficult. Blessings to you!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Thanks Terri I think there is a lot for me to consider in your reminder of acceptance! Thank you for your kind words and knowing you can empathise means a lot! Best wishes and keep sharing your great insights!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It is the same with me too. I even wrote about how acceptance is a winding road… you reach the destination, keep walking, go farther and farther away from it, and eventually come back to it again… a bit like following a really tangled up piece of string LOL!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes! I too have decided to call this my blessing – eventhough it is hard to cope with. I’ve been given this “gift” and must find a way to appreciate the slow motion of a life it’s forced me into. It has taught me to sit back and enjoy the moment as it is rather than planning every second I thought I could plan. Also, a motto of mine has been to “Be Kind to Your Weaker Parts” since I also have a hard time accepting those parts of me. Thank you for being so relatable!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I did a post about the things invisible illness has taught me and it helps to appreciate some of the positives because otherwise it can become a very disheartening journey. You’re right, fibro certainly wasn’t a gift we wanted or asked for; sadly there are no refunds, but we can learn to better manage it. Totally agree with how progress and day to day effects aren’t linear, and I often find that quite challenging because it’s unpredictable and it gets very frustrating when you can’t do the things you want or need to do. Fantastic post Terri, very well said! x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Caz! Appreciating those positives really does help through the dark times, doesn’t it? I think the unpredictable nature of our symptoms is one of the toughest things to deal with because we never know from one day to the next how we’re going to feel, and you’re right – it is frustrating! Feel free to share the link to your post if you’d like to. We can all learn from each other!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You have certainly touched on many of the challenges, and I would say acceptance is right up there at the top. Like you, Terri, I get there and then slip back again. Learning to let go of my independence has been difficult – it’s a loss that I continue to grieve. That said, illness has opened me up to a whole other side of myself I wasn’t about to discover in my former life – writing, painting – a creative side, and I am grateful for that. I use to talk about balance, but now I truly understand the importance of incorporating into all that I do.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Isn’t it amazing that something so wonderful can come from something so painful? I hate it that you have to deal with illness, but I for one am grateful that you discovered your creative side. I’m always amazed by how much your poetry touches me, because as I’ve told you before, I’ve never really cared much for poetry… Now I always look forward to reading yours.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Love this post Terri. Very well put! Fibro is like one of those “life gives you lemons…” thoughts. You really just have to make the best of any situation. Attitude matters. And a positive attitude matters positively!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I too believe Chronic ill health is a gift. Not one we would choose of course!
    But I have been able to heal in so many other areas of my life, that only came because of
    “Be still & know that I am God!” Ps 46:10
    Because there is not much else I can do! Lol! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really does make you slow down and pay attention, doesn’t it? I’ve grown a lot, especially spiritually, through this experience, and I’m not sure that growth would have happened if I hadn’t been forced to slow down. Blessings to you sweet friend! Happy Easter!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This was an incredible post Terri! I definitely believe in keeping an optimistic attitude regardless of how bad it seems like things are in life. Living with a chronic illness is not easy but it will never get better if we remain negative. Thank you for keeping things in perspective and I love your positive attitude. You are an amazing and inspirational woman that I am so thankful I have been able to get to know!!!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You are welcome Terri! It means so much to hear you say that I inspire you with my positive attitude because you my dear are far more inspirational than I could ever be! I hope you have a wonderful Easter Sunday!!!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Wonderfully written post. I sometimes find it difficult to explain to others that although I would not have chosen to get sick, I can be grateful that I am experiencing this because it has taught me a lot about what really matters.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I think it’s hard for anyone who hasn’t experienced this to understand what we’re talking about when we say we’re grateful for it…. I’m glad it’s given you things to be grateful for as well – it makes it all worth it, doesn’t it? Thanks so much for sharing!


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