Woman, back to the viewer, looking off to the sunset (double exposure). Title in black font.

Fibromyalgia Forced Me to Look Inward

Woman sitting, her back to the viewer looking out into the sunset (double exposure). Title in black font.

Fibromyalgia has given me a gift. It has pushed me to reflect, evolve, and break up a solid foundation of untruths I’ve lived by. Trauma happens to all of us, at least that is what I’m finding as I share my story. We all have things we need to work through. Some do it sooner than others.

Childhood Trauma is being found to be linked to the development of Fibromyalgia. I think what we’re starting to appreciate is that when you have traumatic experiences as a young person, it rewires you. And the way in which you interpret physical symptoms is changed forever,’ said Steve Passik, PhD, a psychologist and Vice President of Research and Advocacy for Millennium Health.”

One way I have always gone through life is by playing the “mother figure”. From a very young age, I remember peers and elders saying things like “Katie is the mom of this group” and “you’re an old soul”. I remember being 10 years old, my mom cemented to the couch again. I didn’t know why. Six years later, she would be committed to Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital (and spend the rest of her life in the State’s care) for Schizophrenia and Bipolar disorder.

Cultivating a Caretaker Persona

When she was on the couch for days on end, I would “cook” meals, do the dishes, rub her feet, and scratch her back. My younger sister and I would stay out of her sight as much as possible. When she was manic, it was a crapshoot. She could be a lot of fun, bringing us to get ice cream or buying us things we liked. However, she could also be violent. Not so much physically to us, although there was some of that, what she’d do a lot screaming and breaking of things. It was scary.

As an elementary student, I’d befriend those I saw as outsiders. I’d see it as my role to help them. In 5th grade, one of my friends was Joey. He had six or so siblings. He’d come to school dirty and wearing raggedy clothes and shoes with holes. I made sure to protect him at recess (bullies saw his petite frame as easy pickings) and brought from home anything I thought he could use. My home life was not much above his financially, but my mom did obtain decent clothes (generally garage sales and donations) for my sister and me, so I felt I could help him, too.

This mother-figure that made sure to take care of those around me continued into college, my marriage and family, and into my profession as a teacher (both to my students and colleagues).

I’ve begun to realize that this role has served me. Yes, I did it to help others, but I also received what I wanted. Maybe it was a distraction from dealing with my own wounds, helping someone with theirs. Maybe it was to get the love and appreciation from the one I helped. Maybe it was to get the praises of those around me. Maybe it was to be needed. Probably, it was all of these. Still, it led to me ignoring my own needs- physically and emotionally. I would regularly get through a day of teaching, realizing that I had not had anything to eat or drink all day.

Learning I’d Been Living a Lie

This realization comes through writing. Often my hand flows without me knowing what’s going to come out. It’s as if an invisible spirit has taken my fingers over and I sit and watch as the words fly out. Often what I write is very close to the first draft’s version. When I read it, I come to understand a new insight about myself. There was little to no forethought about what gushed out. Many times I cry as I read it to myself-the knowing becomes so raw.

Below is a poem that brought me an understanding of one of the falsehoods I had lived by.

 Campfire blazing, sending orange sparks into the black sky. Title font in white.

By Katie Clark

I am looking for the light. What sparks? What ignites?
Too long have I hidden in the dark; fanning your fire.
I too need to burn; burn bright and strong.
I too need to know that who I am counts.
That just me, not what I've done for you,
Actually has meaning and worth.
It's not your fault. I wanted with all my heart to give you my-
But now, I will sit here, staring up at the stars calling out from the blackness. Striking my flint against the steel of my thigh.
My sparks fly out onto the carefully cultivated tinder.
The sparks glimmer and glow orange, going out before I can give it breath.
I strike again, showers of promise shine down on the awaiting fodder.
I don't hesitate.
I blow gently, timidly at first, hoping that my fire will burn strong and vibrant.
You come and sit next to me,
reminding me of all the oxygen I gave to you to hold.
You pass it back to me.
I blow with a giddiness that encircles those embers and brings it to flame.
I will get you sticks, you say.
I've only brought logs, and they're not ready to ignite.
Your offering brings my fire alight and bright.
Now, you nudge, add your first log. I think it's strong enough.

It Was Complicated

The relationship I had with my mom was complicated at best. I was so angry, disgusted, and ashamed with her nearly all my life. Yet, I respected her, loved her deeply, and thought she was amazing. After her suicide in May 1991 when I was 27 years old, 5 months after my son was born, I went through many stages of emotion: anger, judgment, love, inconsolable grief, forgiveness, and shame. This poem poured out of me after listening to a speaker talk of forgiveness.

A portrait of 18 year old woman, looking a bit like Elizabeth Taylor wearing an off shoulder shawl. She is staring off to the side, with a serious expression.
By Katie Clark
You defied them.
They said you were mentally ill.
You said you had hypoglycemia-
drinking raw eggs like Rocky.
They put you in a hospital.
Outwitting your opponent
with your 140 IQ.
They put you in a home
and told you not to smoke.
You went to your best friend's house and bummed a carton of cigarettes.
They let you get your own studio apartment.
You said, screw this,
I don't live because you say.
So you, let the blood run out
Soaking into the shag carpet.

A Desperate Obsession

About three months after my diagnosis with Fibromyalgia, I began to massage myself, relentlessly. The more I massaged, the more I needed to and more places that seemed to need it. My massaging was not gentle. I would poke and press as hard as I could take directly onto an aching muscle: calves, thighs, feet, thumbs, neck, chest, shoulders, upper arms, lower arms, armpits… This began to happen when I was reading, sitting as a passenger as my husband drove, when I was out for drinks with friends, while I was teaching… It began to be an obsession. Again, after some reading about Complex Trauma (childhood exposure to multiple traumatic events often of an invasive, interpersonal nature and the wide-ranging, long-term effects of this exposure), I sat down to write and this came out.

Two hands kneading bread dough.
Kneading Need
By Katie Clark
Sitting across from him, I watch his question mark gaze
follow my own fingers kneading my arm like bread dough.
Deep within the fibers of my body is an aching-
the famished maw of need.
In the shower, I see purple and brown finger painted bruises on my calves, thighs, forearms... chest from kneading the angry gnawing with no respite.
From foot to skull, silent shouts seep.
Bone to muscle to flesh-
exposing the desperate deprivation, demanding to be satisfied.
How funny it is coming to love her-pain and all.
To understand that she is just asking for what she has needed all along.

Fibromyalgia has forced me to look inward. I’m grateful in many ways. I am coming to know myself. I plan to live FULLY as myself from this time on.

What have you learned about yourself as you deal with chronic illness or issues life has brought you? What benefits have you reaped as you wade through these obstacles?

teal line drawn waterlily with teal lettering of the title and motto

Times They Are a-Changin’

A lotus flower begins growing at the bottom of a muddy, murky pool, and slowly emerges toward the surface, bursting out of the water into a beautiful blossom. During the night the lotus closes and sinks under the water, and emerges again with the sunlight of a new day.As the lotus flower emerges from the mud, and up toward the surface it is completely unstained.

Bob Dylan was right. The times are continually changing whether small or major. Change is a part of life. However, change, whether good or bad, brings a certain amount of stress, and that stress can bring on a flair for those of us with chronic conditions such as Fibromyalgia.

Since November of last year, it’s felt like one pretty big change after another in my family: changes in health, changes in jobs, changes in homes. My first reaction tends to be a pulling back, in my mind and body. I stiffen, literally, as if to strengthen or to push back on the change. This can lead then to tension in my shoulders and chest which triggers in me a sense of anxiousness.

What I’m purposefully working on is leaning in. Leaning into the change like a trust fall. Breathing and being present in this moment, reminding myself that I’m safe, secure, and supported. That my family, we are in this together, and we’ll all be all right as long as we stick together. This means that we share at a deep level, knowing that we can make it through anything.

This is bringing a new perspective to change. Change that at first seems like a disaster, turns out to be just the kick in the butt that was needed to move to the next level in our lives. It ends up being a major blessing. The prospect of change is now exciting and full of potential, making me open up my imagination for what I can create out of this next part of my life.

As the daughter of a mom with bipolar/schizophrenia, I heard again and again that just as things were going good, it would turn and storms would come. She would tell me that if things get really good, then prepare for them to get equal parts horrible. At that tender age, I took that as a life lesson that has kept me on my toes, waiting for the anvil to fall at any moment. However, now I realize that this was her reality, one which she really didn’t understand. She’d fly high for a time and then crash. It was what she understood to be the way of life. I’m just now realizing that I had this underlying belief coloring my entire life.

This last week, I went on a vacation that I was hesitant to take. It was coming at a time of major change for my children, and I felt that I needed to be around to help them through. I didn’t think I could enjoy the time away. Right up to the night before we left, I was tensing up, bracing for the worst. I only went because my husband really felt we needed to go (and we’d already committed to the condo with my brother and sister-in-law).

After the November 2016 fire ripped through
Gatlinburg and Anakeesta Theme Park,
the community came together to rebuild
this favoritetourist attraction.
When we visited the fall of 2019, we could still
see scars of the fire but they didn’t compare
to the new beauty that was present.

The time away was so good. We went to a place we’d never been to- Gatlinburg, TN. My brother-in-law chose our destination. It’s not a place that Kelley and I would normally visit. But, I think, it was just what I needed to let go, getting a bit wild and silly. My sister-in-law is one of the most caring, real, and hilarious people I know. We did things that neither of us would have normally, but with the four of us, we did. Tonya conquered her fear of heights by walking among the tops of the mountains over a glass, swaying bridge. I tried moonshine-nearly all 13! To conclude our week, she and I each got a symbolic tattoo. It is Tonya’s first. She remembered her mom, gone 15 years now, with a Rose-of-Sharon and her mom’s signature copied exactly from the note her mom had written to her 40 years ago.

I got a lotus on my inner left arm. It’s something I will see often reminding me that I am strong and have come out again and again to show my beauty. I’m reborn daily. Daily I am changing.

This last week, I didn’t take any pain medication. I was able to get up in the morning and be alert and active all day (with a bit of a rest in the afternoon between activities). My symptoms from the Fibro are there but much more in the background. I’m feeling like I can be recreated, just like the lotus, each day is a brand new start. Times of change are times of celebration, growth, potential to recreate my self. I’m choosing to lean in and enjoy!

4/10/20 Update: Due to COVID-19, Akaneesta Park is closed until the #stayhome #staysafe orders have lifted. They working on even more additions and improvements this year. To say that our world is facing enormous change from this pandemic is an understatement. But, I have faith, that we will come out the better and stronger. Mother Earth has given us the kick in the butt we need to make substantial changes to how we treat both her and each other.

Are you open to change? Do you balk at it? What have you learned from the changes in your life?

Thank you for visiting my blog today.
I am committing to posting once a week on Fridays.
However, as you know, my new normal means that sometimes
I have to listen to my body and am not able to follow throughas planned.
Thank you for your understanding.

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Knock on Wood!

Superstition and fate tend to take power out of our hands.
Hope is the action-taking when we chose a positive future.

I don’t view myself as superstitious. But, I’ve been known to say, “Knock on wood,” now and then when I want to stave off something bad after declaring something good. As I’ve explained, my mom who had bipolar drilled into me at an early age that just as things are going well, life/fate will slam you with something equally not good. When I was a child, and actually now and then still now, I felt that there was someone watching over me, guiding me. That inner voice of mine always letting me know the choices I should make. Writing this blog comes from that inner voice, and I feel it’s there that my resilence through hope began.

Last Saturday, as my husband and I sat and ate our dinner out on the deck in unusual peace, he brought up that he noticed I had been doing really well the past few weeks (not pleading for massages or whimpering in bed). I agreed. As written about in my last post, I really was feeling great. I got up with energy and didn’t have too much pain. I was able to participate in all that I had planned and able to fall asleep at night. I didn’t even take Bayer Back and Body! I had really been this way for a good 3 weeks.

As I responded, I said, “Yes, I’m really doing well-knock on wood.” However, there was no wood on our composite-planked deck or in the glass and metal outdoor table and chairs. I gave a little laugh as I knocked on the metal armrest. A little bit of doubt or even fear flashed in my mind. (The saying knock-on-wood came from the long-ago belief that spirits lived in the trees; the first knock was to say your wish and the second for thanking the spirits for granting it in advance.)

Much I have read about the brain, indicates that when there is despair about the pain and symptoms of fibromyalgia, the pain lives up to the expectation, and when there is hope that the pain will go away, the pain tends to subside.“Belief and expectation — the key elements of hope — can block pain by releasing the brain’s endorphins and enkephalins, mimicking the effects of morphine. In some cases, hope can also have important effects on fundamental physiological processes like respiration, circulation, and motor function,” explained Dr.Jerome Groopman‘s in his bookThe Anatomy of Hope. I don’t know if that tinge of doubt took over in the night, but Sunday, I woke up brittle and pain-filled.

Since then, I’ve had more pain than those three weeks. I can’t really put my finger on the cause. Most likely, being I had less pain, I didn’t do the stretches and breathing as much as I had been doing. So, I’m back using my strategies of hotpad, hand massager, slow stretches to get out of bed. Then, yoga class either at the studio or at home using Gaia.com.Breathing consciously is a constant practice during my day, but I am taking time now and then to do the actual breathwork by lying done for 15-60 minutes while listening to my William Ackerman station on Pandora, which is one form of meditation.

My pain reminds me to take care of myself. I don’t do it naturally. That’s been a huge lesson in my Fibromyalgia journey. And by taking care of myself, I’m then able to be there for my others. What I do know is that I continue to have hope that I can live my life. I can make a difference in my path even while life gives me variables that seem to be roadblocks. This is a part of my resilence that has been a part of me as long as I can remember. I always knew my future would be better. (That inner voice that I felt looked out for me.)

In the article How Hope Can Help You Heal, Dr. James Lopez, psychologist and researcher states, “Hopeful people conjure a vision that sustains them, that causes them to show up for the hard work and accept setbacks…They make an investment in the future that pays off in the present: in the way they eat, exercise, conserve energy, take care of themselves and stick to their treatment plan.”

The article goes on to state that hope is not wishing. Wishing is passive. Hope takes steps:

•Maintaining identityby continuing to participate in activities and relationships that help patients retain a sense of self outside diagnosis and treatment.
•Realizing communitythrough formal and informal connections that help patients understand they are not alone in living with disease. This community is made real through conversation, visitation, consultation, and participation in daily activities.
•Claiming powerby taking an active role in treatment by setting goals, self-advocating, monitoring and maintaining one’s own health.
•Attending to spirituality, activated through religious, spiritual and other contemplative practices.
•Developing wisdom, which involves both gaining pragmatic, medical wisdom derived from one’s own experience and finding ways to “give back.”
I would add one more, taking note of the daily small moments that bring you joy-taking time to be grateful. Many have heard about starting the day with a gratitude journal. I have made lists in the past. But that can get a bit automatic and repetitive, maybe insincere. For me, I’m working on stopping (like when I do my conscious breathing) and noticing the moment, relishing in it and acknowledging how blessed I am within it. The moments like while driving with my daughter, reaching over and holding her hand because she shares her deepest self with me. Or when my cat Scout, comes in the darkness of the early in the morning to lie down in the space next to my face, purring contentedly. Or when my granddaughter sits on my lap, cuddling us both in our softest blankey, to read a book or watch a “kitty vs balloon” video on YouTube. Or when, in the middle of the night, my husband and I both turn in the same direction in a wonderful synchronization. I want to take time to stop and purposefully notice these “little” blessings. They bring me hope.

Last week, my husband and I helped our daughter paint the outside of her house. I used the medium height ladder for my sections. I would move it down the line as I progressed. Now and then, I would need something like the spill rag or my water bottle which would mean walking under the ladder would be the easiest way to get it. I found myself debating, Do I want to chance it? The first few times I chose to go around the ladder. Seriously, thinking, Why tempt fate? But then, I chided myself that I was being ridiculous. So, I decided to throw caution into the wind and walk under the ladder. To me, that is one step in having hope vs wishing. Fate does not have the end say. I will continue to have active hope.

Thank you for visiting my blog today.
I am committing to posting once a week on Fridays.
However, as you know, my new normal means that some times that
I have to listen to my body and am not able to follow through as planned.
Thank you for your understanding.

Lessons Learned in Mother Nature: Managing my Fibro Symptoms

This photo was taken at Pictured Rocks at
Lower Hurrican Campground.

My husband and I agreed to be volunteer chaperons for a week of rustic camping at Pictured Rocks sometime last year. I really had thought I’d have this Fibromyalgia beat by then-Ha! Ha! My daughter ran a program called Parks in Focus that gets 14 teens into the wilderness through the use of photography. My husband and I have always been outdoorsy, so a free trip to the UP of Michigan sounded like a great deal.

The weekend before the trip had been a really rough one. I was still dealing with what was to be the last throws of Cymbalta withdrawal: a weird headache and nausea, besides the pain being more intense, insomnia, and at times a deep sadness. My resolve to stay off of Cymbalta for at least two months past withdrawal was waning fast. The night before, Kelley said that he could go and I could stay home, but I just didn’t want to be left behind. So, I got up, really out of it, and plopped my bum in the car ready for the six-hour drive to Pictured Rocks National Shoreline, thinking that I wasn’t going to be much help and worrying that I would actually be a burden.

The wonder of nature
brought us all together.

The energy of 14 teens from 11-14 years of age (5 boys and 9 girls) was palpable. When we stopped for lunch at Mackinaw City, I was beginning to get my legs under me. One of the campers, an alumni of 14 and lead camper, remembered me from a trip we did with his group to Ludington State park a couple of years before. He came up and hugged me and called me Abuela. He named my husband Abuelo. Our role as adopted grandparents was formed.

We arrived just before the thunderstorm that night. That meant we had to all hustle to get out tents up and the camp secured. Dinner had to wait. As I lay in our tent, on our new Coleman Queen-sized camping cot, I felt tentative that I could enjoy this week and be of help to the group.

After dinner that first night, my husband and I did a short walk from our campsite to Lake Superior. It felt good to listen to the waves slap the sandy shore and the rush of Hurricane River flowing into the lake. There were no real other sounds. The air was fresh and the lighting of the sun through the dissipating clouds soft. It was then that I took some much needed deep breaths and did a few half-sun salutations and yoga stretches. I could feel my mind, my body, and my soul let down.

I should have tried for a better shot,
but trust me, I was feeling great here:)

The next four days were crammed with meal prep and cleanup, amazing outdoor adventures, beautiful sites, and happy faces. At Seney National Wildlife Preserve, while the kids were doing a pond study session lead by park rangers, Kelley and I went for a stroll through the ponds. Then, at lunchtime, I pulled off to the side of the pavillon on the grass and did some yoga, meditation, and stretches. I felt so much better than I had the past several weeks since completely going off of Cymbalta. Even more amazing was the fact that I was using very little in the way of over-the-counter pain reliever for the first time in several months.

The loons were calling and
monarchs flitting around.

That night I didn’t feel the greatest. I’ve been having times of pain that aren’t exactly pain. It’s a deep electrical-type aching, much like getting your funnybone hit. It’s mainly been on my left side from under my left arm, up into the armpit, into the shoulder, down the arm to the fingers and up into the neck, causing a nausea-filled headache. I did take two Zzzquil that night and ended up sleeping fairly well. (I did have to get up to go pee. However, with me having Interstitial Cystitis for many years now, we came prepared with our own travel potty: Reliance Fold-and-Go.) The new camping cot really was a perfect bed away from home.

The next day was to be the big hike. We drove to Chapel Rock parking area. The campers all had their cameras and were ready for a 6-mile hike. The weather was threatening to rain in the later afternoon, so we knew we had to get going early that morning. After the ranger’s presentation about human interaction in nature, we began. Kelley and I both used a walking stick. He actually was in more pain than I was because of doing a major brick path laying project at home for the past couple of weeks. The kids were kind and let us both walk at our own pace. At about the three-mile mark, I was really feeling good, physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Abuelo and Abuela-
taken by one of our “grandcampers”.

Chapel Rock- a metaphor for living
FULLY no matter the obstacles.

At lunchtime, I did get hit with a wave of that weird-electric-nausea headache. I laid down on the ground and did some stretches and ate a peanut butter and jam tortilla roll-up and drank some water. (One note: we drank a lot of just water on this trip. More than I normally do at home.) I revived just in time to head back. I also took the lead of the line. My daughter had irritated her ankle and was needing to take a slower pace, so Kelley stayed with her. As the threatening thunderclaps were heard off in the distance, the kids and I began a quick hike back with no stops for photos or nature ogling. I have to admit I felt strong when a camper said, “Abuela, you are faster than the rest of us!” That night, I felt energetic and clear-minded. I went into a sound sleep without aches and pains.

The kids commented that I was
handling the walk better than they were! 😉

The next day, while the kids went on a canoe trip across Beaver Lake with the Ranger, Kelley and I hiked the groups’ lunches to the beach we’d meet them later that morning. That morning, I had woken up with my usual stiff-sore legs and arms, but I was able to get the rust out through the early walk. Kelley and I got separated after I realized I had left my walking stick at our resting spot from a while back. He went on because we were worried that we’d be late meeting the group for lunch. Our communication for where to meet up was a bit off, leading me to add on an additional mile to my overall walk. Towards the end of that 5-mile walk, I could feel I was hitting the end of my energy level. I focused on consciously noticing what I saw around me, the smells of pine and lake, the sounds of waves rolling in and tweets of the birds, and the taste of the wintergreen leaf I chewed. I also focused on slowly breathing in and out. Those ways of being present have really helped me appreciate and FULLY take in these precious moments.

Luckily, we were all ready to go home and take a nap. Sleeping in the open air really is refreshing. By dinner time, I was back up and rejuvenated. That night, sitting on the beach of Lake Superior, watching as the sunset, I really felt like there was hope that I could live my life, on my terms, without the help of pharmaceuticals.

A Change of Path

On the drive home yesterday, I found an article about Rewiring the Brain (brain plasticity). Dr. Norman Doidge, the author of The Brain’s Way of Healing andThe Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science,talks about how walking, specifically, can help to rewire the brain and fix what is broken. Through the Fibromyalgia Chronic Pain program at Mary Free Bed, I had already bought into the idea that I was dealing with a broken brain that is overprotectively sending out pain messages. I certainly have made progress through their guidance. However, going off of Cymbalta definitely challenged my coping skills. I feel that walking (especially in nature) is a healing thing for me. I could feel the change. I am now going to do further research in this area. I highly recommend listening to this talk: The Brain’s Way of Healingand reading these articles:Walk Your Way to Better Brain HealthandHow Walking in Nature Changes the Brain.
5 days, no shower or bath,
yet really feeling good.

What brings you peace? What brings you joy? What renews your body and soul?

I am committing to posting once a week on Fridays.
However, as you know, my new normal means that sometimes
I have to listen to my body and am not able to follow through
as planned.
Thank you for your understanding.

Down The Rabbit Hole: Could Medical Marijuana Help?

I took this photo of
Alice In Wonderland’s Tea Partyat
Fredrick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.

When I was 12 years old, the summer before I started 7th grade at Harrison Park Junior High in Grand Rapids, my mom gave me two books to read: Go Ask Alice by Anonymous and That Was Then, This is Now by SE Hinton. Both were life-impacting books for me. At that tender age, I vowed to myself that I would never get into drugs.

As an adult, I do not like ever not being in control of myself. I also hate a foggy, unclear brain. So, I never really got into drinking or drugs. I won’t say that I don’t know what it is to be out of my head; my husband and I tried mushrooms one time when we were camping. His roommate had sold him some. Mushrooms are from nature, right? Well, while that is a very interesting story I have told very few people; it’s not one we ever visited again. I also know what a hangover is like. I’m definitely a light-weight and after my three maximum drinks in an evening, I will be laid low for the entire next day if I have more, so I don’t do that.

As I’ve stated in prior blogs, I was VERY opposed to taking Cymbalta, one of the three approved FDA pharmaceuticals for Fibromyalgia. I finally gave in when I was so beside myself with pain, brain fog, and no strength or energy this past December. From there, I was on it for 4 months (30mg), 2 months (60mg), 1 month (30mg) and then I stopped- cold. This was a bad move. I should have actually taken the 30mg every other day for a month, etc. to taper down. Lesson learned.

I’m now two weeks into Cymbalta withdrawal and still feeling badly (mostly from withdrawal side-effects). However, the pain is there. Currently, the left side of my body from foot to left eyeball is aching so much I’m nauseous. When I wake up, my arms and legs feel as though their connective tissue has turned into wood. It’s slow going and painful to get them functioning for the day.

More Than I Can Handle

This weekend, feeling beyond what I could handle with my breathing, stretching, aerobic, and meditation strategies, I began to research medical marijuana (MM) in the state of Michigan. I had a response from a reader of my blog Feeling Like #$%&*!replied that he was able to ditch Cymbalta (and other like-pharmaceuticals) by using marijuana transdermal patches. I did bring this up to my pain doctor, but I could tell he wasn’t willing to look into it after his comment that “there’s not enough research”. However, after doing some of my own, I decided to get a Michigan Medical Marijuana Card to use if I couldn’t handle things fully on my own after the withdrawal passed.

This is a convincing video that has
helped me open to the idea of MM.

To get a Medical Marijuana Card in Michigan, I had to locate a doctor who would recommend the card for me based on my diagnosis. I found Healthy Partners and made an appointment without an issue. I had my medical records with Fibromyalgia Diagnosis faxed to their office. The DO I met with just verified my diagnosis and marked “chronic pain” for the reason, being Fibromyalgia isn’t listed by name for the accepted reasons for the card. (See list provided on Healthy Partners FAQ page.) I then applied for the card online at LARA: Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. This was about a 20-minute job once I had the paperwork from the doctor. The only other worker at the office was very informative, and I quickly found out that getting the card would be the least of my concerns.

Need to Become Your Own Expert

Being the MM Card is a recommendation from a doctor and not a prescription, the patient is the one who needs to know what he/she wants and needs. A quality resource that explains things fairly well is Leafly.com. Although, for someone who is totally new to using marijuana, it will take some trial and error. My plan would be to go into it very timidly.

I want pain relief, clarity of thinking, and living my life productively. This isn’t what one stereotypically thinks of when referring to marijuana. Turns out there are two types: Indica and Sativa. (Below a brief description from Leafly.com- Part 1, Sativa vs Indica: An Overview of Cannabis Types. They also list a Hybrid of the two types.
  • Indica strainsare believed to be physically sedating, perfect for relaxing with a movie or as a nightcap before bed.
  • Sativa strainstend to provide more invigorating, uplifting cerebral effects that pair well with physical activity, social gatherings, and creative projects.
Next, the consumer needs to consider the strain. Leafly.com allows one to research based on desired effects for your treatment. I do not want side-effects that produce the “high”, munchies, tiredness, or paranoia. So, using the Advance Filter, I am able to look up specifics. Also, I researched what other consumers and doctors are saying about MM and Fibro.

My go-to blogger on for solid information on Fibromyalgia is Fedupwithfatigue.com. Her article was just what I wanted:Fed Up With Fatigue: Best Strains for Fibromyalgia. She’s written several on the topic, and I’ve come to trust her factual presentation.

Finding a Provider

Next, I have to find a provider. (MRA-Licensed Michigan Medical Marijuana Facilities)I want a licensed (monitored) facility that I can rely on to have a pure, quality product. Also, I don’t want to smoke (or have the marijuana smell). I’d prefer to find transdermal patches, but this looks like it might be difficult to find. The difficult part, after finding what sounds like the best fit strain and delivery system, is finding a place in Michigan that I can buy that product. I can already see that I’m going to have to call and visit a few places. The strains I’m most interested in: Harlequin (High CBD and lower THC)for day time and then, Tahoe OG Kush for nighttime insomnia. The problem I’m encountering is that MI facilities don’t have these specific strains in the exact delivery system I would like. So, actual calling and visiting will be needed.

Why I’m Considering MM

There are several reasons why I like using MM versus Cymbalta and like-drug. The main reason is that I can decide the dose. I don’t think I’ll have an everyday need (we’ll see). I’m following the program that I got from my 10 weeks in Mary Free Bed’s Fibromyalgia Program. I’m continuing to grow in being present and meditation. With Cymbalta (although the side-effects aren’t major for me, they do impact my quality of life), it’s an all or nothing commitment. I have learned the hard way that stopping its use every day is very difficult for my body from which to rid itself. I also don’t like feeling trapped by it.

So, being I haven’t yet tried MM, I can’t say if it’s going to work or not. However, I’m finding good evidence to say it’s worth a shot (and way less invasive than the prescribed pharmaceuticals). I will keep you informed on what I find out and what happens if I choose to use it.

*If you are not in Michigan, I would imagine that the path you take would be similar. However, Michigan has recently joined the states that have approved marijuana for recreational use.

There are many resources to give you insight into the use of medical marijuana:

What are your thoughts of using THC? There isn’t a lot of research on it’s effects for chronic pain/Fibromyalgia, what there are is promising. Possibly more research will be coming since it’s becoming legalized in many states.

Thank you for visiting my blog today.
I am committing to posting once a week on Fridays.
However, as you know, my new normal means that sometimes
I have to listen to my body and am not able to follow through
as planned.
Thank you for your understanding.