Foreword by Suzanne Kopecki
This is a special guest post from my twenty-two year old daughter. She and I have a very complicated relationship. Katie is very much like me and I have to say arguing with yourself sometimes can be annoying. However, with all our similarities and differences, we are very close and she knows she can always count on me.
I have tried to hide my illness for so long and I think that when I couldn’t hide it anymore my kids didn’t know what was happening to me. They have always been used to their mom handling everything, juggling everything with ease. The following post is my daughter’s perspective of my illness and how it has affected her personally.
My mom was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia while I was away at college in 2014. When I moved back in with my parents after having been away for some time, the dynamics in the house were really different and I struggled to reacquaint myself into the household. My old room was overtaken by my younger brother and I began sharing a room with my littlest brother. My dad was unemployed for a bit and mom was constantly either at work or doing homework at her desk. My parents were all “lovey-dovey” which was cringe-y and sweet at the same time. I had never seen them so happy. With the happiness came a newfound consideration for each other and dad started helping mom through her fibromyalgia/doing things around the house more.
When I came back, I seemed to cause havoc just by existing in the house. Morning routines were inadvertently interrupted on more than one occasion because of avoidable misunderstandings. I would come in late after being out and the dogs would bark, waking up my family. My little brother would worry about me when I didn’t come home before he fell asleep or if I spent the night somewhere else. If I wasn’t at work or school, I was at a friend’s house. For the longest time, even though I lived with my family or lived just a few miles away, they rarely actually saw me. Sadly I was insensitive of my family’s own issues because I was so invested in my own. All of this was only adding to my mom’s stress and I was not fully conscious of it. Since my mom and I are so similar, we also could barely have a conversation without arguing. It took awhile for me to take a step back and realize how my actions were affecting my family so I could start making the necessary changes within.
I’ve been in and out of my parents house a couple times over the past several years, trying to find my footing and regain my independence. Being preoccupied in my own 22 year old bubble, I didn’t realize just how bad things were for my very own Fibromom. For a few years she pushed through it, working full time and even going to school part-time via online/night classes. She got her Associates Degree from Ohlone College and was on her way to get a Bachelors from Penn State online. She was actively pursuing her goals and I couldn’t have been more inspired by her efforts. She was innately teaching me and my brothers that hard work is worth it and dedication yields results. Although now I would say I’m more inspired by her resilience and perseverance through living with such a painful illness. In how hard she fights, she’s teaching me and my brothers to never give up and that life is worth living, even if it sucks sometimes.
For years, I didn’t understand Fibromyalgia because I didn’t see the effects of it or how serious it really was. My mom handled it that well. I only woke up from my confusion regarding the illness when mom recently took a leave of absence from work and school because she was too sick to do much of anything. Truthfully, I still don’t understand the illness fully. My mom explained it the other day as being sore after a workout, but all the time, everywhere, without having done anything strenuous. Some days are worse than others. That description helped me understand her pain a bit better because I work out a lot. Ultimately, since I didn’t see the illness before, it was easy for me to pretend it didn’t exist and that my mom was fine–maybe just a bit irritable or moody at times. I didn’t want to acknowledge it because it made it that much more real that I could get it, too, someday.
Some of my female family members have fibromyalgia so the odds aren’t exactly in my favor. Because of this, I need to take all of the preventative measures I can. It’s upsetting seeing the manifestation of an illness in someone I love; especially of one that I too can develop. Frankly it scares me because it seems so debilitating. It would be completely out of my control if I did have it just as it was completely out of my mom’s control when she was diagnosed.
I know I don’t make things any easier on my mom when I’m out all the time or getting snippy with her when she gets snippy with me. I have to actively remind myself that her reactions to things and her words aren’t intended for me personally; that she has a chronic illness that she has to live with everyday, for the rest of her life. I’ve been working on being more patient and considerate with my mom, now that I understand her situation a little better. I can only hope that by continuing to make my own emotional, mental, and physical health a priority, I will be able to better support my family.