Tag Archives: Fibromyalgia

Beneath the surface: Maryville resident fights through pain to live joyfully

By Jacki Wood, Nodaway News Leader

“Look beneath the surface; let not the several quality of a thing nor its worth escape thee” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 167 AD

Karin Yarnell doesn’t have the energy to play with her kids. Or do house projects. Or be involved with her church or help others or spend time with friends.

All of which was a big part of her life just a few short years ago.

“I used to be extremely active,” the 40-year-old Maryville resident said. “I loved to play sports, work out, hike, swim, bike and run.”

Now, she does none of those things.

To look at her, though, nothing seems wrong.

But beneath the surface, she lives her life in pain.

“I rarely have pain-free days,” she said. “I have learned to fight through pain as much as possible to be able to do what I love. Some days, though, the pain wins, and I go to bed.

“I reserve my best for my family and my ministry. After that, there isn’t much left.”

She and her husband Jason, who is the Baptist Student Union minister, have three children, Meghan, Caleb and Allison. She is a homemaker and also serves as a BSU mentor.

Diagnosed illnesses

Yarnell lives with what have been called invisible illnesses – chronic conditions not visible on the outside.

She was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s in 2005 and Celiac disease in 2008.

With Hashimoto’s, her immune system attacks her thyroid and prevents it from making enough hormones.

Celiac disease is a digestive disorder that damages the small intestine and is triggered by eating foods containing gluten.

She was on thyroid medication for several years but her body started having hyperthyroid reaction to it and she was taken off it.

Then in 2012, she was also diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia.

CFS affects many body systems making it difficult to do normal activities. Fibromyalgia includes long-term pain spread throughout the body in the joints, muscles, tendons and other soft tissues and is often linked to fatigue, sleep problems, headaches, depression and anxiety.

“I have been under the care of several doctors and functional practitioners throughout the years who have all provided me with great knowledge and have helped in various ways,” she said. “My treatment right now consists of a very strict diet, rest, managing stress, low exercise and managing symptoms with medication as they arise.”

Daily life

“Fatigue is the single most life-changing symptom I have,” Yarnell said. “I can manage pain. I can manage not feeling well, but the fatigue is relentless. It’s not a fatigue that goes away with sleep. It doesn’t go away with a nap. It’s always with me. It affects me every day.”

In addition to fatigue, she is extremely sensitive to gluten and has severe reactions to even a small amount of cross-contamination. She makes her own meals, doesn’t eat out and takes food with her wherever she goes.

“I try to set people at ease, but I know some feel uncomfortable when I can’t eat what they have prepared,” she said. “I never expect anyone to cater to my needs, but I know they still feel badly about it.”

Another symptom is brain fog which has affected her ability to communicate with others.

“I used to be a confident public speaker, but now I have difficulty stringing together coherent thoughts.”

She also can’t drive for long periods of time as her eyes grow weary and her whole system wants to go to sleep.

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Dedicated support

“My family is tremendously supportive,” she said. “My husband is phenomenal. He believes me and affirms me when I tell him how I feel even though I look fine on the outside. He prays for me. He encourages me to try new things that might help my symptoms. He adds extra work on himself so I don’t have to do it and he never complains.”

She said her children are incredibly supportive as well.

“They understand I can’t do the things I used to do. They make me laugh. They are understanding and sympathetic.”

Yarnell said her church recently started an encouragement group for women with chronic illness. It is open to the public and meets at 7:30 pm on the first Monday of the month at Laura Street Baptist Church.

“It is a blessing to be around others who understand how you feel,” she said. “I read a lot of blogs and talk to people online that share my symptoms. Sometimes it’s just nice to know you aren’t alone.”

  

Different view

One of the biggest lessons she’s learned is how to depend on God for everything.

“I need God every day,” she said. “He is my Friend, my Comfort, my Savior. I talk to Him a lot about the pain I am feeling. I know He knows and understands. He sees my struggle that is invisible to everyone else and He is there for me. He gives me joy, peace and contentment.”

She is also continuing to learn it’s okay to not do everything that is expected.

“The reality is that I can’t,” she said. “I have to choose to not feel guilty about it.”

Despite living with these illnesses, Yarnell offers encouragement and hope.

“It’s okay and important to grieve,” she said. “Cry over what is lost, but don’t quit.

“Be kind to yourself. You don’t have to do what everyone else does. You are fighting a battle others know nothing about. Don’t compare what you can do with what healthy people do.

“You can still be happy! It might take some extra work, and you might have to cut things out in order to give your best to what you find the most meaningful, but it’s worth it.”

Background information came from the National Institutes of Health at nih.gov.

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‘Even the darkest night will end’

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By Jacki Wood, “That they might have joy” column for the Nodaway News Leader

My mental health has taken a beating over the last year or so.

I have a physical illness that has really been taking it to me, and as a result, affecting my mental health.

I’ve been battling this physical ailment for half of my life. The beginning years were difficult. The middle years were much more tolerable. And the last couple have been the worst.

What makes it even harder for me is I feel I’ve lived two completely opposite lives. The first very active, athletic, outgoing and involved. Now mostly inactive, reclusive and disinterested. There are times when I really miss that first life.

A couple of summers ago, I wrote about my illness, obesity and weight loss. I said at the time, it was the most important thing I’d ever written.

But this might be even more important than that. Now, just a couple of short years since then, I spend most of my time in bed, I’m overweight again and have slipped back into old habits as I struggle to function each day.

That’s when the mental health beating really reared its head. It’s hard to be productive or stay positive or even feel like a human being when you can’t get out of bed.

(Side note: I’ve tried a lot of different treatments. Some have worked for awhile. Some not at all. I frequently get suggestions from people. In fact, I just started something new. And while I appreciate everyone’s concern, that’s not what I’m seeking with this column).

I’ve wondered why this is the load I am burdened to carry and if I will be carrying it my entire life. I mean, why do some people get cancer and some don’t? And even further, why do some people beat cancer and some receive the same treatment and die?

After spending much of the last year contemplating these types of things and feeling sorry for myself, lonely, sad and even angry, I decided I needed to try something different.

For the month leading up to my 40th birthday this summer, I decided to do a #30DaysOfJoy challenge, looking for simple joys in my life and posting them on Facebook.

It was a mostly positive experience. I made some really great memories this summer despite the illness. And I was reminded how much my family cares about me. They’ve really stepped up and took on more responsibilities. They also listen when I need that and are just there when I don’t want to talk. They love me through my nonsense, negativity and annoyance of everything and everyone.

Some days, though, were a real challenge to find any joy at all. I mean, just getting on Facebook and seeing everyone else’s happy, perfect posts made me want to throw up or throw something at the wall. Even worse, I had some really dark days that I’m frankly embarrassed by. Which is really unfortunate, because when I’m at my best, I realize how blessed I am.

But… I’m not always at my best. I’m not always thinking clearly or logically with this illness.

This is not something most of us feel comfortable talking about. Our mental health, I mean. And yet if we would just have the courage to do so, I think we would be far better off.

After someone dies by suicide, people ask why. I think I understand it more now. They’re worn out, tired, exhausted. They want an end to the pain, the hurting, to whatever the problem is. I don’t think most people want to kill themselves. Or hurt those who care about them by doing so.

They just want it to end.

I’ve been there. Even as I write this, I’m in the throes of it all. I don’t want to die. But there are times when I want an end. I want the pain to end. I want my old life back.

And then I realize my old life didn’t include my husband. Or my children. Or the memories we’ve shared together. Or the experiences I’ve gained over the last 20 years that make me who I am and how I am able to write this.

If you’re there with me, if you are just so very tired of it all, don’t give in, don’t give up, don’t quit. No matter how bad it is, just keep trying, for one more day or for just one more moment even.

Get help. Seek professional help if you need to. Or find an outlet like I have through writing.

Talk to someone. A friend, a family member, someone who will listen or just be there. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1.800.273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org where you can chat online.

If that doesn’t work for you and if you have no one else you can to talk to, contact me.

I will listen.

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I’m not so good at the phone thing, but I text, email and message really well. My email is jackijwood@gmail.com and you can find me on Facebook at facebook.com/jacki.wood.

In Les Misérables, Victor Hugo wrote: “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.”

That’s been true for me. After every single dark night I’ve ever had, the sun has always risen.

    National Suicide Prevention Week is September 7 to 13. To learn how you can help, visit sprc.org.suicide+prevention+lifeline+with+ribbon


How are you feeling?” – Ugh!

I get tired of people asking me if I “feel better.” Or even how I’m “feeling.”

People don’t really want an honest answer to that. And most people don’t give an honest answer.

Fine. Ok. Good.

Those generally aren’t very honest.

I love it when people say, “It’s good to see you.”

There are a couple of ladies at church who know about my health struggles and that’s what they say when they see me. Then I don’t have to address it. And, you know, it always feels good to be seen.

Whether you’re having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day like Alexander … or you’re actually feeling really great and invincible, it’s always nice to know that people are happy to see you.

Fibromyalgia can be a fickle thing. I can feel fine for a few days, get a lot done, feel invincible. And then, bam, I’m down for the count.

I guess I don’t mind so much when people ask “How’s it going?” That doesn’t have to have an answer that relates to how I’m feeling. I can talk about work or the kids or whatever and not have to bring up my health.

It’s difficult for most of us to know what to say to people when they’re going through something, an illness, a trial, a time of difficulty.

How are you comforted, especially when there’s nothing you can do for someone?

I like a simple “hang in there.” It lets me know they’re thinking of me.

So whatever it is you’re going through … fibromyalgia like me or MS or dealing with a parent with dementia or a daughter with autism or a recent job loss … hang in there.

And remember this from Psalm 30:5 – “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” I don’t know when that morning will come, but I do BELIEVE that it will come.


An honest conversation about obesity

“That they might have joy” column by Jacki Wood

I have fibromyalgia. It’s a big word for a syndrome that basically means I’ve been in pain every day since 1996.

Some days have been tolerable, some rough and some downright unbearable.

It’s also basically how I became obese. Well, sort of.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

I was very active growing up. I loved playing everything from soccer and softball to basketball and football. It’s also how I dealt with life’s stresses. This continued when I went to college. If I had a problem, I went out and played ball until I felt better.

During my junior year at BYU, I was probably the most active and fit I’d ever been in my life. And then one day, I woke up and I hurt everywhere. That was 1996.

Time passed. I was diagnosed. I dealt with it. Sometimes with success. Sometimes not so much.

It was several years later and dealing with a family member’s health issue that finally sent me over the edge… to self-medication. Not with alcohol or drugs. But with food.

I no longer could deal with stress by playing basketball. And so I turned to food.

I’m not going to go into all of the details, but my lifestyle had become mainly sedentary due to the pain of fibromyalgia. And that collided with my newfound solace in bad food – and a lot of it.

That was around 2001. The self-medicating continued for several years while I started packing on the pounds.

I tried a couple of times to lose weight, and had some success, but it wasn’t sustainable and I fell back into old habits.

Then in December of 2011, a friend of mine asked if I was interested in participating with her in the New Year’s Challenge at the Maryville Community Center. At first, I really only agreed so I’d be able to see her more often on my weekly trips to Maryville for work.

Then that Christmas, we traveled to Florida to see family and take our kids to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was a great trip. But it was also life-changing for me.

The day we went to the park, we headed straight for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. Everyone was excited. But as we approached the castle, my excitement turned into terror. I noticed one of those seats at the beginning of the line; you know, the ones to see if you’re too fat to fit on the ride.

I was horrified. I hadn’t been on a roller coaster in several years and wondered if I was now too fat to ride one. Well, I wasn’t, but it was a very uncomfortable situation, both literally and figuratively.

That experience probably could’ve been enough for me to want to change. But there was more.

The following day, my husband took a picture of me sitting next to his nephew’s wife. When he showed it to me, I was clearly more than twice her size. Now, in my defense, she maybe weighs a hundred pounds soaking wet. But the photo spoke volumes to me.

I was obese, plain and simple.

It was a fact I already knew. But seeing it in the photo – combined with the amusement park ride the day before – struck something new deep down inside of me.

I had to make some real changes.

And so I did. Since I had already signed up for the New Year’s Challenge, I now had the commitment and accountability to help.

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So why am I talking about this now, a year and a half later? Well, there are a lot of reasons.

First of all, I think it’s a conversation that needs to take place. It’s a serious health concern that many of us would rather just avoid talking about, one I avoided for many years.

Secondly, I think we all need to do a lot less judging and have more understanding for others. It’s not like one day I woke up and said I think I want to eat unhealthy amounts of bad food and become obese. Did I make mistakes? Yes. A lot of them. But there were also underlying issues that led me down that path.

Lastly, it’s hard to lose weight, especially when you’re also battling another illness. Indescribably hard. But it is possible. And we need to help encourage others.

Since January of 2012, I’ve lost 80 pounds with another 20 to go to reach my goal. It’s a constant battle. Sometimes two steps forward and one back. Sometimes two or three back.

People ask me how I’ve done it but I’ve found there’s not an easy answer for that. Each journey is different because each person and circumstance is different. Because of my fibromyalgia pain, I did it mainly through changing the way I eat.

I’m not telling you my story for recognition. I’m sharing it to hopefully offer a little encouragement. It’s a story I was scared to tell but one I think is more important than my pride or my embarrassment.

Brené Brown said: “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we’ll ever do.”

It has been for me. And I believe it can be for you, too.