The pessimist complains about the wind.
The optimist expects it to change.
The realist adjusts the sails.
--William Arthur Ward
GIVEN TO BOUTS OF THE VAPORS
by Sheryl Suko
When I, a GIA-trained Jeweler and Gemologist
and owner/operator of Mrs. Gottrocks
Fine Jewelry and Gifts, was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
(CFS) and Fibromyalgia (or Fibromyalsia) (FM), I remembered a quote
by William Arthur Ward (see above). Ever a realist, I found a whole
lot of sail adjusting followed in my life. One day I felt like the
Queen of my tiny realm, going in five directions at once, and then
I was in bed struggling for the energy to just take a shower. It was
horrible. In the beginning I thought my life was over. I've learned
since then that it isn't over, its just taking in different winds.
Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
are disabling conditions with symptoms which vary from person to person.
Most generally they consist of repeated bouts of dizziness, fuzzy
vision, insomnia, the inability to concentrate or read, chronic all-over
body pain and overwhelming fatigue which is annoying at its best and
crippling at its worst. I had never heard of it, but it took over
my life when I was 45, and it has defined my life ever since. But
I have not allowed it to define me. My story follows, along with some
resources I've come across.
I've Received ]
Here to Send a Blank eMail to Join a Fibromyalgia Yahoo Support Group
You can check it out first by going to Yahoo Group: Fibromyalgia_Support_Group.
Once you have joined, go to the Yahoo
Health Group Webpage, sign in, and Edit Your Membership to the
daily digest, or you will get a LOT of emails each day. If you don't
know how to do this, contact the group owner by sending an email to:
After a mid-life career change, which included
spending 18 months away from my home and husband to be trained at
GIA in California, I opened my own jewelry design studio and worked
repairing and designing jewelry. When I realized I would need a larger
nest egg to grow in the direction I wanted, I tried branching out
to work for another jeweler full-time, but found growing pain, fatigue
and "brain fog" making my performance and reliability less
than stellar. I remember crying just about every day on the way home,
wondering what was happening to me. Even though the jeweler I was
working with was very supportive, I realized I was not giving my best
so I resigned in defeat - the first time in my life I felt overwhelmed
by a job that should have been simple for me - but it was not the
last. I was fortunate to be offered my old job back, so I went back
to work as a government contractor full time, while continuing to
operate my design studio part-time and to adapt Mrs. Gottrocks to
a strong presence on the Interent. It should have been a breeze. It
I found myself forgetting things, constantly
distracted by the pains and fatigue which were increasing. I had lived
with the stress and long hours of that job for many years before changing
occupations, but suddenly I was unable to cope with it or do the job
well. I found myself yearning for anything which would just let me
lay down for a while, not to sleep, which I certainly needed as insomnia
had become a big problem, but for rest. I daydreamed about fender
benders, broken arms, ANYTHING which would give me the rest I needed
so I could catch up with my life. I felt like gravity was working
overtime, pulling me down by the shoulders, making every movement
weighty and hard. I developed Ulcerative Colitus, adding to the pains
I already had to live around. I complained of "arthritis"
and other sharp pains - like someone was following me around with
a knitting needle, poking me relentlessly in the same spots, or burning
pains which would not go away. Pains which were chronic and distracting.
Some nights I just sat, rocking and crying because I was so miserable.
I began keeping track of how I felt, using a form, and writing on
the back anything that wasn't covered by the form, like if something
stressful was going on, or if I did something out of the ordinary
- anything to give the doctors information on what was happening to
of How I Kept Track of My Pain and Fatigue] [ Printable
Version You Can Use ]
For Using Printable Version ]
I was becoming depressed. I was supposed to be
the Jack of All Trades AND the Master of Most of Them, but my work
performance was not living up to my former reputation. These feelings
became so overwhelming, one day at work I just collapsed, and I never
returned. I was diagnosed with CFS and FM. I found myself unable to
read a book, to design a piece of jewelry, to remember the simplest
things, or to be reliable in the workplace either from lack of sleep,
pain or fatigue. My small attention span made it hard for me to watch
TV shows and keep up with plot lines. The prescription drugs I needed
to take if I were to make it through the day also made me sluggish
and incapable of getting out on my own. I became house bound. I had
always been your basic Germanic worker bee. Then - nothing! Down for
the count! I began having panic attacks which often go hand in hand
with CFS. My concern for my Mrs. Gottrocks business and my customers
was overwhelming. For years I had made my living by my reputation
- and suddenly it seemed the only thing I could do was make simple
afghans and watch TV.
And the Burn...
I was forced to quit my contracting job and to
close my studio location to recuperate, spending nearly a year in
bed and another year slowly regaining some strength and testing the
boundaries of my limitations. I joked about being a Type A
personality in a Type F body, but it was very hard for someone like
me to accept that they have limitations. Before I came down with CFS
and FM, I was working a full time job, a part time job, working the
Internet and working hard within the growing Women Entrepreneur Movement
on the Internet. Thank goodness by the time I got critical the website
was practically running itself or I would have had to give that up
too. The Internet, once just a small aspect of my business,
suddenly became a way to keep the dream of Mrs. Gottrocks alive.
Since then I have tried many drug and physical
therapies, and I am slowly beginning to understand what is practical
in both my career and my private life. I miss the contact with the
public my storefront offered, and I have not given up on the idea
of reopening my design studio in my old neighborhood - provided I
can stabilize my condition. I've been to many doctors, tried endless
drugs, and gone through the hell of applying for Social Security Disability,
which is hard for someone who is not used to saying "I Can't."
I am learning to paint, and really enjoying it, in case the pain of
working on the wax bench or jeweler's bench never fades. Luckily many
of my designs can work as either jewelry or paintings.
Mrs. Gottrocks lives on the Internet thanks to
a phone, a laptop and automated catalog which requires little work
on my part. For now, my goals for Mrs. Gottrocks Fine Jewelry and
Gifts are Internet based. Sticking with the Internet for now works
for me, because the nature of the Internet is so very flexible and
compatible with the lifestyle I am now learning to lead. My jewelry
catalog, subscription services and warehousing run themselves without
direct input from me on a daily basis. The rest - such as answering
inquiries, ensuring customer satisfaction, advertising and marketing
- is up to me. Some days it takes every ounce of energy I have to
just answer a few emails, and some days I have enough creative energy
to play with expanding the site. I'm really dangerous on those days
- wanting to bite off more than I can chew. I have to constantly remind
myself that tomorrow might be a hard day, and not to start something
I can't easily finish. Like the father says in the movie Contact
- little steps, little steps. Little steps are hard for me. I'm used
to leaping. Some days I just have to get help and I have people I
can call on to take care of orders or emails on those days. Other
days its hard, but I can slog through provided I don't waste energy
and I focus only one what HAS to be done. Then there are days when
I am relatively functional, but too exhausted for "sprucing up"
and I'm glad my customers don't get to pop in by webcam to find me
working in my PJ's and slippers from a lounge chair.
Diagnoses and Treatments
Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome diagnoses
are increasing in the United States - probably as much from our increased
understanding as an increase in new cases. I think of when Southern
women such as myself were thought to be "weak natured,"
"delicate" or "given to bouts of the vapors" (my
personal favorite). I think this condition has been with us a long
long time. I'm just glad I have it in an age when there are treatments
and research. Not enough, mind you - ask four doctors what causes
Fibromyalgia and you'll get four different answers. But at least women
such as myself aren't just ignored or trivialized any longer. We're
understood to have a very real condition by enough of the medical
world to make us realize we aren't weak or crazy - there is a real
medical problem. I have made it from the bed to the chair, and from
the chair to a modest amount of activity. I can sometimes read a book
now, I can go shopping, even if it means bringing along my wheelchair
so when I tire I can sit down immediately. I crash and burn occasionally
after an increase in activity - finding myself in bed and useless
- but I am still learning what is too much and just the effort of
trying to get back to a consistent lifestyle makes it worth the challenge.
The drugs I am using are more effective, and the side effects less
incapacitating, although some still do contribute to the general brain
fog I'm usually under. I am, slowly, getting back to being me, albeit
a somewhat slower version.
There may come a day when I have to give in and
admit that I can never handle the business of a storefront or even
work outside the home. I may never be able to be consistently artistic
in the jewelry field - I may end up painting, or pursuing some other
creative endeavor on only a hobby level. But for now I'm just happy
to know I have improved, and new research is yielding new drug therapies
every day. For now, and hopefully for a long time, the dream of Mrs.
Gottrocks Fine Jewelry and Gifts lives on the web at www.gottrocks.com.
My painting skills are improving, and my ability to amuse myself when
I am having a bad day is improving. I have every hope that ten years
from now I'll be reminded of "that time when you were sick at
home" and this will all be a fading memory. Maybe not. I've been
told I will probably never be able to be the Master Juggler I was
before. But that's OK. I believe in time I can adjust my sails and
lean towards a life equally satisfying.
I invite anyone who needs more information on
Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue and my battle to pursue a career
in spite of them to contact me at email@example.com.
Please put "Fibromyalgia Comment" in your subject line so
I don't mistake your Email for spam.
Fibromyalgia is sometimes misspelled
as Fibromyalsia. This text with the word Fibromyalsia is here for
the search engines to find to help people searching for information
on Fibromyalgia or Fibromyalgia to find. I am also adding chronic
fatigue syndrome, CFS, FM and Fibramyalsia and Fibramyalgia to also
assist the search engines.