Working, living and fibromyalgia

Hello, just found out recently that I have fibromyalgia. Was diagnosed with arthritis when I was 18 and the doctor thinks I may have been coping with the pain for a couple of years thinking it was still my just arthritis. I am 27 now and a full-time teacher, and although I do enjoy my job I find that I’m struggling to manage now. Always feeling exhausted and sometimes I worry that the kids can see that I’m struggling. I manage most day-to-day tasks ok but the extra paperwork and other work requirements are wearing me out. My boss and colleagues are very supportive but as we live on a small island there aren’t really any cover teachers available or much specialised medical care, (the rheumatologist only comes down once a year) and I worry that they are going to get fed up with me having too much time off. It has been a difficult year in my personal life too, both my parents have been ill and a close friend committed suicide a week before the school year started so it feels like it’s been an uphill battle since September. I have been feeling a little low because of all this and wondered what advice fellow sufferers might have to managing a work-life balance with fibrolmyalgia?

Hi @helendee,
I can’t imagine doing what you’re doing in an isolated community. Like you I’m blessed with a supportive school community. I understand how you feel with the work anxiety. I won’t try to give advice on balancing work/life, because I’m also struggling with this. I teach Kindy and at the moment, coming to the end of Term 1, it’s all I can do to get through the day. The kids probably see that I’m struggling a bit. I had a year 5 class a few years back who could always pick it and would try to help. I’m not sure what age group you teach, but perhaps they can take on some responsibilities to help you out. If you treat it as a way of them learning to empathise and support others it might make the outlook seem a little brighter. That group was really immature until it came to looking out for someone else, then they blossomed in front of my eyes, which made me one proud teacher!
I don’t fit much in around work at the moment, I’ve given up dance and volunteer dog walking at the shelter and I’m struggling with what I’ve had to give up to keep working, even though I love the classroom side of teaching.
I recently listened to a podcast by Angela Watson on teaching with a chronic condition. Perhaps her advice may help you.
Praying for a more peaceful year in your personal life and an improvement in pain for you.

I was diagnosed with Fibro 25 years ago - Over the years I have had my ups and downs but have been fortunate to work with a company that has worked with my condition. I am an accountant so I do not have to interact with young children daily like you do and can lock myself in my office if not feeling good. I do notice that the Fibro affects me more when I am stressed, after an illness or extreme weather changes. I do try to stay active - I take yoga classes, swim, walk, bicycle - sometimes I pay for it the next day or two but I refuse to let this disease rule me - bound and determined to live each day to the fullest that I am able to do so. A couple of years ago I had a similar year you have had, my father had cancer and I spent the last 2 months of his life as his caregiver, right after his death my cousin who I was very close with was diagnosed with liver cancer and I helped her through the last 6 months of her life. After all funerals, life became normal again - that is when I had a really bad fibro flare. What helped me most was the support I received from family and friends and a positive attitude which at times is very hard to have. Personally, for me I have kept a “fibro” journal for the last 20 years. It helps me put things into perspective and helps me see what triggers a flare. I don’t write in it every day -only when I am having bad days or incidents I want to keep up with. It helps me when I am having an extremely bad flare to look back at other bad times and see that it does get better and most of the time the flares do not last long even though at the time it seems to last forever. Also for me, the more drugs I was on the worse I felt. I weaned myself off all but the lose dose of prozac and an occasional zanax when absolutely necessary and this has been working for me for the last 15 years. I take vitamins, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and stay active and try very hard to keep stress at a minimum. Good luck to you - kids need good teachers!

helendee – are you in the USA and working fulltime for the same employer for at least a year? If so you will want to look into getting FMLA. This is the Family Medical Leave Act and it protects you and your job for up to 12 weeks during a rolling 365 day period.

Assuming you qualify as a person with their own serious medical condition FMLA allows time away from work for doctor’s appointments, therapy, and flare ups. Your HR department or personnel company will have the details. There’s probably a third party administrator that handles it all.

The nicest thing about FMLA is it can be used intermittently. This means that even if you qualify you don’t have to use it or commit to a particular time frame for use (just the rolling 12 weeks).


Thanks for your comments. I teach Year 1 at the moment (taught uk equivalent of kindergarten last year and the year before) so it can be very tiring. The kids are helpful when I tell them I am not feeling well but some do take advantage of the tiredness and recently my lack of voice ss I’ve had a throat infection. I am currently a main role in a panto which has also taken it out of me due to the amount of rehearsals, but I have decided not to do it again as it’s not really my thing… like to sing so kind of got the role for my singing rather than acting ability! I do need to exercise more but seems like I get struck down constantly with tonsillitis or sick bugs so struggling to get a routine going!