The first fact I want to say about fibromyalgia and disability is that Fibromyalgia varies between person to person. Some are disabled. While some are not. But we all walk that line between barely functional and disabled through our lives with fibromyalgia.
We are all limited by:
- fibro flares
- cognitive dysfunction (fibro fog)
- The pain itself is a big one
- Sleep dysfunction
- The fatigue
And all of those factors make work very difficult. I remember at work having all these reference binders I had made in order to have information at my fingertips because I would forget all these simple things due to the brain fog. I also had to get up and move around every once in a while because sitting too long would begin to hurt. I was constantly sleep deprived. All the time. I’d work on 3-4 hours of sleep. And I was constantly tired. Just getting through the day was the goal and then crash afterwards.
Now work Options were limited as well
- I could not do a job where I stood all the time
- Had too much physical activity
- Or involved repetitive motions
But I worked. And I worked a desk job because that is literally what I could do. And if it had only been fibro I would still be working.
And there were jobs I was completely unable to do even back when I wasn’t as severe as I am now. I could not work as a baker, because of lifting and repetitive motions. No customer service where I had to stand all day. I was a housekeeping on one University break and that was actual torture. I learned the hard way many jobs I could not do. And I aimed for a desk job after university.
Others though their pain or their fatigue are so severe that level of activity is exceeding their capacity.
So either working is very hard or we cannot work at all. That is that.
An aspect that can lead to disability is the comorbid conditions we can develop with fibromyalgia. Mine were chronic migraine and Major Depressive Disorder. And that made working hell. It was survival really. I had to work so I just pushed beyond my limits all the time until I became seriously suicidal. So I was disabled but my insurance company didn’t agree. But, yes, from then on I was disabled.
Once comorbids enter the picture someone who could work before could then become disabled. Quality of life can really take a hit.
Patients with fibromyalgia report a considerable impact on their quality of life and their perceived disability level seems influenced by their mental health condition. In comparison with patients with other pain conditions psychological distress is higher. Study
And there is a lot of research that looks at the lowering quality of life in fibromyalgia and increased disability with fibromylgia when you add in comorbid, especially mental illness. And we are much more likely to get depression. And we have a higher suicide risk.
The presence of psychiatric symptoms has a profound impact on the severity and the course of fibromyalgia. High levels of depression and anxiety in patients withfibromyalgia have been found to be associated with more physical symptoms and poorer functioning than low levels of depression and anxiety. Reference
So when you look at disability and fibromyalgia you have to look at
- the severity of symptoms and
- the comorbids that can dramatically affect the quality of life. So yes, fibromyalgia can be a disability.
And it can also become a disability later but not initially. But it isn’t necessarily a disability for everyone. As I was coping well and fairly functional with fibromyalgia alone. I’d say I had moderate fibromyalgia and I had a lot of things that helped me cope well. But that didn’t last, not with daily migraines and depression. Just the migraines alone vastly affected my capacity to cope and I was constantly exceeding my limits.
You can legally qualify with Fibromyalgia as a disability, so certainly it is known it can be quite disabling. And I know that it can. I went from being able to cope and manage fairly well to having a real hard time doing anything. It worsened on its own. Then the comorbids knocked me flat. I couldn’t cope anymore, not with working. I did switch to part-time which was still painful and difficult because I guess pain doesn’t just choose to hit on our days off. What was nice is having recovery days. But I still missed too many days and I still had a lot of presenteeism (there but not There) or ‘ass in the chair but mentally fogged by pain and brain haze’. And employers like that ass in the chair because you are there without understanding the severe issues with productivity and idiotic mistakes we make. But they Do not like a lot of sick days. There is a time when you realize, yes, you are disabled.
Remember though either you are too ‘abled’ to be disabled and are expected to perform as if you have no chronic pain and illness at all. Or too disabled to matter and are discarded by society and often with severe financial issues. There is no winning with chronic illness and disability. With fibromyalgia, we often always walk that line from too abled to be disabled and disabled.
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