Imagine, if you will, that you have a terrible toothache. When you awoke, it was just a fleeting sensation, like foil on a filling, when you drank your coffee and ate some breakfast. You remind yourself to take acetaminophen, get some more numbing gel, and call for an appointment with your dentist. Once at work, you get busy; before you realize, that little irritation has become a throbbing ache. You’ve got things to do, so you apply ice and numbing gel on your lunch hour. Now, you’re unable to tolerate air or cold things on the bad tooth. Pain is making you nauseous and tense, and you’re modifying the way you talk, attempting to use your tongue like a blanket covering that side so air doesn’t hit the troublemaker. There’s no going home because you’re out of sick leave, personal days, and vacation due to prior ailments and issues. Besides, you have a project you need to wrap up and get to your boss by end of day; he just stopped by your desk to remind you. You smile and reassure him you’re on it.
Is it hard to concentrate? Is that toothache distracting? Do you suppose you’re doing your best work?
You’ve spoken to your dentist about toothaches already. The receptionist says dentist’s schedule is full. She sighs and says, “What’s the problem now?” After you explain, she says she’ll see what she can do. As the day draws to a close, the dentist herself calls you. She says you just have this tooth pain syndrome and there is nothing else that can be done except icing, acetaminophen, and numbing gel. Then she asks if there’s anything else she can do. You’re so overwhelmed by this damn pain in your mouth you forget to ask her about a referral for another issue you’ve had recently.
You can’t be sure if you’re going to have to deal with this severe pain tomorrow at that tooth or maybe a different tooth. Maybe the whole jaw and neck will be sore because you spoke holding your tongue and mouth in an odd way all day in an effort to diminish the opportunities for the tooth to be exposed. You’ve hardly eaten. Nothing sounds good and you don’t feel hungry. Dinner would just hurt anyway. Exhausted from coping with the toothache and how it affected everything else in your day, you go straight to bed, fervently hoping none of your teeth will hurt tomorrow.
Welcome to fibromyalgia. Pain is varied, widespread, and unpredictable. No one can see it. Treatment options are limited to managing the most severe symptoms. It interferes with your whole life.