This short story/fiction is inspired by real experiences of what a fibromyalgia patient goes through. It is written with hope to bring awareness to fibromyalgia as well as shed some light to those who are suffering from it or other diseases that involve chronic pain, depression or even mental illness, panic disorder and etc.
If you are suffering from any kinds of pain physically, emotionally, mentally or even spiritually, I hope this story will enlighten you and give you hope. Enjoy.
|Pain in Silence|
A Sketch by Angelina Bong
BUBBLE OF JOY
Her feet trudged along the sands of a foreign land, with unbearable scorching heat purging her porcelain skin beyond skin deep. Miles and miles of golden sand stretched out ahead as the grains infested her blistered, bloodied toes. There was nothing living anywhere around, not even the thorny sights of cactus.
She had thrown herself into the beginning of a dark, forsaken journey alone. Loneliness and hunger took over her sanity as she longed for a visible companion. Thoughts of dying permeated her mind every single second. Yet it did not happen. Death would not visit her.
She could not turn back although the quest already appeared to be a lost cause. Her vision slowly dwindled as the ravaging wind blew sand into her eyes. Her wounds stung as the dryness continued to worsen. She wished to take her own life yet an unseen drop of grace stopped her. It kept her moving as she hoped to reach the oasis at the end of the desert. The living water that never ran dry lay beyond the oasis in a promised paradise known to many as a legend. She believed it to be more than mere folklore.
Intan woke up in agony. It was only three in the morning. Her muscles groaned in soreness and her body felt bruised. Her left feet burned with a deep penetrating ache. Her dream felt real as she recalled the thousand miles in the forlorn desert. Would she ever discover a paradise on earth? She cried in hopelessness as she popped another painkiller into her mouth.
Intan had been living with fibromyalgia since her diagnosis a year ago. It had been a rollercoaster ride as she fought to keep from falling into the abyss of despair. Her days were filled with pain, gloom, desolation and extreme fatigue although there would be a few bright days which were becoming a rarity. It was common to have piercing pain poking her simultaneously like nails being hammered into her flesh. She wondered how anyone could undergo crucifixion in the old days. At times, tingling sensation spread throughout her entire body as if ants were crawling and feasting on her skin. The worst ordeal came from tackling multitudes of symptoms accompanying her physical afflictions ranging from migraines, irritated bowel syndrome, occasional hives flare ups, sinusitis, and so forth.
Waking up every morning was a struggle for her as her body mimicked bouts of arthritis with stiff fingers clenched up refusing to be loosened. As soon as her eyes opened to the rising sun, she would beg God on her knees to give her strength as she prepared to enter the warzone. She clawed her way through tiredness for the rest of the day with what little energy left to make ends meet. Her nights were not of rest and rejuvenation as she battled with insomnia and sleep disturbances. Once in a while, she would sail through her daily chores smoothly and pondered whether the previous day’s combat was a stroke of ill-fantasy.
She devoured on every new research she could get her hands on and tried making lifestyle changes but nothing worked. She suffered alone for she knew not one single soul in Malaysia who had the same sickness. No one understood her and she wished she might as well be dead since her quality of life had gone down the drain.
Her colleagues accused her of faking it to gain sympathy. Her friends perceived it was all a hallucination of her mind. Her family thought she possessed some psychological disorder. Intan was also afraid it might all be a conjuring of her messed up imaginations. What if the distress brought upon her flesh was non-existent? How did she end up with this mysterious illness leeching on her? She buried her face in her pillows and cried to sleep again.
Her younger self appeared to her. She was in a party smiling and dancing away. A group of friends were surrounding her and they were all shaking their hips to Intan’s moving rhythm. A sanguine with a warm heart, she was always on her toes bouncing with energy and effortlessly enjoyed making new friends. Bubbly, jovial and carefree were the words one would use to describe Intan. Bringing laughter into people's lives was once her life’s purpose. Where had it all gone to? What happened to her joyful radiance? How did depression get to her? When was the last time she had truly laughed? Fibromyalgia had transformed her into a dead corpse walking on thin air waiting for her bones to dry up completely and crack.
She knew that no great person whisked through life without overcoming the strongest hurdles. She recalled her grandmother telling her about Abraham who had to leave his comfortable life to go through the crazy hot desert to reach the Promised Land. She especially admired the late Mother Teresa who continued to tend to the poor without fail despite her deteriorating health even when she was ailing in her old age. Intan also recently followed Nick Vujicic on Twitter as she felt a hint of solace to know that a man born without limbs could live a life of fulfilment without complains despite his inconveniences and disabilities to do what normal people could do. Why could she not have as much endurance as them?
A dark cloud hung over her. Like a shadow transcending from below, there was mist creeping up from the earth. Fogging her vision and blocking her bloodstream, it was violating her senses. Gripping on her nerves and pressing her chest, something emerged from the shadows and began strangling her. Her veins were on the verge of bursting while she choked from suffocation and sent jolts of throbbing pain to her head. Her muscles were aching to be freed but her limbs started to numb. She could feel coldness sending shivers down her skin as she smelled suicide breathing on her face. She heard death knocking on her door. Fires of hell enwrapped her soul. Captured and imprisoned, she blinked away tears in silence. Crying for pleas of help and fighting to overcome death, she forged to stay alive.
In the darkest hours of giving up, Intan’s eyes flipped open. It was another night of restless sleep. Every night, she had to go through multiple episodes of wild dreams. Her doctor told her it was normal for fibromyalgia patients to have sleeping disorders. She was unable to control her intense dreams leaving her worn-out even after ten to fourteen hours of sleep. Any amount of sleep was never enough. She woke up every other morning feeling like she had pulled an all-nighter. She wondered why her Lyrica never really worked.
Doctor Lee prescribed Lyrica to Intan in order to relieve her pain. Somehow her body reacted indifferently to it. Her somatic aches were not eased at all and her sleep was still in turmoil. On top of that, her finance was diminishing as both Lyrica and her doctor’s consultation fees were expensive. Frustrated, famished of rest and burnt out, she dragged herself like a zombie to work. It was another day of fighting fibromyalgia.
Cloistered behind high walls, the bustling sounds of cosmopolitan lifestyles seeped through the bricks that surrounded her. Ambushed by creeping poisonous ivy, the thick walls were made of dusty moulds of wood. Occasionally, there were voices outside this little cavern unknown to the exterior world. The noises did not distract her. In fact, she was oblivious to them. Inside the walls, there was immense silence. Not even a drop of water could be heard. There was no breeze passing through at all. Listening intently to the stillness, she could hear a voice calling from within her. She sat down quietly facing the walls with her ears perked up. She wondered if the voice from inside her was her own.
Soon, darkness came. A dim candle flickered in the hollow where she sat. She could smell the stench of blood engraved around the walls. She suddenly felt a deep aspiration to be a martyr and to be killed for a cause. It was better to die than to wait in vain and not lived at all. She embraced this torturous yearning not knowing what she was looking for. Where was she and why was she there? What was her purpose in this enclosure? Was it the beginning or the end of her journey in life?
Her emotions were fragile yet not conforming to the voice within her. Finally she understood the voices and societal pressures outside those barriers. It was scary to be out there yet it was even more horrific to be inside with not a single soul to be seen. She craved for an audience to listen to that voice mysteriously sneaking up her throat. Whose voice was that? Was there something living inside her? Why was she trapped in there? She was alone in the world yet not of the world.
Hungry and crouching with her disjointed knees, she sensed a surge of insatiable thirst. Dressed in white and gold, she remembered she was a princess in exile. Malnourished beyond the naked eyes, she starved not for bread but for the voice within. The presence of the voice grew stronger but she could not bring it out no matter how hard she tried. What did the voice want of her?
Many days passed and she had a hunch that the angel of death would visit her soon. She vowed to become a glorious bride but by the look of it, her desire would never be fulfilled. Where was her prince charming? There was a vague memory of a prince asking her to wait for him. She reminisced about the promises he made to come and rescue her. There was no sign of any living person. Would he ever make it? Her parched throat made no sound and she sat motionless waiting for her groom.
Intan woke up with cold sweat enveloping her entire face. She gasped for breath as she called to mind the stale air from the small dark chamber with towering walls. Why was she having all these disturbing dreams? There were many times she thought she would rather have cancer or some autoimmune disorders. A life-threatening disease would eventually lead to death and end all the miseries in her life. At the very least, that could satisfy her human mind that she was truly ill. She was sick of fighting an illness that has no known cause. Most people she knew only burdened her with advices on how to eat and exercise right without truly knowing what she had to bear night and day. At times she imagined her own death approaching and wished very much it would come sooner.
A bright light was shining down on her. She smelled fresh dew. Hearing voices of angels floating above her, she saw an injured lamb at her feet with blood all over its white fleece. Pools of water started to swell in her eyes. Suddenly, the lamb leapt into the clouds and disappeared. A blinding ray flashed down and cast away the spirits of anguish that was lurking in the air. The dark clouds gradually rolled away. The lamb reappeared spotless and pure white. It trotted in good spirit towards Intan and she automatically ran to hug it. Flowing tears streamed down her cheeks as she cuddled the lamb in her arms.
She woke up and found herself beaming although her mood was somewhat melancholy. Her face was flustered and wet. She must have cried in her dreams. Could it be that she finally could smile after so long? Could that be tears of joy? This was the first time she had awakened without feeling afraid, anxious or terribly disturbed. Would she ever feel this way again? Why was fibromyalgia sucking away all her happiness? Was she depressed and not know it? How long had she been living in this state?
Soaked in divine sweetness, she woke up to the face of a King. His warm brown eyes gazed at her in a fatherly manner. He gave her a cup of honey, served as tea to quench her thirst. She stared at him in suspicion as he seemed to understand all her thoughts and longings. He nodded and exchanged words without audibly speaking. Was she in heaven or some fairy land?
She sat up on the bed of roses as he poured water from nothingness onto her. The feel of the water on her skin was magical beyond human expression. She understood she was instantaneously being cleansed of every impurity ever existed in the history of her life. He caressed her hand softly and on the spot, she could catch a glimpse of his kingdom. He gave her a foretaste of treasures that were to come. She was not even of royal blood but this king had bestowed a part of his glory upon her; something so rare and prized. She did not know whether to cry or to laugh as an extraordinary flame of bliss burst forth from her heart. No words could fully explain what she was going through. No happiness in this world could be compared to this moment. She felt belonged and utterly loved. Who was this king? A renewed vigour soared through her heart.
She opened her eyes. It was pitch black. Alas, it was just another dream. Prickling sensations were spreading all over her legs and her right foot was frozen. She was itching with hives infesting her arms like fiery parasites making a nest on a piece of meat. Yet, something sweet lingered in her. She did not feel frustrated but instead, a sense of peace held her. What were her dreams telling her? They were beginning to take a completely different direction from the usual dark nightmares. Would she be able to meet the King again?
Someone shook Intan hard. She jerked herself up as soon as she became aware that the hands firmly gripping her right shoulder belonged to Frodo. Frodo from ‘Lord of the Rings’ was sitting beside her? What nonsense!!! He summoned her to wake up, sleep no longer and beckoned her to follow him to the balcony. She gawked in disbelief as she tried to soak in the picturesque view of Rivendell where the elves from the story were living. Could it be possible that she was even there? Frodo waved his hand in front of Intan and brought a series of flashbacks presenting Frodo’s life journey in preserving the infamous ring to play right in front of Intan’s eyes. Forging ahead in difficult circumstances, she could see that Frodo never gave up. He stayed true to his task entrusted solely to him till the very end.
Intan felt ashamed. She broke down and started to weep. How many times in her life did she wallow in self pity and gave up on trying to get better? Tears of helplessness from overdue penned up frustrations led to wailings of bitterness. Frodo stroked her hair as one would to a little girl crying as his other hand found its way to Intan’s. As he held her fragile fingers in his small palm, he whispered to her that she was precious. Intan shook her head and blurted, "Precious?!! I'm a failed creation. Fibromyalgia has consumed me."
Frodo’s sombre expression turned into one of good cheer as his eyes lit up with a twinkle. Grinning from ear to ear, Frodo said gently, “You might think that this fibromyalgia that you’re having is a curse but will you believe me if I tell you that this can be turned into a great opportunity for you to reach out to people?”
Intan’s ears twitched as her eyes blinked and signalled Frodo to go on. “Remember the king that you met? He sees the pain you are going through and he knows you have a kind soul. He has sent me as a messenger to ask you to fulfil a mission. You have suffered much and with that, you will be able to relate to the sufferings of others. He wants you to be his hands and feet to bring comfort and love to the bruised and broken-hearted humankind that the king so dearly loved. When you seek to console them, you will be healed from within. Be the bubble of joy that you are meant to be.”
Tears flooded Intan’s eyes as she glimpsed a silver lining in her fibromyalgia. For the first time, she tried to accept fibromyalgia. Clasping Frodo’s hands, she spoke, “Thank you Frodo for coming to me. Please tell the king that I am so grateful for this special task. Who am I to deserve such a high honour?”
Intan rose to her feet and she began to dance, rejoicing like fluttering butterflies. Frodo jiggled along with her and as they were swinging side by side to an invisible music, a dove flew towards them and perched itself on the balcony’s railing.
Intan woke up and her heart was beating fast to the tempo in her dream as if she was really on her twirling feet. Feeling light-headed, Intan propped herself up on her pillows. A gush of wind blew across her face and goose bumps surfaced all over her body. She glanced towards the direction of the wind and realised it came from her ajar glass window. Sitting stock-still on the window sill was a dove. Intan’s mouth fell open and her hands trembled as she cowered behind her blanket, pulling it up to her neck. There was a streak of grey shade running across the milky white feathers on its right wing which happened to be exactly the same as on the dove in the dream. How coincidental could that be? What if it was not a dream and her soul was in another realm?
The dove took flight, flapping its wings vigorously and stood for like a second mid-air fixing its gaze towards Intan’s direction before it finally flew off. She felt strangely excited as she relived her dream and it was as vivid as if she was still there. She closed her eyes and slowly drew a long breath as she noticed a new power rising from within her.