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The Shame of the F-Word

April 7, 2013

a-to-z-letters-f

It’s not what you’re thinking.

The F-Word for me is Fibromyalgia.

I don’t mean that in a tongue-in-cheek, “fibromyalgia is a dirty word” kind of way.  I don’t call it my F-word because I’m doing the A to Z Challenge and today’s letter happens to be “F”.

What I mean is I avoid saying it just like I avoid saying the dirty F-word YOU are thinking of.

I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia a few years ago.  I thought the official diagnosis would erase the guilt I had been feeling about not feeling well, or being too tired too much of the time.

It did. For about an hour.

I soon found that the guilt didn’t go away just because my condition had a name and was validated by a medical professional.

The world we live in increasingly places a high value on fast-paced, highly productive individuals.  Like anyone else, I want to be accepted and valued in the world I live in.

My siblings and I were raised with a strong work ethic.  I want to be accepted and valued in my family, even held in high regard. Who doesn’t?

As a Christian, I want to live what I believe, and I believe the Bible is the inspired word of God.  Therefore, I want to live by the principles laid out in the Bible.

In Proverbs 31 we are given a description of a virtuous woman.

The dictionary defines “virtue” as moral excellence; right action and thinking; goodness.

Chapter 31 of the book of Proverbs has 31 verses.  Of those, 22 are devoted to describing the virtuous woman.

Of those 22 verses, eleven—exactly half—talk about hard work and industriousness.

Of the remaining eleven verses, one addresses the virtue of reaching out to the needy.  That is a virtue that requires action. I think this falls under the industriousness category, as well. You can’t be benevolent and lazy at the same time.

Verse 17 says, “She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.”

This verse is obviously referring to physical strength. Note that it doesn’t just say she is strong.  She is taking action here to make herself strong.

Exercise? I was afraid of that.

Verse 25 says, “Strength and honor are her clothing…”

This time we’re talking about strength of character. This would indicate that weakness of character is NOT a virtue.

Verse 27 says, “She looks well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.”

In other words, she’s not lazy. She doesn’t sit around watching soap operas or devote her time to meaningless tasks or activities.

Now that I’ve thrown a bit of a Bible lesson out there, back to the F-word. Whether it be the world, my family, or God’s word, hard work and productivity are direct opposites of laziness.

Hard work is valued; laziness is frowned upon.

I’ve always been a hard worker.  I was raised not only to work hard, but to do the best I can do at whatever I put my hand to.

I’ve also always been pretty strong for a girl.  I once carried a dryer down a flight of stairs when I was about seven months pregnant because there was no one else around to do it.  I don’t recommend that, mind you, but I had enough physical strength to do it.  And I’m thinking my character must have been strong, too, to even consider it.

Don’t worry, I didn’t try to carry the washer down the stairs. I was strong, not stupid. 🙂

Flash forward fifteen years or so. Enter Fibromyalgia.  I hate even saying the word, and believe me, I don’t say it often.  It’s almost like wearing a scarlet letter on my clothes, only instead of advertising that I’m a harlot, it is advertising that I’m unproductive.

The big, red letter branding me isn’t an F, it’s an “L” because we all know that if I’m unproductive  I must be LAZY, right?

Don’t get me wrong.  My husband and kids are very understanding, and don’t treat me like I’m lazy.

I just feel guilty because this isn’t the person I want to be.  The love and understanding don’t make self-imposed guilt go away.

To be honest, I don’t give them much of a chance to be understanding or helpful.  I try to ignore the fact that I have this “condition.”

It’s easy to pretend when the symptoms are absent, which sometimes can mercifully last for months, because fibromyalgia is inconsistent.  Then one day out of the blue I’ll be confused as to why I can barely lift my arms in the shower to wash my hair. I’ll mentally go over the events of the previous day trying to figure out what physical exertion left me so wiped out.

When nothing comes to mind, I’ll think, “I hope I’m not coming down with the flu or something.”

After I’ve raced through every possible reason that I can hardly muster the energy to get myself dressed, I remember I have the F-word.  And I feel ashamed.

If you know anything about fibromyalgia, you know that symptoms include things like depression, chronic fatigue, and brain fog. Sadly, each of those symptoms play off of and feed each other.  It’s vicious.

When I say I’m ashamed, I mean I’m ashamed that I’m not a woman of strong mind and body.

Proverbs 31 also talks about the perspective of the husband and children of a virtuous woman:

Verses 28 and 29 say, “Her children rise up, and call her blessed; her husband, also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but though excellest them all.”

Every time I have a “flare up” (that’s what it’s called when the symptoms of fibromyalgia rear their ugly heads), these verses pop into my head, along with all those about strength and diligence.

And I feel ashamed.

How can my kids call me blessed if I’m not strong? If I don’t have the energy to be a blessing to them? How can my husband praise me or say that I’ve excelled the virtuous women he sees who seem to run circles around me?

My answer? They can’t.

So I fake it.  Not very well, mind you.  I try to stay busy and productive, but sometimes I just can’t get it all done.  But I fake it by refusing to focus on the fact that I have fibromyalgia. I don’t even acknowledge its presence, even when it’s raging.

Even when I’m so tired I can hardly move, I don’t want to be the weak, fibromyalgia lady; so I either pretend I’m not tired or I blame the tired on something else.

When the pain in my muscles makes me feel like I’ve been poured into a bag of hammers and shaken, I fake it.

When I can’t think straight I chalk it up to aging.  This one’s tough when you’re used to being known as a fairly smart person.

That’s why fibromyalgia is my shameful F-word. Because to say it out loud is to admit weakness. And that isn’t what I want my loved ones to see in me.

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20 Comments
  1. Hello I wanted to just say I am enjoying your A to z … and I have nominated you for an award http://talesfromtedium.wordpress.com/oh-i-have-an-award/ Becs x

    • What!? Oh my! This is quite a surprise! I am honored! Thank you so much! And in case that isn’t enough exciting exclamation points for you, might I add !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!EEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      Ok, I’m better, now, but still smiling!
      Thank you, thank you, thank you!
      Do I just follow the link and do what it says?

      • yes the full instructions are in the post that I linked to! You are very welcome!

  2. You are without a doubt the strongest and least lazy woman I know. To the the point that I constantly worry that you are pushing yourself to hard and not taking care of yourself actually. I hope you know how proud and appreciative I am of you, and all that you do.

    • Aww, thank you. That’s so good to hear, because I certainly don’t always feel like I’m doing all I can for you. Now come home so I can give you a big hug! 🙂

  3. Whitney permalink

    As your daughter for almost 25 years, I would like to say that I have never thought you were lazy. YOU, mom, are the strongest woman I know, inside and out. I don’t think that is something you can fake. There is no doubt in my mind that my life would not be as great as it is today if it weren’t for you. You give so much of yourself physically and emotionally to everyone you love that you barely have time for you. Don’t ever forget that you have always been my Hero!

    • I don’t think you’re supposed to make people cry on the Sabbath. 🙂 Just kidding.
      But thank you for the kind words. You are a constant source of not only inspiration, but encouragement to me. As one of the strongest women I know yourself, I consider it a high compliment for you to call me strong.

  4. Hi Ehonda,
    Nice to be here at a well presented blog with lot of informative ideas,
    Good to know that you are in with the a to z challenge,
    This F word is really a wonderful and and was not known more about it,
    Here I got it and learned many things and ha, you well connected with the
    Word of God, Good to know that you are a respecter and believer in God.
    Good Keep it up.
    Yes, we are here for that and the Lord expects each of us the same thing as worship and adore Him and well as to live according to His law.
    May God help you to do this.

    Keep inform
    Good Wishes
    Keep in touch
    I am
    Philip Ariel from India @ Philipscom
    An ambassador to A to Z Challenge @ Tina’s Life is Good
    And My Bio-blog

    PS; Also pl remove the word verification here, it gives trouble to your readers to comment easily. Thanks

    • Wow, a reader all the way over in India! Thank you so much for reading and commenting. Thank you for the kind words.

      I will remove the word verification; I actually thought I had it turned off. Thank you for letting me know!

    • I checked again. The reason you had to do the word verification is because you had more than two links in your comment. That is a flag for spam… Sorry that you had to go through extra steps.

  5. To recognize that you have fibromyalgia is strength. To live with day in and day out is strength. To be willing to talk and write about it honestly is strength. I wish you well.

    You can find me AtoZing at
    Take 25 to Hollister
    Don’t be a Hippie

    • Thank you for your kind words! I will be over to check out your blog later this evening. Thank you for stopping by my blog and commenting. 🙂

  6. Gloria Jackson permalink

    Weak and Lazy! Say What??? Absolutely NOT! Not allowed! As your Mother I know this is not true. I know you always do your best to put others needs before your own. That is strength in character. I have much love and and respect for you. I have seen you work though much pain many times and keep on going. You always ask “what can I do for you” and continue on even if it doesn’t fit into your ever changing schedule. Changing, because you continue to pile more on your plate even if it means not finishing your personal goals. Lazy???? No way! Fighter of fibromyalgia??? Absolutely!!!! Love you!

    • Thank you, Mom. I definitely learned hard work perseverance from you. Too bad I didn’t inherit your “Energizer Bunny” batteries, though. Haha
      Thank you for bringing us up with such a strong work ethic. I couldn’t fight the F-word without it! 🙂

  7. So sorry the F-word is a part of your life lexicon. I have no medically verified excuses and yet, that @#$%^&* Proverbs 31 woman is the bane of my existence. I believe in the inerrancy of the Bible (even though this automatic spellchecker does not believe that I spelled inerrancy correctly, though it made me doubt and I checked with Merriam-Webster to confirm) but I think there was some broad allegorical license taken by an fallible male author in that particular chapter and you shouldn’t sweat it.

    • Oh, my, you sound just like me. I always double check when that stupid spell checker tells me I’m wrong.
      She’s the bane of my existence, too. I’d like to point out, and do frequently to my husband, that the Proverbs 21 woman also had servants. SERVANTS! I could conquer the world (or at least mine) if I had servants. I actually spend time thinking about that very thing. Yes, I think if I could have anything in the world, it might very well be a staff of people. 🙂

  8. Kensi Kempf permalink

    No one that knows you would ever think of you as being a lazy person. Most of the time we all believe you take on way too much at one time. You are such an awesome mom. All of us ( your children) are blessed to call you our mother. You are one of the strongest women I know and I look up to you in so many ways. My only hope is to be half the mother you have been to all of us children. Don’t ever sell yourself short. I’m so glad to have a mother that raise me the way you did. You taught me about God, how to love, to strong, passionate, kind, hard working, and so much more. They aren’t enough words to explain what a great mother you are! I love you

    • *sniff* I got to get choked up two days in a row! Kensi, you have grown into such a strong, kind, passionate, hard-working and committed woman yourself. I am soooo proud of you!
      Thank you for the encouraging words. It means more than you can possibly know!

  9. treymc44 permalink

    I 100% agree with Gloria Jackson!!!!! I love you and you are one of the strongest woman I know! I know this is a battle you can overcome! Lol love you…….now get to G lol!!!!!

    • Aw, thanks, Trey! that means a lot since you frequently see my house in total chaos and disarray! 🙂

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