Laura Mabey, 22, Te Horo, NZ
In the train home from uni one night, I winced at every bump.
‘I’m not well,’ I slurred to a lady next me. Suddenly, I slumped forward.
‘You’re drunk, you’ll have to get off,’ I heard a guard say.
‘I’m not, it’s painkillers,’ I groaned.
For two years, I’d been in agony. Every knock or movement felt like an electric current running through my body. It was like being shocked 10,000 times a day – once for every step.
Despite seeing specialists, no-one could tell me what was wrong. And the strong painkillers made me so sick that people often thought I was drunk.
After I was escorted off the train, I called my boyfriend Mathew, 25, to help me home. Most of the time, I couldn’t even bear for him to cuddle me.
Sometimes I’d collapse just getting up off a chair.
If Mathew was up early for work, I had to stay with my parents, Gina, and Peter, so they could lift me out of bed.
‘What’s happening to me?’ I’d sob, curled up in a ball.
The only time I felt free was on my beloved horse Oak.
No matter how bad the pain was, I looked forward to seeing her. Galloping along the beach, shocks pulsed through my body and I’d get angry at the unfairness of it all. By the time I headed back, I felt more positive.
But at my lowest ebb,I even considered ending my life.
‘I don’t think I can go on,’ I cried to Mum last year. In tears, she phoned the doctor again.
‘I’m going to lose my daughter because of this,’ she said. ‘Please help.’
This time, I was referred to the Queen Elizabeth Health and Wellness Centre in Rotorua for a three-week pain management course.
There, after almost five years, I was finally diagnosed.
‘You have fibromyalgia syndrome,’ a specialist said. It’s a chronic pain condition. Sufferers describe feeling like their limbs are on fire. Devastatingly, there’s no cure.
Now I try and manage the pain with meditation and focus on the positives.
Mathew is always making me laugh. And if it hadn’t been for Oak, I’m not sure I’d be here. Nothing will stop me getting back in the saddle.
- Fibromyalgia affects two to five per cent of people, and is more common in women.
- Symptoms include severe pain around the body, increased sensitivity to heat, cold and light, fatigue and memory problems.
- There are no blood tests or scans for the condition and it’s often diagnosed after ruling out other possibilities.
- Symptoms can come and go, but currently there is no cure.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing severe depression or suicidal thoughts call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit www.lifeline.org.au.