Takeover Tuesday: A Journey Through Fibro & Fatigue

by Kara Leigh Miller

I was never a very healthy child. In fact, without even thinking about it too hard or long, I can easily recall half a dozen incidents of infected teeth that would swell up so bad I had trouble opening my mouth far enough to slurp soup. If anyone near me got sick, I’d undoubtedly catch it, too. I’ve had Whooping Cough, Hand/Foot/Mouth Disease, Strep throat (more times than I can count), nose bleeds that would send me to the ER, Rheumatic Fever, Sydenham’s Chorea, bronchitis, upper respiratory infections, pneumonia—you name it, I’ve probably had it. Oddly, though, I’ve never had the chicken pox… But I digress.

So, back in 2018 when I came home from attending a concert with my daughter and her friend and I got sick, I didn’t think much of it. Except, this “cold” was really severe. I wasn’t able to get out of bed for almost a week straight. My head constantly felt like someone was beating on my temples with a hammer. I lost my appetite. Had no energy. Couldn’t think clearly, let alone try to work. Then, the coughing fits started. I couldn’t walk up to the bathroom without getting winded, and then there was the time I coughed so hard I bruised a rib and couldn’t move. That was fun…

Eventually, I went to the local urgent care and was diagnosed with a sinus infection, strep throat, and a severe upper respiratory infection. With some heavy meds and a lot more rest, I finally got over all the ick.

But I didn’t. Not really.

As I said, this “cold” was different. First, I’d never been that sick before, despite all my childhood ailments. Everything about that just felt… wrong and weird. Maybe, subconsciously, I knew things weren’t ever going to be right again, but I was feeling better, so I went about with life.

Fast forward to early 2019, and I couldn’t ignore things any longer. My body was in constant pain. I was popping Tylenol like Tic-tacs, and my heating pad became my best friend. I’d wake up in the morning (after sleeping for a solid 9-10 hours) and be tired. When I did sleep, I’d twitch and jerk, and that often interrupted my sleep. I’d sit up in the morning, and my entire body would just slump with utter exhaustion. My husband and kids would want to go places and do things, and I just physically couldn’t do it without intense pain or wanting to curl up and take a nap. Focusing on anything was impossible; I felt like I was in a constant fog. And don’t get me started on what it was like every time I’d eat a meal and then have to run to the bathroom because of digestive issues.

At one point, my husband made a comment that I wasn’t the same woman he married, and that really hit home, because he was right. I’d changed—through no fault of my own—and not for the better. I was moody, miserable, forgetful, angry, depressed, tired. I hated being in my own skin.

I needed help.

After a lot of visits to the doctor, numerous tests, and a ton of tears on my part, I finally had a diagnosis: Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue.

Like me way back then, you’re probably wondering what the heck Fibromyalgia is. In the simplest terms, it’s a widespread pain disease that also affects a person’s sleep, mood, digestion, and memory.

There is no cure for Fibromyalgia, and it’s a lifelong disease. However, it can be managed, and so that’s what I set out to do. My doctor advised me to try to lose some weight, because the less weight I had on my body, the less strain on my joints and muscles, which would help with the constant pain. I was also given some really strong medication to help with the pain, but also to help me sleep better and without consistent interruptions.

Armed with all of this, I began to do my own research into this disease, and I talked to a few friends who had it. The number one piece of advice I was given? Cut the carbs from my diet. *Cue the panic* I couldn’t possibly give up my bread and pasta and candy! The horror!!

A woman and her teenage daughter stand on the front porch of a house.

This is me with my daughter back in 2017, before my diagnosis, when I was at my heaviest weight: 186 pounds.

I had a long way to go to get the pounds off and ease the pain. But, I really wanted to feel better, so with the guidance of a friend who was in my same position, I put myself on the Keto diet. I cut out 95% of the carbs from my diet, increased my protein, started drinking a lot of water, and began to exercise every day. I began my official weight loss journey in May 2019.

A healthy woman poses in a hallway with her arms in the air.

Within months, I was feeling like a new person. I had more energy, my mind was clearer, my moods had leveled out, and I’d lost 50 pounds!! By January 2020, I was down to a much healthier 136 pounds. It truly was life-changing for me.

Then, the pandemic hit, and the world was in lockdown. Working out and being active was suddenly a lot harder. My stress levels went up, and my eating habits started to slip back to my old ways. I was much more in-tune with my body, though, and I caught myself before things went too far south. But, the pain had returned, and my meds were no longer helping. So, I went back to my doctor, and she changed my medication. I bounced back quickly, and I was able to maintain my weight. Things were good again.

Fast forward to March 2022, and I’d taken a major slide backward with my disease. The pain was nearly non-existent, but the fatigue was kicking my butt. I couldn’t make it through the day without a nap—and when I say nap, I mean a 2-4 hour period where I’m dead to the world—and I’d packed on about 10 pounds that I just could not lose no matter what I did.

A woman poses leaning against her sports car in front of her house.

Back to the doctor I went! We agreed that my current medication was doing more harm than good, and so we’re now in the process of weaning me off all meds, and I’ll attempt to manage my fibro and fatigue with my diet and exercise. This is me today, happy and healthy at 144 pounds.

Kara Leigh Miller lives in Michigan with her husband, three (of five) kids, five pit bulls, and four cats. When she’s not busy writing romance novels that leave readers swooning, she’s spending time with her family, working out, or binge watching Netflix. And sometimes, she’ll even play golf with her husband, even though she totally sucks at it. Represented by Dawn Dowdle of Blue Ridge Literary Agency, Kara writes primarily young adult romance. She’s also the Editorial Direct for Anaiah Press, LLC. You can learn more about Kara and her books on her website: www.karaleighmillerauthor.com

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