My Story: Tremaine Esser

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What were the steps leading up to your diagnosis?

One morning, I woke up to pain in my hands, arms, feet, and legs. My hands were very stiff. My veins were popping out as well.

I was feeling very tired, almost lethargic. Trying to move was extremely difficult; it felt like I was being stabbed by a thousand needles all at once. It lasted for a couple of hours, then disappeared.

A couple of days later, the same exact pain came back in all areas of my body. Unlike the last time, the pain was consistently getting worse and lasting longer as the days passed by.

I went to various doctors at the military hospital (my husband is in the Navy). They told me I was not experiencing pain and it was all in my mind because they could not find any results in the labs.

I finally switched healthcare providers and scheduled an appointment with my new primary care doctor. During my visit, she suggested I might have lupus because I was feeling fatigued, with headaches, confusion, joint pain, stiffness and swelling of my fingers and toes.

She referred me to an arthritis doctor. Through a lot blood work and talking with the doctor, he diagnosed me with having fibromyalgia based off the tender point test and steadfast pain.

What lifestyle changes have you needed to make?

I've had to make a lot of lifestyle changes since my diagnosis. There are some activities I can still do, but not as long as I would like to. It was hard learning to reshape my life and accept it as well.

I was an avid runner, running 3 to 4 days a week. Now, I jog once or twice a week and power walk in between my jogs.

With plenty of research and talking to my doctor, I've been focusing on disciplining myself on eating healthier, trying new diets and natural treatments that will aid in reducing my chronic pain. I also go to the gym, working on fibro-focused exercises (less weight, more reps).

The lifestyle changes I've had to make have been one big roller coaster of trial and error — but it was worth it! I'm learning every day to accept what’s going on and be grateful and count all blessings, even during the worst times.

What's your advice to someone else living with fibromyalgia?

Do not be afraid to deal with reality. Reality is that you have fibromyalgia, and there is a very high chance that it's not going away. So, be prepared to get on that emotional roller coaster called the fibro-acceptance process and ride it out.

I was very stressed and scared, with tons of questions racing through my mind. As months went by, I was on an emotional and mental roller coaster, asking God why me, what did I eat wrong or not do enough of to get this awful disease.

I started questioning who I was. I felt like a part of me was taken away and replaced by sorrow. If you can relate, when you start to think like that, use those moments in your life to reflect on who you were before you got diagnosed.

You have to remember that you never changed. You're the same person you were before you found out your diagnosis. Just because it is apart of your body, doesn't mean it took over who God created so carefully.

Secondly, I've also learned that it is perfectly fine to openly express how you feel to people you love and trust. Even if they can't give advice, its nice knowing that you have someone who wouldn't mind listening to you vent.

Although they may not understand the physical aspects of what you're going through, allow them to help provide emotional and spiritual support. This in-turn will provide mental stability knowing you have a strong and reliant support system during your best and worst moments.

Last but not least, I've learned that we are our own worst enemy. It's important to keep your faith with any tragic or uncomfortable event that takes place in your life.

I was once told, "Our attitude determines our latitude in life. You can only go as far as you allow your mind to take you." If your constantly focusing on the pain and the depression, negativity and stress will build up, which in turn will cause more physical, emotional and mental pain for you and those close around you.

Fibromyalgia not only affects you, but your loved ones as well. They are on the outside looking in. They will be seeing and experiencing the changes in your body movements, the pain on your face, the mood changes, and the changes in your personality.

It's up to you to show them that you are strong enough to handle these changes in your life. Life is still amazing and no illness or disease can stop you!

What accomplishment are you proud of?

I'm proud that I accepted having fibromyalgia. I think once I accepted that fact that I had to reshape my life and grow from it has made me enjoy living even more.

I made the choice not to play the sick victim, but stand tall with my head held high and say, "I love me, all of me and I will not let any illness take that away from me."

What accomplishment are you proud of?

I'm proud that I accepted having fibromyalgia. I think once I accepted that fact that I had to reshape my life and grow from it has made me enjoy living even more.

I made the choice not to play the sick victim, but stand tall with my head held high and say, "I love me, all of me and I will not let any illness take that away from me."

Our attitude determines our latitude in life.

Our attitude determines our latitude in life.

Who has been there for you? How?

I have been given so much support and love from my family and close friends, including my mother, brother and my bestie. But I would have to thank my husband for being there for me in my lowest of times.

There are times when I cannot move and he has to carry me to the bathroom and back to the bed. He takes off from work to help take care of me.

My closet friends have been there for me as well, making sure I get out the house and enjoy life! They keep me grounded and focused on staying positive and becoming a better person.

Life is still amazing and no illness or disease can stop you!

Is there anything else we should know?

I love dancing, singing and writing. These fun activities allow me to better cope while dealing with stress.

Surprisingly, I've discovered that yoga helps me to relax my body and mind (I had never tried yoga because I didn't think it worked. I was WRONG — it WORKS!). I go at my own pace, which is great because I do not have to feel pressured to be a yoga guru. Yoga has also played an important role in helping me control my breathing during my painful flare ups.

About Tremaine Esser

For five years, I've been counseling at-risk youths with mental and/or emotional disorders living in residential housing. My dream is to establish a group home to provide assistance for teenage girls who have been abused and neglected.

This past year, it has been difficult for me to successfully further my career in counseling as well as interact with the youth on an daily basis. However, I am working on adapting to my new life as best as I can.

I'm a pretty optimistic person, so I try to stay positive by surrounding myself around my close family and friends. They have been a huge support system for me. They are showing me that everything is going to be okay.

I'm realizing that my dreams will still be fulfilled even though I had take a break to focus on this unexpected chapter in my life.

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