Fibromyalgia: No one believed me when I was living in constant pain

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Amy McLachlan’s chronic pain first manifested while lying in bed one autumn morning, when she discovered she couldn’t move her neck or shoulders.

Her GP, puzzled, prescribed codeine for the sensation, which was expected to fade with rest.

The ache persisted and spread down her spine into her hips, slowly inflaming the entire right side of her upper body – this was fractured with sharp, electric stabs from her spine to her foot around five times a day. After six months of living in discomfort, no doctor had any conclusive diagnosis. Instead Amy got a pat on the leg, and was told perhaps she wasn’t “coping very well”.

Her body was failing her, but constant questioning over the nature of her “invisible” pain made Amy feel like her mind was on trial. Eight months, at least four doctors, and several rounds of acupuncture later, a rheumatologist at Stobhill Hospital confirmed Amy had fibromyalgia – a chronic condition causing widespread pain and tenderness all over the body.

Now, Amy, an artist based in Glasgow, is building a global network for women who feel neglected or overlooked by health care systems, where they can share their stories and research on a range of illnesses.

Femme Fatigue: Uniting women with chronic pain and exhaustion.
Femme Fatigue: Uniting women with chronic pain and exhaustion. Amy McLachlan

“I had to fight to get them to understand that I was in agony every single day,” said Amy. “When I spoke to a physiotherapist about the symptoms, it was like he just wasn’t taking it in.

“I don’t think that was intentionally biased, but there was the undertone of ‘you’re not handling it well’, which was difficult.

“There’s an implicit bias based on the understanding that women are physically weaker and might not handle pain as effectively.”

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