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Swimming pool surrounded by patio and landscaping

This is my backyard, the place where just this past weekend, I declared a final victory over fibromyalgia.

As you may have read in a previous post, in 2003 I was in a major car accident and subsequently developed widespread chronic pain. Eventually I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and spent ten years managing my pain and other symptoms with a boatload of prescription medications.

I lost a lot during that phase of my life. The biggest loss was full participation in my children’s lives. Prior to the car accident I was the mom who carried her toddler all day, who jumped on the trampoline for fun, and who didn’t hesitate to get down on the floor and tickle and wrestle. I was active, strong, and energetic. After the accident I was afraid of anything and everything physical, simply because “overdoing”, even just a tiny bit, could land me in bed for days. I could no longer pick up my children or carry them, much less play with them in an active way.

The other thing that I lost during that time was the ability to take care of my home. Before the accident, I didn’t hesitate to get out the ladder and repaint the house or spend the weekend on my hands and knees scrubbing baseboards. Before fibromyalgia I put a lot of sweat equity into the homes that I owned and that always felt really good. After the accident I had to hire a cleaning lady to scrub my showers and couldn’t dream of doing my own yardwork.

A lot of my suffering during my fibromyalgia years came from watching dust accumulate around my home and watching weeds grow in my yard and not being capable of doing anything about it. Not only was I in constant pain, but I felt deeply disempowered. This sense of disempowerment affected every area of my life and, during the worst times, evolved into an overwhelming sense of depression and hopelessness.

A few years ago I quit my medications, dedicated myself to the self-help protocol described in The Mindbody Prescription, and became compliant with all the recommendations that I’d been giving my patients for years. I gave myself acupuncture, diligently took my herbs, and made time for daily meditation and gentle exercise. Within a short period of time my pain was so dramatically improved that I considered myself cured of fibromyalgia. But, in retrospect, I can see that in some ways I was still living as though I had chronic pain. I held back from heavy exercise, housework, and yardwork for fear that it would cause my pain to come rushing back. I lived as though my body was still broken and unreliable. Although I was pain free, my life was not fully healed.

All that changed this summer when we finally got the backyard swimming pool our family has been dreaming about for years. Although the pool itself was built by contractors, my husband and I did all the surrounding landscaping ourselves. Although I was a little trepidatious at first, I rolled up my sleeves and worked. Hard. All summer long. I single-handedly laid three pallets of sod. I spent two days on my hands and knees laying weed block fabric. I spent three consecutive weekends shoveling, hauling, and spreading 20 yards of rock (which is A LOT — nearly 60,000 pounds). I sweated and got dirty and I DID IT WITHOUT PAIN!