Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Skip to main content

Women's Health Blog

Such a Pain. Literally: The F-Word: Flare Up.


Travel. Wanderlust. Ahhh, seeing new wonders, beautiful places and interacting with new people. For many the T-word also means the F-word. No, not flare up yet, I’m talking about flying. If there is one thing that can set my mind flying, it’s the thought of flying.

My anxiety starts spinning. I pray. A LOT. I try to not think about the stories people have told me about their experiences flying. With this increased anxiety often comes an increase in pain. My body tightens up like it has a mind of its own. And this is before I even get to the airport. Once on the flight my body continues to tighten, I sweat, and boy do I have conversations with God. With the slightest bit of turbulence I’m holding on for dear life. My husband just looks at me and asks, “What’s wrong?” Like he doesn’t know. PLEASE.

He once told me I needed to breathe or I was going to pass out. I look around and everyone else is just sitting there watching their movie or drinking their soda while I am terrified of falling 30-some thousand feet out of the sky. I’m pretty sure it’s also a control issue. However, it’s quite clear that if I was actually trying to fly the plane the situation would be much worse.

As you can imagine this doesn’t help my fibromyalgia or my lower back pain. Vacation is supposed to be relaxing! And while it often can be, it can also cause an increase in my pain levels. A few years ago we went on a work trip for my husband to San Diego. I felt awful the entire time I was there. Everything just hurt. All the time. After San Diego we spent some time in Napa with friends from San Francisco. (Note: more flying.) The day we flew home it was April 1 – ohhh, the April Fools stories that were going through my head regarding getting on a plane were awful. That morning I even tweaked my back while bending over. The stress was taking over. When I called my mom to tell her our flight was on time and mentioned this to her she said, “Be sure you get up and walk around on the plane so your back doesn’t get tight.” I only get up if it’s absolutely necessary!

I continued to not feel great and a few weeks later after we got home I started having significant pain after laying around because I thought I was getting sick. With fibro you can’t just lay around two days in a row – even if just for a few hours. That actually causes more pain sometimes. I continued to go to work but the pain continued throughout the week, even waking me up in the middle of the night. My husband was traveling for work that week so it was just me and the cats. They just stared at me as I was stretching on my yoga mat at 4 a.m. watching old reruns of Frazier and Cheers – at least the entertainment was good.

By Thursday I couldn’t take it anymore. I ended up in the emergency department. As I laid there in tears, I thought I was never going to feel better again. Like NEVER, EVER, EVER. After some x-rays and a blood draw they gave me a shot of morphine. Nothing else had worked that I had tried the days prior. That shot washed over me from head to toe and I finally realized I was going to be okay. I was negative for the flu, my bloodwork was okay, and an MRI showed no signs of any infection in my spine. I was told to stay home the next day and rest. I did what the doctor ordered but still had no idea what had caused this 15 out 10 on the pain scale level of pain.

Everyone who knows me knows I’m a cat person. I have made actual friends on Instagram with people I don’t know because of our cats. I even met one in person. She invited me to her wedding! But, I digress. One of my virtual cat friends lives in Australia and she has the same diagnosis. Every now and then we message each other just asking how the other is doing. When I told her about my visit to the ED she wrote back stating I must have had a flare-up, the specific F-word I’m talking about here. I had no idea what she was talking about. I didn’t know these existed. So, of course, I consulted Dr. Google and what I read made total sense. It was the ONLY thing that made sense.

That Thursday I had questioned myself a million times about going to the ED. Was I crazy? Was it all in my head? What was I doing wrong that I wasn’t able to help myself feel any better? As soon as the nurse gave me that shot and I knew I was going to live to see another day, I knew I had made the right decision in going.

So, my point here is that you have trust yourself when making decisions about how you feel and what to do about it. Even if it doesn’t work, keep trying, and ask for help.

And if you have a chronic condition, talk about it with people who understand. I haven’t had a flare-up like that since (thank God) but if I hadn’t mentioned it to my Australian Instagram friend I might not have ever realized that is what happened. Just another reason I think social media isn’t actually all that bad.


Mary Green

Mary Green

Mary Green is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator at Beebe Healthcare. She is a Delaware native who loves the beach, cats, jewelry, and wine. She blogs about living with fibromyalgia in coastal Delaware.