Six weeks into a new school year, at a new job, I quit. I was hurting physically and emotionally. My co-teacher was extremely verbally abusive towards me and in an 8AM-4PM day, she would only allow me to use the restroom once, and we didn’t get a break. We had to eat our lunch in the classroom and while she was allowed to be on her phone (using social media platforms and texting friends), I was not allowed to use mine. When we went outside, she and the other assistant would sit on a bench chatting away with their “favorite” child on their lap. They’d be on their phones, playing with the kids on their lap, paying no attention to the rest of the children in the class. We were in the infant room and were on a playground that was not developmentally appropriate for this age. Because the other two teachers sat on the bench, it was up to me to run around the playground making sure kids weren’t falling off playground equipment.
There was one day where I was picking up a child to change his diaper, and noticed how much it hurt me. I made a comment about how it seemed more and more difficult to lift these children and the teacher said, “If you can’t lift these kids, this is clearly the wrong place for you.”
Between that comment and all the other comments, she made me feel quite inept despite the fact that educationally and work wise I was more qualified than her. I quit. (This was after mentioning all this to the director of the preschool and getting no support.)
As I looked back during those 6 weeks which were heavily peppered with Jewish holidays (so time off), I realized that I can home in tears and in pain every single day. I reflected back on a comment said in a group counseling session that I attended where, after describing my symptoms, people suggested that I might be struggling with fibromyalgia (something I hadn’t really heard about before), chronic fatigue syndrome, or another autoimmune disorder. I decided that since I was no longer working, while looking for a job, I would connect with my doctors to see if I did indeed have one of these disorders.
The doctor I was seeing at the time was at a sliding fee scale clinic as I did not have health insurance during the time (I was denied due to a pre-existing condition of asthma!!). As I brought up fibromyalgia to this doctor, she threw her head back and laughed saying, “you don’t have fibromyalgia. It’s not even a real thing. It’s an exclusionary disorder at best. You’re struggling with severe depression which can cause pain in people.” Who was I to go against someone who had spent so many years in medical school and as a practicing doctor?
Thankfully, not long after, I was able to get insurance and switched to another doctor. Long story short (as you know I am good at the long stories), I brought up fibromyalgia to the PA I was seeing there. She didn’t deny my thoughts but suggested we do a full blood panel to eliminate any other disorders or diseases that may explain my symptoms. When that panel came back clear, I asked if I could now see a specialist that works with people with fibromyalgia. She agreed to refer me to a rheumatologist.
I’m going to stop there. I know how hard it is for many of us to focus so this will be a multi-part series on my journey. If you identify with some of this, or are considering application to disability, please feel free to reach out and I can help you with the knowledge that I now have of the experience.
I’m Kate Straus and I’m a Certified Fibromyalgia Advisor. I help Jewish women feel confident in their ability to practice their faith while navigating the ups and downs of fibromyalgia. I’m using the disease that at one time knocked me down, to help support others live life to their fullest.