And it hurts when people don't understand.
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You must be a complainer or a hypochondriac, they think. Maybe it's all in your head.
You look fine — why don't you get better?
If there is a form of purgatory on Earth, many fibromyalgia sufferers believe there might be a corner reserved just for them.
The inexplicable pain, the challenges of getting through a day and the skepticism of doctors, family and friends can become overwhelming.
There are no biopsies, no x-rays or cheek swabs that can diagnose fibromyalgia — a syndrome associated with long-term pain, often accompanied by fatigue, sleeplessness and depression.
And its symptoms can mimic other medical problems, making the diagnosis even more difficult — especially when the symptoms come and go.
For years, many doctors dismissed fibromyalgia, chalking up concerns to anxiety or stress.
But thanks to a growing understanding of the condition and new drugs, patients are less likely to encounter the lack of answers to their pain.
Robin Kellick spent years trying to find her own answers.
She knew what she was experiencing was real. It was a matter of finding a doctor who believed her.
Kellick, 55, said she had always been an active individual — a cheerleader in high school, an aerobics instructor, a wife and mother who, at one time, held down two jobs but always had a spotless house.
"I was busy, always on the go," the Williamsport resident said.
But in 1997, while working at North Hagerstown High School, Kellick began experiencing leg pain.
As it worsened, she went to her gynecologist, who did some testing.
It was the beginning of a long list of doctor appointments — family physicians, a surgeon, chiropractors and a spine specialist — where there was never a solution to her problem. None of the remedies they recommended helped.
Eventually, the pain began to spread through her body, making her unable to work or do simple chores.
It was a Hagerstown rheumatologist, Dr. Steven Klein, who finally made the diagnosis, Kellick said.