A condition some believe may be fictitious or at least exaggerated. Try it for a while and see. The pain is intense and debilitating yet the only visible signs are a slight swelling and a warmth to the touch. Let's not overlook the psychological effects either, the miserable impact of an inability to perform simple physical tasks. Since leaving my job in financial services, which was at times stressful, my own fibromyalgia has receded. It lurks unfelt behind the scenes – and in the connective tissue – occasionally for months at a time. Such was the suddenness of my initial relief that I took a whole new lease on life.
There are fourteen medically acknowledged points around the body which can typically be affected by swelling, stiffness and pain but my condition is mostly restricted to the upper body, elbows mainly but also jaw, neck, shoulders, wrists and fingers. Flare-ups returned at times of anxiety and sometimes for no apparent reason but eventually held off long enough for me to take up running five years ago, something that would have been unthinkable before. Vigorous exercise has had no adverse effect on me, in fact quite the opposite. I am convinced that running hard, often for hours at a time has brought big benefits all round, proof that my old doctor Bernie Bedford was right when he told me, ‘there’s no contra-indication to exercise’.
It’s not all plain sailing. Bouts drop out of the blue, stay for up to forty-eight hours then mysteriously vanish but a combination of diet, sleep and exercise seems to hold the condition at bay. Still something unexpected will arrive. On Sunday I ran a half marathon in two hours one and a half minutes, a personal best by thirty seconds, and felt great afterwards. Two days later on Monday I noticed a dull pain developing in my right hip, definitely not post-run pain, I know all about that. During the night I awoke hourly, grunting and grimacing as I tossed and turned unable to find relief from the pain. By Tuesday morning I could barely put weight on my right leg and I limped all day. Wednesday morning... gone, and I ran five miles in forty-two minutes averaging 7mph.
I have just finished reading two books about self-editing for writers. I was aware while I read that I already employ some of the suggested techniques but I learnt new and excellent ideas. Today I started James Lee Burke’s Pegasus Descending and saw from the first paragraph the advice I had recently received put to beautiful and thrilling use. It is without doubt possible to learn the craft of the novelist but takes a lifetime of practice to challenge Burke's lyrical prose.