Meet Julie Sheranosher, an Army Captain diagnosed with Fibromyalgia after breaking her back not once but twice decides to redefine what productivity means and transforms her life into a meaningful, joyous one
I was 17 when the symptoms of my Fibromyalgia appeared.
I was 22 when I was finally diagnosed.
I was 25 when I broke my back. Twice.
I am 32 today, and it took me over a year to write my story.
I wrote it over and over again, and each time hit the ‘Delete’ button.
It’s just not for me, all this ranting.
I am an army Captain, I don’t do complaining.
I don’t do ranting.
I never bring a problem to the table without having at least 3 possible solutions prepared.
I didn’t have a solution for this one, so I couldn’t share it.
The thing is - it’s not me.
It’s not that ‘I’ don’t have a solution - nobody has. For all I know, there are hundreds of different conditions tucked away under the great umbrella labeled “Fibromyalgia”, and not one of them has a scientifically proven solution.
You won’t find a solution to Fibromyalgia here. You won’t find a solution to any ‘invisible condition’ here. What you are about to read is my perspective on life with a monster, and how I manage to slay it every day for the past 15 years.
I was 17 when my symptoms started. My ankles were swollen all the time, and the pain didn’t go away. The doctor told me it was because I was overweight. When I argued that my BMI was 23, he looked at me and said - “then it’s all in your head. Go see a psychiatrist”.
Instead, I went to see more doctors. They all said my illness wasn’t real.
I don’t know if I was strong or just stubborn, but I wouldn’t let them get to me. I knew I had something real, not imaginary, that others can’t see or don’t have words for - but it didn’t mean it wasn’t there.
So I kept going.
5 Years passed, and I was knee deep in my army service. For months I found myself so tired I couldn’t stand on my own two feet. Colleagues would carry me to the doctor’s office, and he would give me days off, as he couldn’t figure out what was wrong.
One day I refused to receive any more sick days. They were not helping anyways, so I asked my doctor to keep me in for as many tests as needed to find what was wrong. It took a month of tests and a lot of pints of my blood, but finally I was diagnosed; I have a severe case of Fibromyalgia associated with joint and muscular inflammation, IBS, migrants, mood shifts, and sleep disorder.
There was no prognosis. No one offered a solution. When I asked how it can be cured fell silence. When I swallowed hard and asked how to keep it at bay I was offered narcotics for the pain.
I decided that my illness is in my brain, so I shall will my brain to control it. I needed motivation.
Being in the army I had quite enough of motivation - I was responsible for more than systems and procedures - I was responsible for lives. I found myself working 16 and even 18 hours a day, barely eating and sleeping and my body was paying the price. But my mind was happy. My soul was happy. The pain and all the other symptoms were in bay, because I stopped fighting them and learned to live with them and through them.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy.
I had to accept that I didn’t always do what I want the way I wanted it. For example, I didn’t eat breakfast for all my 7 years in the army. I didn’t have coffee before important meetings outside the office, and I never ever drank anything while on the road. You see, when your brain doesn’t translate the signals correctly, you can never know when you’ll need to use the toilet… or how much notice your body will give you, if any.
There were many compromises. But they were all worth it, because I compensated with a happy mind for a broken body.
And then I broke my back.
I herniated a disk. Badly.
I was in pain, crippled, in need of constant assistance in daily routines like showering. My recovery was long and painful and I was told that unless I reduce my working hours to 4 a day I will end up in a wheelchair by my 30th birthday.
Being a workaholic whos physical condition relied completely on my performance at work, I couldn’t find a way to cram 18 hours into 4. Left without a choice, I started working 9 hours. For me it was a significant change; Things started falling between the cracks, there just wasn’t enough minutes in those 9 hours to allow me to do everything I needed to do.
I felt like a complete failure, and my Fibromyalgia symptoms were stronger than ever. And so I began to sink into depression.
And then I broke my back. Again.
Another 2 herniated disks, another painful recovery, another reminder that I’m one step closer to a wheelchair. My lowest point was realizing that 9 hours were not going to cut it. I needed to cut down to 4, and that was simply impossible.
I tried everything.
I tried to get a transfer, to reduce the workload and when all else failed - I tried to break my contract with the army.
It all failed, and I was left with 4 hours a day of pure hell.
I felt like I was disappointing my subordinates; my colleagues; my superiors; my friends; my clients; myself.
Every day when I gathered the courage to go home after 4 hours of work, knowing there is so much more to be done, my commander would look at me surprised and exclaim - “Going home already? What a shame, I thought you were looking better today”.
I looked so darn fine, no one could believe I was injured and suffering.
I won’t lie; I was in full blown depression. I couldn’t see a way out, and I didn’t see any point in my existence. I truly didn’t want to wake up in the morning, let alone face my life. But I had to, so i made up one rule: I had to start my day by defining one task I’ll do today. It could be as small as writing an email or as big as going to a meeting, but I had to define it first thing in the morning and complete it, even if everything else fails.
This worked, I started seeing real results.
So I made a few more rules; And then a few more.
I’ve created my own system of managing time and resources.
The key here is to set goals: create a weekly plan of moving each goal forward and then build a daily plan that allows for the bigger goals as well as the daily tasks to get executed. This is no magic trick, but if you stick to these 3 steps you’ll see magic happening over and over again. This is what happened for me: I got into a position where I had to work only 2 hours a day. I got promoted 3 times in a period of 2 years and won every award existing for excellence and efficiency.
I was still hurting.
I was still sick.
My back was still broken.
But my spirit was up. I had a new purpose and a new meaning - and that was everything.
Making a (very) long story short(er), today I’m a full time entrepreneur. I teach others how to manage their time and resources and achieve any goal. I’m pretty darn good at this, and so my Fibromyalgia is under control. So is my back condition.
I can’t tell you that faith and purpose can heal, but it can give you back control. Yes, I need to make adjustments; I need to acknowledge I never know to what morning I am going to wake up to; I need to forgive myself for being tired after a short walk with my dog; I get that. But the reason I can look at this objectively and create a course of action is that I have a reason to. I have something I love I wake up to, and I will jump through any hoop life throws my way so I can get to wake up and do it.
It’s not how you wake up - it’s what for.