I can’t blame it all on fibromyalgia. My printer had its share of guilt. And of course COVID. The snowstorm wasn’t innocent. Yet wherever the blame may go, it was I who was mortified.
Last Thursday evening, the municipal authority meeting was held via telephone because our town offices are closed due to a COVID case in the building. I’d had a full day of work and intermittent resting and blocked out the half hour previous to the meeting to prepare my notes. I’m the chairperson. I run the meetings.
After spitting out five pages of bid results for a streambank restoration project, my printer declared it would print no more. Totally out of ink, it said. I tried to trick it. I turned it off and back on and unplugged everything and replugged and I took the cartridge out and put it back in as if I had new one, if only just to print the agenda (were we meeting in person, our clerk would have our copies printed out for us).
The best I could do was open the multiple documents on my laptop and jot down some notes on the previous month’s agenda, in the moments remaining after my war with the printer.
I started the meeting well enough despite feeling totally disorganized and unprepared.
It was a long meeting, due to a major equipment issue at the sewer plant. My fibromyalgia was in full flare, probably because of the weather, and as the meeting progressed, nearing its hour mark at 8:00 p.m., my brain started to utterly fail.
I messed up a resolution, calling for approval of an item we’d talked about a half hour prior, not in the previous minute. It sounded like I wasn’t paying attention.
Then I was stumbling and stuttering and mixing up words. I sounded drunk.
There was an awful, eternal pause when I got lost clicking around my computer and couldn’t find the agenda to glance at once more before closing the meeting.
Meanwhile, I said things like, “I’m under the weather” and “My brain isn’t working” and other mumbled apologies, which surely called even more attention to how much of an idiot I was being.
Never once did I say, “My fibromyalgia is flaring today, and this cognitive impairment is a symptom of that.”
I was too embarrassed to say “fibromyalgia,” because so many people don’t believe in it. [Even as I type this, the word itself is being highlighted as a typo because my software doesn’t even think it’s real.]
That was my one true failure. I gave in to shame and missed an opportunity to spread awareness that’ll help chip away at that shame’s existence. It was entirely contrary to my purpose and my work.
I’m human, and I didn’t feel well. All the humiliation of the situation stings, but I’m forgiving myself.
What to do now? I’ll try to be braver next time. I’ll run the next meeting like a champ, because in life, there are plenty of second chances. And of course I’ll keep doing what I do, dreaming that some day no one will feel embarrassed saying the word, “fibromyalgia” or “bipolar disorder,” or “PTSD,” or any of our diagnoses.