Recognition of Fibromyalgia as a Disability — [Mr Adrian Bailey in the Chair]

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 10:09 am on 15th January 2019.

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Photo of Justin Madders Justin Madders Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Labour), Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care) 10:09 am, 15th January 2019

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bailey. I congratulate my hon. Friend Toby Perkins on securing this debate.

I have an interest to declare: my wife is a fibromyalgia sufferer. I want to talk primarily about her experience of the condition. Perhaps the hardest symptoms to understand are the ones that we cannot see. The fatigue literally wipes her out for days at a time. There is also the pain: to the outside world she looks okay, but underneath she is suffering. In her own words, she said:

“I do experience various aches and pains. These can differ from aching muscles to painful joints, especially knees and ankles;
tenderness all over my skin like I’m covered in a thousand small but painful bruises;
and sometimes it feels as if every bone in my body is burning.”

Of course, I just want to give her a hug, but doing that makes her wince. It is so frustrating knowing that I cannot help.

My wife considers the cognitive challenges—the “brain fog”, as she calls it—the most irritating symptom. She also said:

“Sleeping does not come easily. It is very difficult to get to sleep and when I fall asleep, I wake up within minutes.”

There is not enough time to go through all the symptoms, but we have heard about many of them today. The biggest thing I would like the Government to take away from today is the experience we had in getting diagnosis and treatment. My wife said:

“When I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia, three years ago, I was actually quite relieved…I knew things were getting worse. Despite numerous tests, there seemed to be nothing wrong with me.

I recall multiple visits to my doctors where I would tell them how exhausted I felt and they told me that I was probably depressed—that being a working mum with three kids was tiring and difficult.”

Hearing that just made her despair.