She’s the Reason: Jennifer Wolfe, CEO of IVY BIRCH CO.
May is Fibromyalgia Awareness Month; which means we are officially launching our She’s the Reason campaign!
She’s the Reason is meant to give women who suffer, often silently, from chronic pain conditions, like Fibromyalgia, a voice and platform to share their stories. What they face day-to-day is very real, but it is not their identity. These women are wives, mothers, friends, grandmothers, sisters, and daughters. They have goals, dreams, and aspirations, and we believe they do not have to be limited in what they can do because of a chronic health condition. Our team here at Ivy Birch works hard to spread awareness about chronic pain conditions, to be a voice for those often unheard and misunderstood, and to raise financial support by donating a portion of our profits for research about a condition that is still very much in the beginning stages of being known and understood. She, representing the millions of women (as a whole and individually) who can identify with facing a chronic pain condition daily, is the Reason we value and strive to provide both excellence and encouragement as a brand.
Meet Jennifer Wolfe: a wife, a mother, a Nana, a friend, a mentor, a CEO, and the creator and visionary behind Ivy Birch Co. Jenn is one of the millions of people who live with the chronic pain condition, Fibromyalgia, every single day, and she’s the reason.
Jenn first noticed a shift in her health at the age 30. It was first assumed that her health issues were food related, gluten intolerance and other food sensitivities, but even after consulting with doctors and formulating health plans, she never felt 100% better. She would often wake up feeling “flu-like”, arthritic and have frequent sleep disturbances, all very common occurrences in those who have Fibromyalgia. According to Jenn, after many more doctor visits with specialists, “I was softly diagnosed, meaning, I was told by a specialist that I had Fibromyalgia, but they didn’t document it initially as Fibromyalgia, due to the lack of answers and stigma surrounding the condition. That was around 2011. I was officially diagnosed about seven years ago (2013).”
Adjusting to life with Fibro is difficult no matter who you are. Those who experience Fibro can attest first hand that your energy is not even half of what it once was, you often wake up with intense, physical pain, often accompanied by sleep disturbances, thus, not being well rested a majority of the time, and to top it off, you face the reality of having an “invisible illness.” The medical community itself is still discovering the substantiality of Fibromyalgia, so it is no surprise that the rest of the world does not fully understand, if at all, the reality of living with a chronic condition such as Fibromyalgia. Those who do suffer from it often have many mountains to overcome personally, relationally, in their jobs, etc. “For me,” Jenn shares, “The biggest obstacle has been trying to explain what Fibromyalgia feels like to someone that doesn’t have it; like my husband, for example. Some days I just can’t get up and go, but he feels like getting up and going would make me feel better. His intentions are to help. However, trying to balance how I feel and still showing up for life at times has been hard. It’s easy for people to forget you have a condition when they can’t see it physically on the outside of your body.” It is a balance struggle that many who live with Fibro understand all too well.
Flare up days are very real, and can be incredibly difficult to navigate, especially early on when most people are still undiagnosed. Having experienced life with Fibro for a decade now, Jenn has a grasp on how to navigate these rough and real days: “I love doing research on various topics, I like to read something uplifting, something that will preoccupy my mind. I try to stretch, walk, sometimes sleep a little more. I do whatever I can in my power to keep my mental state intact. If your physical state feels like it’s failing, it’s important to try to keep your mental and emotional state from failing too.” When the days are hard, and it becomes easy to slip into a depressed state, something many who face Fibromyalgia also experience, Jenn is still able to find hope in the seemingly hopeless situation at hand. “For me, prayer and the Lord are what keep me going; knowing there is a purpose that can be found in and from the pain. Some days are much better than others. My days are always better when I pray and seek the Lord, versus the days that I don’t.”
The reality is, Fibromyalgia is not a new condition, but is still very much in a research stage. Those who have lived with Fibro for many years understand more often than not what it is like to be told that the pain and fatigue they face is “all in their head.” Phrases like; “Just exercise, you’ll feel better,” or “Well, maybe if you adjusted your sleeping habits, you would feel better and more rested,” or “Maybe you should see a counselor, depression can make you feel tired and as if you cannot get out of bed too,” are unfortunately very commonly heard by those who suffer from Fibro, by friends, family, and even medical professionals alike. Although advocacy and awareness for Fibromyalgia has increased over the past decade, it still has a long way to go. More than anything, Jenn’s hope is that those who know someone with Fibromyalgia would, “please have compassion and empathy for those suffering with chronic pain conditions. They need understanding. This is a hard battle; it takes a lot of energy just to get up some days. Just because you do not share the same struggle and can’t relate to it, doesn’t mean it’s not real. Just because you can’t see it from the outside doesn’t mean it’s not real.”
If there’s one thing that Jenn could share with someone who was just diagnosed, or even has yet to be diagnosed, it’s, “Know that what you’re feeling is real. You are not alone in this battle; there are millions of people that completely understand and understand you, even if your immediate family does not. Seek education and normalcy through gaining more insight about the condition. Educate those in your immediate sphere so they can understand what you are facing better. There are more organizations that are doing research and have updated information on Fibromyalgia as the years and results progress; share them with those who do not understand.”
Jenn’s journey does not end here. She hopes to continue to grow and become the best version of herself that she can be, no matter the circumstances of a chronic pain condition. She hopes to influence those who also endure the same pain and struggle, as well as those who still do not understand the magnitude of the struggle.
This is Jennifer, and she’s the reason.