Fibromyalgia and Florence Nightingale

“There is no part of my life, upon which I can look back without pain”, Florence Nightingale

To-day, May 12th is International Fibromyalgia Awareness Day. It is also the birth date of Florence Nightingale, born May 12, 1820.

In 1986 I decided that it was time to develop a Canadian Association for the History of Nursing and began the work with a colleague from Ontario, Dr. Margaret Allemang, of establishing such an Association. For all the subsequent years we have had either a national or international conference and every year without fail, someone mentions Florence Nightingale. It is either in a research paper, or some kind of visual display, or perhaps just a passing comment, for who better to honour than the founder of modern day nursing?

But, why mention Ms. Nightingale on a website for fibromyalgia? I have personally read some of her papers at the Royal College of Nursing in London, England. I became friends with one of the world leading authorities of Nightingale, Dr. Monica Baly. However, while I have heard nurse-historians discuss her work for years, I have only very rarely heard or read about the diagnosis of fibromyalgia in relation to this extraordinary woman, with the exception of several websites which speculate about the link.

A person interested in Ms. Nightingale’s life would read about how after she returned from the war in the Crimea where she was faced with the deplorable conditions, she took to her bed, often refusing visitors, with ailments that were invisible and a conditon that was without a name. All of this is too familiar to those of us with fibromyalgia. What she wrote during this time is suggestive of the classic pain and fatigue condition that we have all experienced. May I make the bold suggestion that once and for all we consciously accept that Florence Nightingale had Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? While I cannot interview her, nor can I prove such a hypothesis, I have always believed it at the deepest intuitive level. This is becoming increasingly clear to some others  as well, as evidenced on some websites. Rather than implying she was in a state of ‘female hysteria’  as some might be prone to doing, it would shed light on some of the difficulties she faced on a daily basis.

Human conditions and suffering in any war are atrocious and it follows that those she experienced in the Crimea over-stimulated her nervous system to such an extent that she never fully recovered. Does this remind anyone of the more recent Gulf War Syndrome? While Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome may be a close cousin to Fibromyalgia, it is possible she suffered from both as they are not mutually exclusive.

As an aside Nightingale’s Notes on Nursing(Barnes and Noble) is an extraordinary book that most nurse historians revere. In spite of her constant pain and fatigue, like most who suffer from fibromyalgia, she did not shirk responsibilities and needed to let the world know the value of the profession of nursing.

What an appropriate date to bring about an Awareness of Fibromyalgia Day . Happy birth-date, Florence Nightingale!

21 thoughts on “Fibromyalgia and Florence Nightingale

  1. Robyn

    I just read about your blog on the Science Daily postings and as a fibromyalgia sufferer I look forward to reading more from you. Thank you for this blog.

  2. Fighting Fatigue/Sandy

    Hi Barbara! What a great resource you have here! I was wondering if you would like to exchange links with my CFS/FM website? I would love to add you to my list of CFS/FM Resources page.

  3. Barbara Keddy Post author

    Will do so immediately and thank you! CFS and FMS are even closer than usual siblings…more like twins! Your site is a wonderful resource also! Hope you will read my book and comment on it!

  4. Katrice

    I also discovered your blog from the Science Daily article. I, too, suffer with fibromyalgia, and am very grateful to have found your site. I look forward to learning and sharing, and will revisit often.


  5. Tammy Elaine McPherson

    I just wanted to say that your blog is an excellent resource for FM/CFS Sufferers! I have had FM for 15 years, wasn’t properly diagnosed until 2003 and had to stop working in October, 2007. Somehow, I managed to win my disability in only 4 months and it begins at the end of May. It baffles me that they can claim that the “jury is still out” when my pain and suffering is very real! I’ve pretty much dedicated what is left of my life to helping others with the disease, maintaining a website, forum and blog. If I can help just one other person who is suffering from this debilitating disease then I will feel that I have accomplished something with the shell of a life that this disease has left me with!

    The medical profession as a whole, in my mind, are the ones confused…Is it the hypthalamus? Mitochondrial Dysfunction? Stress Overload? A past virus? Infection? Toxicity? They can’t prove any of these so they just say “it’s all in our minds”! As for effective treatments…they can’t even agree that the disease is real, much less agree on or find a treatment or cure.

    I apologize, as I didn’t intend to rant…it’s just been one of those “lives” since I became ill with this disease. Again, I am afraid my reading the article that led me to your blog just set me off! LOL! I appreciate your work and will recommend your site to my visitors as I am trying to offer every useful or helpful resource to them that I can find. It seems that “information” is our greatest weopon against FM.

    I hope you are blessed with a pain-free day!
    Tammy Elaine McPherson
    The Ultimate Fibromyalgia Resource Center

  6. Barbara Keddy Post author

    Thank you Tammy. I share your frustration and ironically I have just put up another blog about those elusive theories on cause, which I had finished before I read your comments. We are on the same wave length today!
    How wonderful you won your disability case. I discuss these disability problems in my book.
    Unfortunately I am not having a pain free day (do we ever?) but I have had worse.
    Best wishes.

  7. ali Burbidge

    Thankyou for this, I also found it by accident, I run a support group in Milton Keynes UK and will pass this site to my members. I was just looking for ways to raise awareness for May 12th now I can keep coming back.
    Have as pain free day as you can

  8. Barbara Keddy Post author

    Thanks Ali! Need that encouragement as this is not a good day; but there will be better ones. Please do keep coming back. A good day to you too, Barbara

  9. Ed Hird

    It would not surprise me if her post-war trauma syndrome was connected with fibromyalgia. Either way she never let anything stop her. Florence Nightingale had an amazing impact that has continued to inspire tens of millions of people around the world. To check out the article “Florence Nightingale: Mother of Nursing”, click on

  10. Frances

    Hi Barbara

    Thank you for publishing a book on Fibromayglia I am an identical twin & we both suffer from the condition is the book available in the uk as it will help explain a lot
    To friends & family who do not understand the condition



  11. Barbara Keddy Post author

    Dear Frances: it is interesting that you and your twin both have fibro. Are you both prone to anxiety? Are you both highly sensitive persons? Are you both hyper-vigilant and highly empathetic?
    The book can be purchased from iUniverse.
    I hope you will find answers on this website with the 100 blogs and all the reader comments. Welcome to the site.

  12. Frances

    Hi Barbara

    Thank you for your reply the reason I developed fibre was because I was bullied in a job for about three years so that is why I developed Fibromayglia



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