Fibromyalgia and Other Pains: Living with Anxiety and Apprehension

400000000000000054575_s4“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it” , Lena Horne

HAPPY THANKSGIVING WEEK-END!

We Canadians are always so happy our Thanksgiving falls in mid October when it’s harvest time; the leaves are gorgeous and in full colour and if we cook a turkey it is still a long way till Christmas and we can enjoy another one before the year ends without being tired of it! What we also love is that it is close to Halloween and those gorgeous childredsc04727n with their little outfits! Autumn is so wonderful where I live! 

But enough about lovely food and celebrations and more about less happy thoughts which are often self imposed and can defeat us so rapidly.

 

It is easy for someone suffering with the chronic pain of fibro to catastrophize about pains that seem more unusual than the ones we live with every day. In November 2007 I began to have  sore hips and after awhile the pain settled in my left hip only. It was and remains extremely painful. The saga of that hip is told here as the journey to date has been a long one. The resulting anxiety and apprehension is a struggle I have to contend with, in spite of serious attempts to be mindful of how counterproductive they are to my well being. But, I have let my ‘sore left hip’ overcome me until I finally had an MRI last week and found out what has been going on. Although I had seen an ortho specialist in Arizona in February and had an x-ray, in spite of persistent pain I did not have any further imaging, much to my chagrin now. I was told then that it was a bursitis. Months of physiotherapy did not help the pain over the spring and summer, in fact most movement made the pain worse.

I will tell you the end of the story now then go back to the middle of it, because these days I don’t think in a linear fashion anyway. These words may not mean anything to many of you and they certainly did not to me. Findings: Extensive tearing of the gluteus minimus tendinous insertion on the greater trochanter. There is associated severe minimus muscle atrophy. Tendon tearing likely extends into the gluteus medius insertion on the greater trochanter.

So there you have it. Clear as mud? In short, I have a broken left butt and the pain is where the muscles insert around the hip! The pain is extensive and I am having a difficult time walking and sleeping. My family and friends are very sympathetic but they have many butt jokes to share with me. So, in spite of the pain I do think they are clever and it is better to laugh than to cry. They aren’t being unkind. I don’t know how I injured myself and the process of recovery is going to be very slow and I am worried it will never completely recede. It is likely I did too much physical exertion moving my 90 year old parents to an assisted living facility and tore (actually shredded) those buttocks muscles.

The point of sharing all this with you is not to delve into the actual physiology of those muscles but to share what it is like living with anxiety when something else goes awry in an already overly sensitive body. Stress, anxiety, worry, sometimes panic, apprehensiveness can all lead to catastrophic thinking when a person is chronically fatigued. When a body that is challenged by something unusual, that is very painful, the mind/brain activates the autonomic nervous system and stimulates the output of cortisol and adrenalin (see other blogs on this site about that). The result is that the nerve cells become ‘over excited’. While I realize that I have simplified what happens when there is a chronic stress response I do so not to dumb down the physiology of an over-stimulated nervous system, but rather to point out the vulnerability of the person with fibromyalgia when unusual stress occurs. John Sarno writes: “Pain, anxiety, and depression are not symptomatic of illness or disease.They are all part of the normal reaction to frightening unconscious phenomena”, (p.66)

Those of us with this hyper-aroused nervous system of fibromyalgia realize how little it takes to activate the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and disrupt the body’s internal balance and become stuck in an over aroused state. Needless to say the result is unclear thinking and catastrophic thinking. So, this is what this year has been like for me. Now that I know what the ‘new’ pain is about the level of anxiety has subsided considerably. But, I fear it is, as usual, a temporary state until the next jolt to the ANS! That remains my challenge: learning to work within a world that is filled with change, often unpleasant (called ‘life’), while trying to maintain balance and avoiding apprehension. So far, the only thing that has helped me in this regard has been “mindfulness meditation”, which I have discussed in another blog. Remembering to take deep breaths would help considerably but in times of anxiety I usually forget to do so. This all takes discipline and that isn’t easy when days are disrupted with chronic pain and fatigue, particularly when new stress circumstances arise . Still, like all of us with fibromyalgia we keep on trying in spite of those who challenge us with their beliefs that we are ‘hysterics’ (mostly many health care professionals and insurance companies). We have sensitive bodies, not by choice but by circumstances, maybe genetic, maybe early socialization, nonethess we are braver than the doubters think we are. We just have to learn more about our brains and how they affect our nervous systems with those stored memories of pain! Sandra and Matthew Blakeslee write: “And being at war with yourself, even when it is all happening beneath the level of your consciousness awareness, is a miserable experience” (The Body Has a Mind of Its Own, p. 43.)

12 comments

  1. maggie fellow says:

    So sorry. I wonder if we are not at greater risk for problems, simply because we have no way of knowing whether we are suffering from “regular” fibro or something new and different. My doctor is really very good about reminding me to check it out, rather than assume the result wll be nothing again. tfs,
    maggie

  2. Kimberly says:

    Barbara, this statement from your post above:
    “Still, like all of us with fibromyalgia we keep on trying in spite of those who challenge us with their beliefs that we are ‘hysterics’ (mostly many health care professionals and insurance companies). We have sensitive bodies, not by choice but by circumstances, maybe genetic, maybe early socialization, nonethess we are braver than the doubters think we are.”

    Rings so very true. People have no clue how strong we really are.

    Thank you for sharing about your hip and the association mental connections. My thoughts on your hip issue… find a massage therapist who is trained to do Cranio-Sacral Therapy and have it done on your body. If you haven’t already. It will blow your mind at how well it helps manage pain and promotes healing.

  3. Barbara Keddy
    Barbara Keddy says:

    Thanks for your comments and good wishes Maggie and Kimberly!
    I do have regular massages and although the Cranio-Sacral massages (among many other types of massages) help, unfortunately it is usually only temporary relief! Easy to ‘cease’ up the muscles again when the nervous system is overly excited!
    I do appreciate your lovely thoughts; I know that you too have had so many similar experiences as we all do living with this demon!
    Barbara

  4. Ms. Unknown says:

    I’m glad there are people like me who can understand the constant pain, the foggy states, the heart aches, the aching, burning, throbbing of the muscles the unending battle to make it through today.

    Thanks for sharing with me, I needed to know I’m not alone,. now I’ll share my own story.

    I kept thinking I was just getting more and more fatigued. I found I was waking up going to work, coming home soar and sleeping untill dinner and “then fall asleep on the couch just to be woken up and sent to bed, then start the next day repeating this pattern. I recall telling my doctor that “I was sick and tired of being sick and tired!”
    I knew I was in serious trouble when one morning I found the pancake batter was too heavy to stir! I finally had to give up the job I loved, after the doctor and I realizing that it was not going to get better.

    I done some of my own research on the internet and reading books trying to find something to help me deal with constant pain, sudden cramping, trembling/shakinesss, the feeling of electric jolts run throughout my body and the difficulty I have getting to sleep or just staying focused.

    I know how very upsetting it is when you hear some one (especially a doctor) say ” it’s all in your head” or “she always complains about being in pain, she just wants attention”. I know now that it is somthing real , something called Fibromyalgia, and is not just a figment of my imagination!

    I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia (18 out of 18 tender points) over three years ago. What makes it especially hard for me to cope is that I have mutipal chronic conditions and other alighments including:
    Diabeties, Asthma,
    High Blood Pressure,
    Periferal Neuropathy,
    Carpal Tunnal,
    Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction Syndrome,
    Deperession and more.

    I find it hard to believe that I am still fighting with my insurance company over the disability claim. I only have a problem with my Muscles, my Nerves, my Blood and The Air I Breath, why should I feel sick?

    I appolagize for my rambling on, I just wanted to share my story and to thank you again for your story, and to let others know they are not alone! 🙂

  5. Barbara Keddy
    Barbara Keddy says:

    Dear Ms.Unknown:
    There are millions of others who also can relate to your daily challenges. It is better when we have the diagnosis while at the same time it doesn’t help much to know that it is a chronic condition. Hopefully I have elsewhere provided some helpful hints about trying to soothe an already over stimulated nervous system, like quiet meditation, avoiding overdoing for others as much as possible, gentle massages if they aren’t too expensive for you, mild exercise and trying to unravel whatever in your past history started your nervous system on this path to continuous excitement. It isn’t easy and often is one step forward and two backward. But, we have to go on living as full a life as possible in spite of our struggles. If you are able to buy my book you will read what others have experienced and hopefully their voices will give you some degree of comfort
    You have my very best wishes,
    Barbara

  6. NECEY says:

    IN 2000, I BEGAN YAWNING EXCESSIVELY AT WORK. WHEN I GOT HOME I LAID DOWN FOR A HALF HOUR NAP. MY BOYFRIEND THOUGHT I WAS LAZY AND DEPRESSED. BECAUSE, I AM A NURSE I JUST IGNORED THE FIRST SYMPTOM AND CHALKED IT UP TO GETTING OLDER, WORKING IN A HIGH PACED ER AND WORKING FLEX SHIFTS. SOON I CHANGED TO AN OFFICE JOB. MONDAY THRU FRIDAY, NO WEEKENDS AND 2 HALF DAYS OFF. THE YEARS WENT BY AND I STARTED MY TRAIL OF SYMPTOMS. FATIGUE, ANXIETY, DEPRESSION, WEIGHT GAIN, MUSCLE WEAKNESS, ON AND ON. YOU ALL KNOW THE TRANSPIRATION OF EVENTS. I THOUGHT IT RIDICULOUS THAT I HAD SUCH A WONDERFUL WORK SCHEDULE WITH LESS STRESS AND I ONLY SEEMED TO GET WORSE. IT BECAME DEVASTATING. FINALLY, IN JANUARY OF 2006 AFTER A 2 WEEK VACATION I WAS IN BAD SHAPE. I CALLED MY DOCTOR AND SAID I NEED HELP. I DIDN’T COPE AT FIRST AND THERE ARE STILL DAYS THAT I AM TOO TIRED TO FIGHT. BUT, WITH MUCH RESEARCH AND CONSIDERATION TO A HOLISTIC METHOD OF DEALING I AM FUNCTIONING AT A MUCH HIGHER LEVEL. MY LIST OF TREATMENTS IS FOREVER? IS YOURS? THE ONE THING THAT I HAVE NOTICED ABOUT FM IS THAT THE MALL IS OPEN TO A MULTITUDE OF WAYS TO TRY AND FEEL BETTER. NO ONE THING WILL DO IT. NO ONE PILL. NO ONE TYPE OF REST AND RELAXATION. IT IS DIVERSE AND DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE. I AM STILL WORKING AS A NURSE. I CAN’T RUN THE FLOORS LIKE I USED TO. I’M THIRTY SEVEN AND ADMIT THAT I AM ENVIOUS OF FM FREE NURSES. OLD AND YOUNG. I LOVED THE ER, BUT, I PROBABLY WON’T EVER GET TO GO BACK. MY VISIONS AND DREAMS ARE BEING REMOLDED TO FIT MY FM NATURE. MY BIGGEST FEAR IS NOT BEING ABLE TO SUPPORT MYSELF. SO, I AM LOOKING INTO ANY TYPE OF NURSING CAREER THAT I CAN FIT INTO WITH THIS DIS-ABILITY. I DON’T TELL MY CO-WORKERS ANYMORE ABOUT MY CONDITION. I DON’T WHINE AT WORK ANYMORE. I TAKE A BREAK AWAY FROM EVERYONE’S EYES WHEN I CAN. BUT, SEVERAL NURSES HAVE APPROACHED ME THESE PAST 2 YEARS WITH THE SAME PROBLEM. AND WE, WE ARE BONDING AND SUPPORTING EACH OTHER. HAVING ANOTHER NURSE ON THE FLOOR WITH THIS ISSUE IS A BLESSING. WE KNOW WE ARE NOT ALONG. WE KNOW WHEN WE ARE HAVING A BAD DAY. FIBROFOG? WHEN ONE IS HAVING IT AND I AM NOT, I CAN HELP FINISH WHAT THEY ARE TRYING TO SAY OR THINK. I DON’T WANT ANYONE TO HAVE THIS DIS-EASE. BUT, IF THEY DO I WANT TO KNOW, BECAUSE WE NEED EACH OTHER’S EMOTIONAL AND PHYSICAL SUPPORT TERRIBLY. WELL WISHES TO ALL, NECEY

  7. Barbara Keddy
    Barbara Keddy says:

    Dear Necey: Yours is a similar story for many of us. Trying to keep it quiet until we find someone we can share the experience with as she knows the daily struggles too! It is not surprising that many of us with fibro are nurses, social workers, teachers: all caring professionals who take on the pain of the world. There are both emotional and physical aspects to pain and our brains remembers both. Too much empathy which we can’t shut off; too much overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system; too much cortisol being secreted. Years ago it was all a mystery to me. Now it is becoming a much more clear process and I understand it better. Stay tuned! Hope you enjoy my book and that it too provides answers. Best wishes, Barbara

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