Monthly Archives: January 2011

Fibromyalgia, Music and Creativity

“I think I should have no other mortal wants, if I could always have plenty of music. It seems to infuse strength into my limbs and ideas into my brain. Life seems to go on without effort, when I am filled with music”, George Eliot

One aspect of changing the brain ( as we hope to do with fibromyalgia) is to allow the creativity part of our brain to flourish. Dr. Charles Limb, physician and musician has presented much of his research on just this topic! See his exciting new video on TED.

Fibromyalgia and major life transitions: accumulated life crises

“When you’re finished changing,  you’re finished”, Benjamin Franklin

It really is all about the brain and how new pathways can become established and old ones can be paths less travelled. So many report their fibromyalgia began with an accident, surgery, violence or another episodic event that was physically shocking to the nervous system. Some call this ‘primary fibromyalgia’. However, fewer report that major life changes like marriages, parenthood, divorces, job losses and changes, loss of loved ones, chronic illnesses, widowhood, moves, menopause, retirement, even significant birthdays, among many others, can be equally as traumatic to the nervous system. Like long term anxiety and stress , generally these are slower processes for fibromyalgia to develop and are often referred to as ‘secondary’ fibromyalgia.

The brain needing to adjust to a new life circumstance usually does not do this very quickly. Uncertainty about the new transition develops and for the person with fibromyalgia or prone to it, anxiety brings about hyper-arousal of the nervous system, coming from a place of fear. This is not about the separation of mind/body, but rather to point out that while an assault to the body can bring about fibromyalgia for those who are predisposed to it, so too can a crisis in transitioning from one aspect of life to another. It’s about seeing the new with some degree of promise and hope. It’s about seeing the rainbow somewhere on the horizon, even if there is grief, pain and sadness associated with the change.

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Fibromyalgia and Highly Sensitive Persons: “Orchid Children”

“The flourishing orchid spreads out its fragrance”, Confucius

In the January 1, 2011 edition of The Globe and Mail A4 an article has resonated with me that is tied in to the issues I wrote about in my book. Based upon the work of Elaine Aron and The Highly Sensitive Person I developed a theory about the cause of fibromyalgia. In my view this condition resonates with those of us with an easily aroused nervous system and we are those  ‘highly sensitive persons’. Nothing I have read to date nor speculated about has changed my opinion, in fact the opposite has occurred. I am now more convinced from learning more and more regarding the revolutionary new brain research and my own observations from decades of living with fibromyalgia.

The article written by Anne McIlroy is entitled How to raise an ‘orchid child’ to blossom. I love the new term ‘orchid child’ as it is indicative of the sensitive child who is like a hot house plant. This term was described to me by one of the women I interviewed in the book as she described her younger years, and how her mother had used that language to describe her. Aron “now calls the trait sensory-processing sensitivity “, writes McIlroy. I have read this article with great interest and remembering my own childhood I am listing here certain criteria for the orchid child, all of which describe me as a child. I invite others to see the extent to which they too also describe themselves in this way. Did you/do you: “Notice the slightest unusual odour? Prefer quiet play? Complain about scratching clothing, tags in clothes or seams in socks? Startle easily? Perform best when strangers aren’t around? Feel things deeply? Notice when others are in distress? Have trouble falling asleep after an exciting day? “. Are you: Sensitive to pain? A perfectionist? Bothered by noisy places? Without doubt these are the ways in which most people with fibromyalgia would describe themselves. Were those of us with fibromyalgia orchid children? Often used as a symbol for spring and associated with the beauty of women, an orchid is a lovely image to embrace. It has been written that an orchid is a “flower of noble character”. This image is of a fragile plant that needs just the exact amount of light and nourishment in order to blossom, but not wilt.

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