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.

It is a good exercise for us to record all the major transitions and major traumas we have experienced during our life times and how we processed them in our minds. Some were with joy and hope while others were with fear, grief and panic. In fact, many were felt with mixed emotions. But understanding how our brain led us down a certain path will result in insights which led to fibromyalgia. A good therapist can help; talk therapy cannot be underestimated.

About Barbara Keddy

I am a Professor Emeritus, School of Nursing, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. My B.Sc.is in Nursing while my MA. and Ph.D. are in Sociology. I am married, a mother and grandmother living on the east coast of Canada. I have personally lived with fibromyalgia for about 40 years. I published a book with iUniverse in 2007. This book detailed living with this condition and allowed the voices of twenty women who have fibromyalgia to tell their stories.
This entry was posted in abuse, accidents, carolyn Thomas, death of loved ones, divorce, Fibromyalgia, Heart Sisters, job losses, marriage, menstruation, mind/body connection, panic, secondary fibromyalgiia, uncertainty. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Fibromyalgia and major life transitions: accumulated life crises

  1. Heide says:

    I appreciate what you are saying here, and I totally agree that there is a mind/body connection, and by honoring those transitions and events we can better learn to help our bodies through them… However, did you ever notice that the other thing “primary Fibromyalgia” events have in common is that most involve a hospital stay? I don’t claim to know which virus it is or how it works, but I’m pretty sure I acquired Fibromyalgia during my routine surgery in 2004 at a hospital. I have since been diagnosed with CFS which is looking more and more like a viral infection, and I am sure the research linking Fibro to a virus is soon to follow.

    I think that we patients need to give ourselves a break and not constantly assume that every last thing we do is going to stop or start this illness. I live a very _careful_ lifestyle because of that, and I have to really stop and remind myself I may not be as in control as I think. There may well be an element that I cannot influence with my allergen free diet, seeing my counselor, pacing myself, living stress free, by understanding my life transitions, etc. I may not be able to do anything sometimes, and I’m trying to be okay with that too. 🙂

  2. Dear Heide: I appreciate your comments and reflections.I believe that most researchers will now agree that fibro is due to an overstimulated nervous system in a highly sensitive person, not a virus. It can be brought on by major trauma, such as an accident, divorce, death of a loved on, a hospitalization etc. In many cases it comes on gradually after prolonged stress. Some refer to this as primary or secondary. I think a person has a tendency to fibro dependent upon early socialization, but of course the nature/nurture relationship is difficult to be certain about. Many of the books I highlight on some of my blogs would be helpful for you, in particular on mediation and changing the brain. Very best wishes, Barbara

  3. Sarah says:

    Dear Barbara
    The other day I just googled ‘is there any link between sugar and fibroymyalgia’
    Guess what ? Up popped your website!
    From the age of 10 I was acutely aware of my dear father not being completely faithful to my mum and my mum apparently having an inbuilt anger and very stressed. They were obviously to happy. I told no one about this for 12 years after which my father left and married another woman. My mum’s mum also died around the same time.
    My brother had left home by now so I was left at the age of 21/22 to look after a very severely depressed mother, coping with my feelings and trying so hard to love both parents and show kindness to his new wife. Life progressed!

    I have always been sensitive to light and suffer from scotopic sensitivity, where the brains mixes up images and they come back so I see things move and particular black print on a white page. This in of itself is very stressful. The problem was first found in America by a lady called Helen Irlen. Coloured lenses specically for the individual can help a lot, but is very expensive!

    I have since my 20’s experienced the trauma of my brother’s marriage breaking up 20 + years ago, my own first marriage never really getting going before being asked to leave, restarting my life and buying a house on my own, suffering a serious car accident in 1994, followed by a prolonged period of serious physical illness and malnutrition due to being only on £52 a week benefit, with 2 cats to feed as well! Oh by the way, I am from the UK! Following this I started a new job which was dreadful, ending in depression but finally, with a positive move to re-train as an interior decorator, from being a medical secretary up until then. I then met my present husband and all is well there!

    Since marrying we have had to go through some terribly upsetting and prolonged stresses, some due to the pure nastiness of some, but the unavoidable sadness of watching my mother-in-law gradually die over 7 years and in the middle of that my own deaf father dying.

    I have also had a few years ago now a whole winter of chronic bronchitis with a few emergency visits to hospital!
    Last Christmas, I witnessed an extremely traumatic event. A month later I started with pain in legs ……….

    I have always suffered from bad heads. I have usually realised that somebody was suffering and indeed always tend toward the undergo and want to help. I wasn’t a nurse, but being a medical secretary certainly for me meant more than the word suggests.

    I now partly look after my father-in-law’s needs along with my husband and his sisters. I also still have my mum who is refusing to admit that her memory problems are other than normal for her age – long story!

    I have a lovely dog, who gets me out, but not today. I am the sort of person who fights against things and will not give up. I find your many blogs absolutely fascinating and so helpful.

    I am doing all I can to help myself as I have found that doctors are very limited on what they either know or can do.
    I am on Tramadol and Paracetamol together when needed which really does work, Amitryptiline at night to help muscles and sleep, vitamins, Escatilopram which is an antidepressant specifically designed for anxiety, Sumatriptan for migraine when necessary, these are very good, but whether these or alternatives are available in your neck of the woods, who knows.

    Sorry this is so long! This site is better than any support group!

    Hope your winter doesn’t go on too long. For the south coast of England today is very cold with the wind blowing straight from the arctic!

    Central heating is great!

    Keep warm and keep as well as you can and all your readers across the pond!

  4. Thanks Sarah: Enjoy all your comments on several blogs.
    Barbara

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