Emotions and fibromyalgia

“Having that sense of anger leads people to actually feel some power in what otherwise is a maddening situation”, Jennifer Lerner

There can be little doubt that emotions play a large part in a fibromyalgia flare-up. The emotions can be happy , sad, fearful, anxious or  any of the myriad of those which affect us through out the day. While I have often written about the ways in which we can work with emotions I have been struck with the continuous evidence based research regarding meditation and exercise and so I try to do so every day.

In an article in the Globe and Mail July, 27th, 2013,  (Focus. p.3) ,written by Sarah Barmak it is said that the study of emotions “is now among the hottest areas of academics”. She has cited the YouTube series of Yale University’s June Gruber called Experts in Emotion.  I can read  and watch this academic research and understand it theoretically, meditate, live in the moment, exercise, but my emotions are becoming more powerful and less able to control than they once were. I willingly allow myself to turn my anxiety into anger and quite frankly it feels good! I can tell myself not to judge and become self critical, to accept that these are passing emotions, not  hard and fast facts, and push them gently aside, but this past year the complex  emotions that have been flooding through my body and brain are often overwhelming. As women we often supress our anger; I no longer want to.

For me the most intense emotion I experience these days is what I call justifiable anger: I am angry that I have lived and continue to live with daily pain and fatigue. I cannot remember a time of my life since I was 25 that I have not experienced pain in one form or another. Now, with aging I find that the pain is not subsiding in spite of all that I do that is helpful for those of us with fibromalgia. What has made me the most angry is the newer challenge of living with heart disease. These are not the golden years. When people tell me I look well, I cannot tell them the truth: most days I feel unwell. I cannot differentiate between the symptoms of  aging, fibromyalgia and heart disease. I have fatigue from all three (and probably from medications). I am taking many medications for my circulatory system while my central nervous system is on fire and hyper alert. People will understand when I say I have had a heart attack but not if I say I have fibromyalgia. After all these years fibromyalgia is highly disregarded; that is the emotion I am feeling about this syndrome: anger. I believe  that when I wrote in my book that fibromyalgia is a gender issue, I think I was right on target. Now I am further angered because women and heart disease is also a women’s issue that has been scarcely addressed, except from a few notables like Carolyn Thomas www.myheartsisters.org .

When I was a child there was a children’s radio program called Maggie Muggins and she ended by saying: “I don’t know what I’ll do tomorrow”. In fact, the same can be said for my emotions these days: I don’t know what I’ll feel tomorrow but I can be sure the emotions will be equally as passionate. Perhaps this passion is not all negative; it might just be a survival tactic. There is after all, justifiable anger. So far I have not shown this emotion but kept on with that stony smile. I hope to burst open some day.2011-2012 202 Vancouver, BC, English Bay




10 thoughts on “Emotions and fibromyalgia

  1. Valda Garner

    Hi Barbara, This getting older isn’t for sissies especially when a chronic illness is involved. When I worked in Behavioral Health there were many women in their 50’s that were suffering from agitated depression because they had suppressed their anger for so many years. It’s funny that you wrote this blog about emotions and that’s the same thing I wrote about not long ago. I do know what you mean about that stoney smile, because no one wants to be with a whiner so I smile in spite of it all. I agree too that women are still singled out as “just hysterical”. I recently started seeing a pain doctor. I dreaded going to his office, because I figured it would be more of the same. I was so surprised that he treated me with dignity and respect. That’s a sad statement that reflects the decline of healthcare. There is a rising number of neurologists that are interested in fibromyalgia so there has seemed to be an increase in research. I am hopeful that we all receive the validation and respect we need to l deal with this disease that tries to rob us of our life. My blood pressure has been elevated and I’m thinking it’s due to increased anxiety. I feel as though I’m coping, but I guess I’m not. Enjoy the heat of your anger, but don’t let it consume you. That can be a detrimental place to reside for very long. Take good care and blessings to you, Valda

  2. Barbara Keddy Post author

    Thanks Valda: You are so right! Wallowing in anger isn’t something that is advisable in the long term. For now it helps keep me from focussed anxiety which is the plague of those of us with chronic conditions. If I had more energy I would be moved to more social action but for now I am letting the anger take over. Part of the process I believe of coming to terms with a second chronic condition, one of which can be helped with medication, the other not so easily handled. At the same time heart disease is life threatening while fibromyalgia is not. Quite a conundrum.

  3. Valda Garner

    Hi Barbara, My blood pressure is up again tonight so I guess it’s back to the Internal Med doctor. I was injured 20 years ago and dealt with Workers’ Compensation . . . my anger gave me the energy I needed to get through those difficult months. One day I woke up and said, “I guess I don’t need my anger any more.” So that’s when I gave it up for the time being. The issues we are dealing with every day are certainly complex and emotionally taxing. In addition, we don’t have the energy we need to cope with everything coming at us every day. It’s no wonder that we end up with secondary health issues that are life threatening. It’s good to talk with you and read your blog. It’s a comfort to know we aren’t alone with this.
    Blessings to you, Valda

  4. Barbara Keddy Post author

    Aw, Valda: Do take care of the blood pressure! 🙁
    I find that often during the day I experience great compassion for even the people who cause me to feel anger, so my anger subsides somewhat. Bureaucrats, politicians who wage wars, people who are gatekeepers in the health care systems, racists, sexist policies and programs- the list is endless of those who cause me to feel anger- I try to think about what pain is motivating them. But, I am told that depression is anger turned inward so I am trying to tell my little heart to be brave and my painful fibro body to accept the few blessings I do have health wise and let a little of the anger spill out. My only sibling, a sister much younger, has MS; I can walk. My young neighbor has cancer and heart failure from her chemo; I have lived longer than she is now -so what is to be done? Nothing but accept what the day brings. It is all relative.
    Love your comments,

  5. Valda Garner

    Hi Barbara, I enjoy your candor and the info from your blog. Sometimes I turn the news off and watch something silly to give me a break from the world’s craziness. All we can do is insulate ourselves as much as possible so it doesn’t make us crazy. I’m so sorry about your sister and your young neighbor. We are all dealt a loaded deck of cards. I try to focus on what I can do and not what I can’t . . . some days that’s a really hard thing to do when so much has been lost. You have been ill twice as long as me and I can’t imagine that. Take good care! Warmly, Valda

  6. Gail

    I have had fibro for over 40 years and although I usually have some pain or itch or burning some place
    I manage to live a very productive life. Years ago when I was very ill and doctors were unable to diagnose
    me they would make me so angry I would vow never to see them again. In the anger I would find something
    that would improve my health and ability to function. Now that I am 72 and can reflect on my life I find many
    blessings in having had limitations. I appreciate those things that I can do, I can be still and smell the roses.
    and I have the discipline to follow dietary restrictions. As Barbara says you can always look and see someone
    who is way worse off than you are. On the light side, you can always tell that your body is still with you because
    of the pain, itching or intensivided senses.

  7. Barbara Keddy Post author

    Thank you Gail. I, like you, am one of the ones who has had this syndrome for many years so we can relate to all the issues that everyone is writing about. From my perspective it doesn’t get easier with aging:-(
    Thanks for your comments!

  8. Barbara Keddy Post author

    Valda, the October edition of Mindful has a wonderful article on anger. I am working on this daily now. As I feel the anger coming up inside me I stop, breathe and ask myself where it is coming from. Trying to live in the moment…it isn’t easy!

  9. Valda Garner

    Barbara, I’ll check on the Mindful publication you reference here. It is unfamiliar to me. Staying in the moment sure is difficult especially since our cultures tend to focus people on the future rather than the present. Emotions can be such a mystery and I am surprised at times when certain emotions seem to appear out of nowhere. Those emotional triggers are frequently rooted in the past and anchored in the present! Amazing. I have found an extraordinary doctor here in Prescott, AZ. He is respectful, kind and competent. What a gift! Receiving validation helps to cool anger from not being understood for so long. I hope you are well! Valda


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