The twins: Fibromyalgia/ PTSD

“After a traumatic experience, the human system of self-preservation seems to go onto permanent alert, as if the danger might return at any moment”, Judith Lewis Herman

In my book almost a decade ago, I wrote about Gulf War syndrome and the similarities between this condition and fibromyalgia. From the terms ‘shell shock’ and ‘Gulf War syndrome’ has emerged the contemporary ‘Post Traumatic Stress Disorder’  label.  We have now landed firmly on the relationship between these three conditions and fibromyalgia. Years and years of studying and researching on the topic of fibromyalgia has convinced me that PTSD and fibromyalgia are the same thing. There I’ve said it! And, finally others are saying it too. What do all those terms share in common?   How is it that PTSD and fibromyalgia are twined? Wars, abuse, crises, trauma of many sorts take their toll on us all, but it is the highly sensitive person whose psyche becomes over-burdened. Here are the ways in which the two conditions match:

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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.

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Medications, Medications and more Medications: Fibromyalgia Medicalized

“Doctors are men who prescribe medicine of which they know little, to cure diseases of which they know less, in human beings of whom they know nothing”,Voltaire

Those of us with chronic conditions are constantly seeking relief from the myriad of symptoms that make our lives very challenging. Pain, fatigue, lack of physical abilities, sleep disturbances, depression, rashes, to name but a few of the minor to serious struggles with which we are faced lead us to desperately wanting relief in the form of medications. Living with any one of the daily distressing symptoms affects our quality of life and it is little wonder that we seek help in the form of chemicals to help us get through the day. Many, in fact, are essential to our conditions without which we could not survive. Others are prescribed from the sheer frustration of physicians who want to help but medical answers to many perplexing conditions are not yet available to them. Such is the case with fibromyalgia. What to do with a patient who has chronic pain but to prescribe a pain medication, that may or may not help? If the patient cannot sleep there is a solution: sleep medication. Depression and anxiety? Medications for altering moods.The list of medications for all sorts of conditions is limitless. Pharmaceutical companies are big booming businesses whose profits know no bounds.Physicians could not possibly remember the vast array of information that the drug reps tell them about their efficacy or that they learn about on line. More to the point ‘new’ diseases and conditions are constantly being ‘discovered’ for which new drugs must be invented. Read : The Medicalization of Everyday Life by Thomas Szasz, a psychiatrist, whose work in mental illness was compulsory reading for me as a medical sociology student in graduate school, many years ago.

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The multiple emotions of fibromyalgia

“Nothing vivifies, and nothing kills, like emotions”, Joseph Roux

It’s almost the end of December already and I missed writing a blog in November. Seems I was trying to recover from the many crises (or at least perceived crises) in my life. The physiotherapist (Nick) said my nervous system was “completely exhausted” and to rest. For the past few weeks things have finally quieted down and I am having Feldenkrais movement treatments/activities (I am somewhat certain that Tai Chi would be equally as effective, or any kind of movement) to help revitalize me somewhat. The fatigue is slowly dissipating and with it some of the pain from all the hyperactivity and intense stressful emotions in my life. I am back on my recumbent bike a couple of times a week for about 20 minutes a day now (again!).

As I write this I watch little light snow flakes outside; there’s a fire in the fireplace; I have just spent 20 minutes meditating and I am at peace with my heating pad on my shoulders and hot tea to comfort me.  The winter skylight is incredible at dusk. Now that we have had Solstice the days will be getting longer.picture of Rob's flowers and snow from our back yard 002 If only there were more days like this, but of course, crises happen…stuff happens. I can’t stop the world. I am though working on focused practices such as mild exercise and meditation which is what my emotional roller coaster craves and my brain ( that darn amygdala!) has a difficult time understanding. My brain wants to go that well worn path to emotional chaos instead of the new calming pathways I am trying to cultivate. The stresses that many of us experience during the festive season create in us emotions that can make us sick, or conversely could  make us well.

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