Writing about Fibromyalgia: The psychological and physiological effects

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”, Maya Angelou

A very interesting interview awhile ago on CBC Radio with Michael Enright as host. Dr. Suzanne Koven, who is a Massachusetts  General Hospital Writer-in Residence and a primary care doctor,  writes, teaches and speaks about the healing power of story writing. She was Enright’s guest. It has allowed me to ponder upon my own need to write about fibromyalgia and in turn for others to comment on my blogs. It becomes a shared community of those of us with chronic pain; it also allows me to reflect upon how I came to this point in life when I have finally completely accepted that I have a life long challenge ahead of me.

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Fibromyalgia is NOT a ‘Disease’! Manual therapists to “help”?

“Names are not always what they seem”, Mark Twain

How to go about convincing experts and the general population that fibromyalgia is not a disease, but a Medically Unexplained Syndrome (MUS)? It is in fact, a dis-ease. It is mysterious in the ways in which it exhibits itself with a vast array of features, but the cause can be explained as an uneasy central nervous system! What is implied in that name? Generally it is ‘sore all over’. Fibromyalgia is a compilation of various symptoms such as pain, fatigue, itching, depression, digestive upsets and such a variety of psycho-social- biological challenges that are almost too numerous to cite. The onset :  occurs in a highly sensitive, anxious person, with a chronically hyper-aroused nervous system, the fearful amygdala of the brain in hyper-vigilant mode, and generally, but not exclusively, is brought on after a traumatic event, such as an accident or surgery, divorce or the death of a loved one and especially such traumatic events as wars.. Its twin is PTSD. Over time muscles and subsequently joints become increasingly painful and the quality of life suffers.

Is there a type of person more prone to fibro? Well, an anxious personality is a predisposing factor. Whether or not it is a personality trait that one is born with or acquired is up for debate. The person is a ‘type’, but not all anxious persons have fibromyalgia, however the opposite is true, that is, those with fibromyalgia have a history of anxiety. The mind and the body cannot be separated and are together joined forever. It is not a ‘curable’ dis-ease, but there is life after the diagnosis. So let us lighten up a bit for a few seconds! Bright flamingos should bring a smile to our faces, even if it is temporary ( I took this picture in Paris two years ago. These flamingoes did not have fibromyalgia). The more we smile the more the nervous system tells the brain there isn’t any danger, so relax and breathe. FIBROMYALGIA IS NOT LIFE THREATENING. But, it IS challenging! What is to be done for relief?

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Fibromyalgia: The Mark of Shame?

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”, Maya Angelou

On June 3rd I heard a documentary on CBC radio talking about the mark of shame, the culture of shame and how it makes one feel. There is so much about the visibilities of women’s bodies that cause us to hide  perceived imperfections, in particular the dyeing of our hair so as not to look old, plastic surgery to hide our wrinkles, over use of cosmetics, whitening of our teeth, even the marketing of products to enhance the colour of vaginas!  We can never measure up to the standards set for us by the big businesses of the  multi national corporations  who prey on our insecurities. The cosmetic industry is constantly thinking up new ways to make us feel insecure and shameful if we do not keep up appearances of a youthful woman. We must always be thought of as sexually desirable dictated by our outward appearance. That isn’t to say that I am morally judging those who use whatever means they can to feel good about their outward appearance. Rather, it is meant to point out that we are often prone to hide the fact from ourselves that we cannot stay or look like we are in our 20s forever.While none of this understanding of women’s attempt to look like the Hollywood definition of beauty was any surprise  or new to me, having taught in a women’s studies program for many years, nonetheless it got me to thinking about  conditions that are invisible and about which we have shame because we cannot measure up to standards of health, for example, with fibromyalgia.

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Fibromyalgia and Pain: weather, exercise, stress and excitement

“Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person’s physical, emotional and mental states” , Carol Welch feb-2-07-011

For those of us with FMS acute pain can be exacerbated by weather changes such as rain, exercise that may only be slightly strenuous, minimal or major stress, excitement that may even be happy, flu and colds or other health or emotional upheavals. The list seems endless. The types of pain vary as well, for example, there is a difference between acute and chronic pain.

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