” Patience is a conquering virtue”, Geoffrey Chaucer
So, the hip replacement happened almost three weeks ago. I had hoped that when I took my first step post operatively I would not have pain. So many people told me that would happen. I should have known better. Of course there is still pain. It is too soon for me to know the nature of it. Is it fibromyalgia? The scar? The hip itself? I thought I was the expert of my own body but it has now had an assault of a different nature. I believe I will have a handle on it in a few more weeks. For now, I am trying to live every day in a slower manner. At first I rushed through walking, stopped using the walker too soon and developed shin splints. It is my misfortune I am not patient and calm. I have learned even more about this highly motivated personality of mine. Are all of us with fibromyalgia this energetic type who suffers because we rush through life?
It is a beautiful summer day with a slight breeze. Time to heal.
“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:
“America is one of the few advanced nations that allow direct advertising of prescription drugs, Robert Reich
BigPharma makes huge profits from those of us suffering from chronic pain, fatigue, depression, anxiety, itching, digestive issues- to name a few of the common symptoms of fibromyalgia. Every day we are inundated with advertisements about prescription drugs that would alleviate these symptoms. Equally as rich is the vitamin industry which advocates specific supplements for the treatment of fibromyalgia, few of which are science based. Generally we take them willy nilly without any idea if they are helpful or not.
“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.
“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.
“Life has got to be lived-that’s all there is to it. At seventy, I would say that advantage is that you take life more calmly. You know that “this,too, shall pass!”, Eleanor Roosevelt
In my book I write about the confusion in the research regarding whether or not fibromyalgia improves (or not) with aging. I now know that there is no easy answer to that question and that it may improve for some but for many the opposite is true. Aging brings about its own aches, pains and fatigue that often cannot be differentiated from those of fibromyalgia. In fact, both may be exacerbated as one ages.
” My friend…care for your psyche…know thyself, for once we know ourselves, we may learn how to care for ourselves”, Socrates
Fibromyalgia does not allow for any kind of scientific tests to aid in making the diagnosis of the syndrome. It is not a disease, but a broad spectrum of ‘symptoms’ which appear to be somewhat universal, that is, primarily pain, fatigue, sleeplessness and often depression.
“Memory, the warder of the brain”,William Shakespeare
This is it!!! In my view this is the most significant in-sight I have had about the pain of fibromyalgia. It has been a long and interesting journey beginning with my book in which I laid the foundation about why women are more prone to developing FMS and my conclusion that it is actually caused by an over-aroused nervous system. However, while this was the first step, and the primary one, more has been revealed to me and I am very excited over the unlimited hope there could be for us all. I still don’t have all the answers and it may be that I am presenting information that is not quite accurate, but it has been a steep learning curve and requires much un-learning, which is said to be more difficult than learning. It all began with my physiotherapist, Nick Matheson who brought me to a path which I had never travelled down before, that is, to explore the relationship of pain and the brain, rather than looking simply at fibromyalgia as the result of a hyper-aroused nervous system. The journey down this path is not yet complete so I welcome comments from others who are more learned in this domain than I am.