The many faces of fibromyalgia

“What’s in a name?”, Shakespeare

The nomenclature of Fibromyalgia can be known as : “Central Sensitization”, “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” , “Cycles of Over-Exertion-Relapse”, “Chronic Fatigue Disorder”, and now a new term: “Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disorder”- all with the same characteristics.  What’s to be done so that we can explain ourselves to others while so many labels of these invisible syndromes abound? In fact, do all these terms mean the same thing? Are they bio-psycho-social in nature yet present with symptoms that are almost identical? The more I read, live with, and experience these conditions the more certain I am that they are linked under the umbrella of “medically unexplained symptoms”, referred to as MUS. It appears to me that there is less understanding of the linkages than ever before as new labels appear. How can we separate the ‘bio’ from the ‘psycho’ ‘social’? Are they all neurological conditions?

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Fibromyalgia and Living in a Chaotic World

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear-not absence of fear”, Mark Twain

All of us with fibromyalgia suffer from repressed emotions, and are coping with overstimulation and sensory processing sensitivity. Never has it been so challenging as it has been in the past two weeks with the world on the brink of disaster. What is to be done? We can’t continue to watch the news on a regular basis without feeling the brunt of world wide fear, anxieties, hatred, rage, and turmoil. We also can’t hide in isolation from outside influences. We are situated betwixt and between our own personal lifelong anxieties and fearful for the volatile and chaotic nature of current politics.

I have grappled with the realization that we with fibromyalgia have certain personality characteristics in common while at the same time there are many differences among us. Personally I am an introvert while needing to be around people on my own terms. I have a lively interest in people, but no one is all one thing. Good and  bad, simple and complex, happy and sad, afraid and courageous- its all a mix. But, we all have in common our anxiety, hyper-vigilance, and overly emphatic nature. For those reasons we are sensitive to injustice. We are intuitive about the good and the bad in others and quick to judge ourselves, particularly if we believe we are not courageous. We live in fear we will be found lacking in strength of character, deriding ourselves over even mentioning our symptoms of pain and fatigue.

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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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