” PTSD is similar to Panic Attacks in that once turned on, the anxiety is fed into a vicious cycle”, David Yeung
Anxiety, depression and panic attacks are triplets. They live together and feed on one another. The sources of these three demons are usually from: childhood experience, past trauma and a family history. While panic attacks are extreme episodes of anxiety and are relatively common in the general population, the frequency of them are noteworthy in those of us with fibromyalgia. We are prone to catastrophic thinking which often initiates extreme anxiety that can be pushed into a genuine panic attack. While the duration of them usually last for a short period of time, those of us with fibromyalgia, PTSD, Chronic Fatigue and Multiple Chemical Sensitivities can experience panic more frequently, and the duration is much longer.
” Trying to eradicate symptoms on the physical level can be extremely important, but there’s more to healing than that; dealing with psychological, emotional and spiritual issues involved in treating sickness is equally important”, Marianne Williamson
I have become discouraged of late with a fibromyalgia group on Face Book. One person asks about a particular symptom and others write in that they too have the symptom. While it helps to know that others are suffering to the same extent, it leaves the person feeling helpless and a victim to the dis-ease. This is especially so when we become focused on symptoms. To be fair, sometimes there are often good suggestions as to how to deal with a particular issue, and for the most part it is a forum for support, that can be comforting. But fibromyalgia is more than just a list of symptoms. Not only do we have many of the same challenges among ourselves, but there are other conditions that are alike and can define us as well. We do not have a disease, but a dis-ease and fibromyalgia is one part of a family of triplets and one other sibling.
“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?
“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 over stimulation and sensory processing sensitivity. Never has it been so challenging as it has been in the past months with the chaos in the world that we hear of almost none stop in the media. 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 knowledge that we with fibromyalgia have certain personality characteristics in common while at the same time there are many differences among us. Many of us are introverts while needing to be around people on our own terms; we crave peace and quiet. Others are extroverts and at the same time are easily over stimulated. But, we all have in common our anxiety, hyper-vigilance, and an overly emphatic, highly sensitive 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 chronic symptoms of pain and fatigue.
“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: