The most important lesson I gathered early on, and at times have to be reminded of, is patience. This is important not only to help sort my thoughts, but to keep my body from ramping up with the notorious stress hormones. Feeling stressed will exacerbate pain, depression, anxiety and related autonomic functions (i.e., heart rate, gastrointestinal system).
I try to stay focused on patience, and practice it when others do not understand FM. I try to have patience in dealing with insurance companies, or when having to re-explain your situation to medical personnel. I also try to have patience with myself when I have word recall difficulties, insomnia or feel upset about the fact my body isn’t cooperating.
Another lesson I have learned over the years as my FM symptoms have progressed is the importance of remaining positive. With so many challenges from FM, one can be grasping at straws to find anything remotely positive. I view the glass as half-empty and half-full, while analyzing it to find out why it is partially empty.
Usually when a person feels overwhelmed and has little control over a situation, stress and negative emotions can emerge easily. However, if the perception is altered, that can make all the difference. I know there is nothing more stressful than days when forgetfulness and word-finding difficulty take hold. I have to learn to take a few deep breaths and/or make a joke in order to keep from having a tantrum or crying.
Intertwined with this is the lesson about taking time to see the beauty around me. Feeling well enough to just walk to the mailbox, or play with the puppy lifts my spirits. Enjoying the sights and sounds during a warm spring or summer day also invigorates me. Even during the colder months, I focus heavily on the nostalgia behind warming up by the fire, drinking hot chocolate and the holiday season. Although the holidays are much different now, I still have created some traditions that no illness, or lack of certain loved ones, can erase.
Because I want others to still remember me as a person, I had to remind myself of that fact, too. I am still a wife, daughter, sister-in-law, puppy-mom, friend and scientist. I still have thoughts, opinions and goals that are outside of fibromyalgia. I want to remember that about myself, especially when I have days that are consumed with insurmountable symptoms, or I am feeling melancholy about things I no longer can do.
The past seven years since I went on disability definitely enabled me to focus on myself asa whole person. I was no longer able to divert my attentions to work, school and others. My thoughts and emotions were ever-present and unwilling to be suppressed. I have read this of others who endure a significant change that affects a major aspect of their life, such as an athlete no longer being able to compete, or a musician unable to perform. Their whole identity was consumed in that one area of their life, and they must be forced to do a lot of soul-searching before he/she could begin to piece together a new lifestyle.
This creation of a new lifestyle that is within my means, and still gives me some quality of life, is an ongoing process. Through this transformation, I have gained an inner-strength that has created a buffer from insensitive, disrespectful and uncaring people. While I still cry or feel hurt, it is no longer about me alone, for I am part of a group of others who suffer from FM. It’s a group I am privy to because I share the same illness, yet gain strength from knowing I have support from others just like me.
Note: Fibromyalgia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Fibromyalgia News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to fibromyalgia.