Simplifying with Analogies to Help Others Understand

Simplifying with Analogies to Help Others Understand

Through the Fog

Have you ever thought how much easier it would be if your friends and family could understand a little better what you go through with fibromyalgia? I think one of the best ways to help them is to come up with analogies to which they can relate. Let’s bring our symptoms into their spheres of understanding. Perhaps you’ll find these examples and info an easy way to share.


Let’s say you decided to have a barbecue and you invited about 25 people. Four of your friends said they would come and help. On the day of the barbecue, your friends don’t show up to help. Not only that, but 100 people show up to eat. Talk about overwhelming! That’s what happens when our cells send out too many pain signals (all the people we didn’t invite). We don’t have enough serotonin in our brains to properly process the pain signals that our cells are sending to all parts of our body, where no sign of damage exists. Those are misinterpreted sensations that our nerves and brains turn into actual pain. It’s frustrating that there’s no physical evidence of injury, so people often automatically assume it’s all in our heads.

Good days and bad

Just like our blood pressure or weight can fluctuate during the day or week, we can sometimes do something today that tomorrow is completely impossible. If your sister saw you out to lunch today with a friend, but then you had to cancel a coffee date with her two days later, she will not really get that you are truly a slave to your body. You have no control over when the fatigue or pain will be too much on any given day or even in a moment. Sometimes, we’re in the zone and sometimes we’re not. Others also don’t see that going to their party (where you appeared to be OK) put you in bed for the next several days. Most people tend to put their best face forward in public, and we are no exception.

Oh, the fatigue

If you’ve ever pulled an all-nighter in college to finish a paper or cram for a test, you know. If you’ve ever been up every two hours with a hungry baby. Or, if you’ve ever had to lose sleep because you were caring for someone who was ill. These analogies almost come close to the fatigue that we feel every day. Often, we are working, shopping for our family, cooking dinner, caring for children, etc., and we are always running on empty. When we push ourselves, we always pay the price. For normal people who struggle with the above symptoms, a couple of good nights of sleep will restore your energy and sense of well-being. Those of us with fibromyalgia, however, sometimes have ongoing sleep issues that prevent us from ever feeling refreshed. Issues such as sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome and insomnia, to name a few.

Relating to and understanding fibromyalgia by comparing it to circumstances in your own life will go a long way toward building your compassion for those with chronic illness, and decreasing your judgment about something for which you didn’t have a frame of reference. I’ve always found that analogies work for me in creating “a-ha” moments for things I find hard to grasp. I hope this helps you.


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.


  1. jeremy says:

    is there any thing i can do to exercise without causing my pain to go up another gear at the moment my pain level is 7 out of 10 i am finding it very painful walking with shooting pain going down from my neck down to both feet at the moment i am taking 70mg of morphine twice a day & 40 mg of amytriptiline at night plus pregabalin twice a day and i also take Tramadol 2 four times a day for pain but i am still in pain but with out them i would not be able to get up out of bed

    • Robin Dix says:

      Jeremy I’m so sorry for your depth of pain! Years ago my rheumatologist told me to start with 2 1/2 minutes daily, either walking or on a recumbent bike. Increase by 2 1/2 minutes every week until you get to 30 minutes a day

    • John says:

      Hi Jeremy,
      I am in the same boat. On a ‘good’ day when I can exercise, I tend to push myself, not hard by normal standards but obviously too much as I tend to wind up in bed sometimes for days afterwards.

      Robin is right. Walking is the way to go and I would add that anything beyond that should be kept on the lighter side. Avoid pushing yourself, even if you feel you are having a ‘good’ day until you understand your ‘new’ limits. This is easier said than done but with FM, we must always handle with care.

  2. Loraine says:

    The analogy I use is the flu. I tell them to think of the worse case of achy flu they have ever had and then multiply it by 10. Then I ask them when they had the flu did they feel like doing anything. That seems to give them something they can relate to and has made family and friends much more understanding. Thanks for your post.

  3. Mickey Nice says:

    I gave up trying to explain anything to anyone. It’s not worth. No one can feel your pain. It’s a subjective experience. I used to tell people the pain was like having my skin ripped off my back. That was the best analogy I could think of.

  4. Robert Williams says:

    Hi.where I live the local council workers must of have taken upon themselves and decided every time they see they shout “get a job” even though I am constantly in pain and walk on crutches. I have not reported them as they would probably lose their jobs and pensions. I worked the timber Forrest for 24yrs and another 10years driving Aggregate trucks. Any advice on what to do or say. I do get upset by this heckling.

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