I’ve been thinking about the chicken-and-egg dilemma and wondering which came first. Am I an anxious person because I have fibromyalgia? Or do I have fibromyalgia because I’m an anxious person?
I do not remember a time in my life when I didn’t suffer from anxiety. In childhood, I feared the dark and being alone. In my teens, I agonized over acceptance by others. As a young mother with a colicky baby, I experienced near panic on a daily basis. In adulthood, a responsible job with frequent deadlines eventually resulted in the end of my working life. And now, in retirement, I worry about deteriorating health and outliving my financial resources. From the earliest of these experiences, the result was physical illness.
I often wonder whether everyone has the same anxious thoughts that I do. Could it be that they can ignore them? Could it be that my mind amplifies unpleasant issues to the point where they cause physical symptoms? Perhaps central sensitization extends to feelings just as it does to all of my other senses.
Over the years, several cognitive therapists have identified negative thinking as my issue and have attempted to correct it. I’ve improved to the point of being able to recognize it. But, try as I might, I’ve yet to make significant changes to it. I’ve concluded that it’s just me — the result of my genetics and my life experiences.
Aware that more free time equals more time to worry, my goal in life is to keep busy. That’s also my biggest challenge. I excel at making plans to do this thing or that thing that I’d really like to do. But when the time comes to do it, I often suffer physical symptoms that result in cancellation.
I’ve learned that anxiety can result equally from positive or negative anticipation. So, here’s my dilemma. Do I make plans to do the things I’d like to do, ignoring the fact that the anticipation may be stressful enough to cause physical illness? Or do I limit my life to walking my dog and visiting the library and greatly reduce my opportunities for physical suffering?
When I first recognized the pattern, I pledged to make as few commitments as possible. However, left to spontaneity alone, life can become empty. The result was boredom and loneliness.
Now, I struggle to find a happy medium. I make some commitments, heavily favoring those with no financial penalty for cancellation. Whenever possible, I schedule outings with a group rather than a single person. This way, it’s less disruptive if I need to cancel.
I’ve endeavored to explain my illness to my friends, feeling that they should know what to expect from me. I try to remain upbeat and share only necessary details. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how supportive and understanding they’ve been. Their concern is always with my welfare rather than with any inconvenience they may encounter if I don’t show up.
I’m very grateful that I’ve been blessed with great friends, if not with great health. Perhaps, in time, their support will help to reduce my anxiety and result in fewer physical symptoms.
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.
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