My goal in life was to move beyond the experience of fibromyalgia.
As I moved through my experience of living with fibromyalgia, with that as my goal, I noticed 5 distinct phases that I went through. They were, in essence, 5 steps of empowering myself in relationship to fibromyalgia. These steps are:
- Understanding Fibromyalgia
- Living with Fibromyalgia
- Managing Fibromyalgia
- Healing Fibromyalgia
- Life beyond Fibromyalgia.
In the simplest of terms, fibromyalgia is an experience of multiple physical, emotional and cognitive symptoms including (but not exclusive) to widespread pain, heightened and painful response to pressure, fatigue, sleep disturbance, joint stiffness, difficulty swallowing, constipation and irritable bowel syndrome, bladder abnormalities, numbness and tingling, brain fog, depression, and anxiety. The exact symptoms and severity of symptoms vary from individual to individual. Fibromyalgia is estimated to affect 2-4% of the population and effects 9 women for every man. The term “fibromyalgia” literally means “muscle and connective tissue pain”.
There is no cure for fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is not fatal. My experience is that the symptoms do increase over time if not managed and addressed properly. Diagnosis can be difficult and even after diagnosis, finding a practitioner that truly understands fibromyalgia is rare.
Treatment for Fibromyalgia
Generally treatment for fibromyalgia is management of symptoms via medications and lifestyle management. In the holistic arena you will find acupuncture, herbal treatments, “miracle cures”, chiropractic treatments, diet and exercise recommendations galore, and many countless modalities.
Personally I think that rather than focusing on treating or healing fibromyalgia, we need to focus on healing the individual. I believe that the underlying cause of fibromyalgia can be different for each person so the idea of healing or treating fibromyalgia or the individual symptoms may bring some temporary relief, but do nothing to create permanent or lasting change. Treating symptoms can also detract the attention from identifying the underlying cause and thereby making real progress.
Living with Fibromyalgia
Living with fibromyalgia is a difficult endeavor. In my experience, the symptoms can change radically from day to day, leaving me unsure of what I would be capable of accomplishing on any given day. Fibromyalgia can impact every area of your life including career, family, relationships, hobbies, finances, and self-esteem.
It is difficult if not impossible for someone who does not have fibromyalgia to understand what you are experiencing. Many times I heard, “it is all in your head”, “everyone experiences pain”, “you’re just too sensitive”, or “just get over it”. People rarely understood why I couldn’t keep up with everyone else or often had to say, “I am just going to stay home” simply because I needed to rest. Many times, I would push myself to do more than my body could handle, and end up in extreme pain and miserable. Truthfully, it took me years of suffering before I understood how to live with fibromyalgia.
Slowly, I began to listen to my body and understand the limitations that it imposed on me. When I fought the limitations, I suffered. As I learned to respect my body and the messages it sent me, I began to be able to manage my symptoms so that they were tolerable and that I could maintain a consistent level of functionality. By listening to my body, I found foods that were more supportive and exercise routines that worked for me. I discovered how much sleep I needed and what would disturb or enhance my sleep. I found the kind of regular schedule that would support me in keeping the symptoms at a tolerable level. I discovered what kinds of activities I could engage in and others that I needed to avoid. I could tell when my emotions and anxiety were spiraling out of control and learned ways to pull back to take care of myself. I found tools that helped my body to relax and release pain and tension.
As I listened, I began to hear more. I became aware of unresolved emotional experiences and how to release them. I learned to listen to my mind and become aware of the kinds of thoughts I fed to myself and then slowly rescript my inner dialogue. I learned to how to take care of myself the times that I was severely depressed. I learned how to take my power back and communicate effectively with other.
I think I have learned more from listening to my body than from any book I have ever read. Although, the outside information was valuable and if I asked for it, I would receive information that was helpful to me. I found that most medications did not work for me.
Rebuilding Your Health
Once I accepted the limitations that fibromyalgia imposed on me and learned to manage my experience, I was in a more stable position. From there I could begin to research and experiment and look for the underlying cause of my symptoms.
I had the belief that I could heal myself and I needed/wanted to do that. With this approach, I have been able to root out the underlying causes of my fibromyalgia and put myself on the road to healing. Finding the underlying cause was one step, applying the needed protocols to my life a second step and then re-balancing, detoxing and rebuilding my body was the third step.
Out of my own experiences, I have pulled together the tools and methods that work most effectively as well as an understanding of how to evaluate others as to how to guide and support their exploration.
Life Beyond Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia can be an all-encompassing experience. It can become the center point of our life. While dealing with fibromyalgia, it can be helpful to remember that it isn’t the whole of our life. We need to find outlets for ourselves and our expression that bring love, peace and enjoyment into our lives while on the journey to healing. We also can look beyond the experience of Fibromyalgia and see or envision ourselves whole, healthy and fulfilled.
As a result of having fibromyalgia I explored areas of myself and experiences in my life that have brought me great peace, contentment, empowerment and inner strength. I am a more whole and complete person as a result of my illness. I have learned a great deal about human behavior, health, wellness and spirituality. I have found my own unique voice and each day give way to my authentic self. This is a result of the inner work that I did along the way.
I am grateful for this and love the person who I have become. Healing all parts of myself, physical, emotional, mental, expression and spiritual, became the journey. That journey will continue as I grow and evolve.