HOW TO GET BETTER WITH FYBROMYALGIA: WHERE TO FOCUS
Anyone who has fybromyalgia (FMS) finds themselves in a world unlike anything they were used to in the past. Often, patients think ‘will I ever feel better’ or ‘is there life after fybromyalgia’. The frustration of not being able to do those things that you were once able to do and the pain involved when you actually do them are enough to send even the most enduring heart into times of depression and anxiety.
In order to cope with any distressing situation that life throws your way, it is important to focus your attention on what is important. With fybromyalgia, what is important is your own well-being. If you are not taking care of yourself and listening to your body, you won’t be able to accomplish those things that require attention, like your family, your job, or your spouse. Even though this sounds a bit selfish, focusing on yourself will actually make you able to give to others. Here are some tips on how to focus your attention.
GET MEDICAL HELP
To find the right doctor for your situation can be a long, arduous process and if you’re feeling discouraged about getting sensitive and helpful medical care, I understand. But most people with FMS eventually do find that doctor who will take the time to understand and help them through this tunnel called fybromyalgia. A doctor is helpful in many ways.
v He or she can make or confirm a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, if you’re not sure.
v A doctor can offer treatments to reduce the symptoms of FMS, especially poor sleep and pain.
v A doctor can help you identify and treat other medical problems that often occur together with fibromyalgia.
v The doctor can provide help for normal medical problems, in other words normal primary care.
Of course, let me say before going on that there is no known cure for fybromyalgia, so there are limits to what your doctor can do. Medical treatment does not treat the disease; it only helps reduce the symptoms. The key to recovery is acceptance of the illness and adaptation to it by means of lifestyle changes.
Before you had fybromyalgia, your life may have been busy, connected, and satisfying. Now that you have this syndrome, you may feel like all that is ended and there is no way to regain the lost time, connections, and self-satisfaction. You feel like your life is out of control. But this can change. An important reminder to anyone with FMS is to focus much of their effort to get better on pacing. The reason: the way you live your life has a big effect on your symptoms and quality of life. In other words, be careful not to experience repeated cycles of push and crash. Don’t go beyond your limits and then be forced to rest because of intense symptoms, usually out of proportion to the overexertion. Being caught in this cycle leaves you feeling that your life is out of control.
Pacing yourself, on the other hand, involves understanding your limits, adapting to them, and gradually extending them as allowed by your body. By pacing consistently, you will experience lower symptoms and avoid swings between push and crash, giving your life stability and predictability. With predictability comes confidence that you can make and honor commitments. It gives you control, the sense that you are in charge of your life, rather than living in response to your symptoms. Also, you are likely to be more productive. Some think that pacing means you get less done. But if you avoid spending lots of time out of commission because of push and crash, you’ll have more time to be active.
STRESS UNDER CONTROL
Because stress is usually the second most powerful symptom intensifier, behind only overdoing, you need to focus a lot of attention on stress management There are several things you can and should try to manage stress. Probably a combination of these would give the most success. Some pacing strategies help, such as taking daily rests, learning to be assertive, and using routine. Other frequently-used stress management approaches include doing a daily relaxation procedure, de-cluttering, limiting exposure to the media, limiting contact with some people, avoiding crowds and noisy places, getting help with household chores, and making mental adjustments (such as letting go of unrealistic expectations).
BUILD A SUPPORT SYSTEM
The fourth area of focus is to get support. Working to improve family relationships and making efforts to build new sources of support are both important. As much as your family loves you, members may not always understand the depth of your disorder. Educating them is a good method but is not always successful.
It is a better idea to have back-ups in case family falls short of helping you. You need to get to know other people with fibromyalgia. They can provide information, practical ideas, understanding, and encouragement. Some people with FMS find professional help from counselors useful as well.
HAVE REALISTIC HOPES AND GOALS
Many times our goals and hopes, as much as they can help us, may be unrealistic. The last area of focus deals with the attitude and approach to take. Progress with fybromyalgia is almost always gradual so an attitude that combines acceptance with hope is necessary. Sometimes it is called acceptance with a fighting spirit. Acceptance is not resignation but rather acknowledging that life has changed and it is necessary to live differently than before. It also maintains the belief that there are things to do that will bring improvement. Medications and self-help strategies can help reduce pain and discomfort, bring greater stability, and lessen psychological suffering.
One woman wrote about the success she had in gaining control over her life, regaining physical comfort, and learning how to control her symptoms. She used the word ‘recovery’ because she has regained a satisfying life. It is just a different life from the one she had before fybromyalgia.