Empathizing with the Pain of Fibromyalgia
In many ways, fibromyalgia is a lot like mental illness – no-one can tell from looking at you that you have it, and there’s no way of proving to people how debilitating it can be. Ironically, depression is a common aspect of fibromyalgia, so in effect you get two invisible illnesses for the price of one. The invisibility of these conditions makes it hard for people to understand the pain you are feeling, and this lack of empathy can make you wish you had something more obvious wrong with you, such as a broken leg. Nice plaster cast, crutches, immediate understanding from everyone who sees you that you have been through an extremely painful ordeal. The other advantage of having a broken leg is that it should heal completely in a reasonable length of time, whereas with fibromyalgia there’s no knowing when, if ever, your symptoms will be resolved.
If you are able to connect with people who have the condition, it can be a great relief to share experiences and know you are talking to someone who understands precisely what your pain is like. Naturally it can be invaluable to find a physician who cares but just because they do care does not mean that showing you empathy is in their wheelhouse. Fortunately doctors are not the only ones who can listen. You may find other people who suffer from different kinds of pain (for example they may hurt more with their joints, while your pain is concentrated in your muscles) but they essentially feel the same quality of pain as you do, and thus can truly empathize. Online forums and support groups can be invaluable ways of connecting with people who know what your pain is like, and you know your feelings will be taken seriously. The key here is to find others who truly want to support each other, not just complain to anyone who will listen.
In contrast, your circle of friends, relations and work colleagues may seem unable to comprehend the pain you have to deal with every day. You do your best to get through each day facing the constant hypersensitivity and discomfort, but it can be such a struggle. A colleague brushes against your leg as they pass, and you have a throbbing pain for the next three hours. You dread having to make a phone call, knowing it will hurt your hand and make your arm ache holding the phone; that your ear will hurt both from the sound going directly to the inner ear and from the pressure of the phone against the external ear.
Your hands hurt and your arms ache as you grate cheese, peel potatoes or whisk eggs when making the dinner. If the cat jumps on your legs when you sit down, you grimace in agony, and you mustn’t forget to warn your child not to hug you too tight at bedtime. You have to sleep with a pillow between your legs because having one leg resting against or on top of another is too painful. You want to sleep but getting comfortable enough to drop off is almost impossible, until you reach the point of exhaustion.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of discomfort when it comes to the life of a fibromyalgia sufferer. There are few mainstream treatments besides painkillers and physical therapy, but specialist clinics like Piedmont Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation have made it their mission to get to the roots of chronic pain and find innovative methods of treating and, where possible, resolving it. When you are looking for relief from fibromyalgia, not only do you want dedicated, specialist medical staff, you also want the reassurance of knowing these people truly understand and respect the seriousness of your condition. At Piedmont PMR, you will find just such understanding and respect, and the most advanced chronic pain treatments available in the world. They understand the difference between having fibromyalgia and fibromyalgia having you. They believe in a holistic model intended to improve your quality of life and are happy to help you find the right tool or treatment that is best for you.