Over the past week, there have been several great interactions with both fibromyalgia patients and doctors! I would like to thank Molly of the ABQ Fibro Support Group (and all of the wonderful members) for really kickstarting the education series and for helping to make Khoo Wellness more and more of a community of support and education, in addition to treatment, for fibromyalgia. I would also like to thank Dr. Tom Whalen for joining us on a Friday afternoon talk on the different levels of pain, and tools for improving how we perceive it. Here are a couple of things that have really struck a chord with me.
If you have fibromyalgia, you probably know as many types of pain as Eskimos know types of snow. You may find that you have all kinds of descriptors that would horrify people: feels like my bones are on fire, feels like a knitting needle jammed into the sole of my foot, terrible itching pain that crawls up both arms, that whole body ache like you are sick, the burning dagger jammed into your lower back…. I could go on with the few that I hear regularly, and I’m sure you have a whole book’s worth of your own.
There is a point where description can become consuming. Often you may find yourself wanting to hide away in your house or in bed when you have a flare-up because the world can be too much when added to the pain. Even when you are out, you may have your own distraction method to deal with pain- like constantly counting things to try and ignore it. This is similar to hiding away from people, just in a mental level where you go to a safe place and try to look away. Many of these methods are there because there can be a distinct fear that if you look too deep into your pain that it will devour you.
You may find that when thinking about your pain, it might seem to get worse. That burning dagger stabbing away at you suddenly gets more visceral, and you can feel it. So you try to look away and not think about it too much. Even when pain is not there yet, but you are in a situation where it tends to start up, you wince in advance, like saying, “Ow,” before you stub your toe. Your body is expecting the pain, and tenses up before it happens.
This is pain on more than just a physical level. I say “just” because your pain is very real on a physiological level. You know what you feel. Pain can manifest on other levels as well, such as neurological and emotional. Pain on any of those levels can trigger pain on the others as well, such as when you expect pain to happen (neurological), you can trigger physiological responses in your body that make pain happen. Even holding in anger, guilt, shame, or fear over your pain can cause both neurological changes and physiological changes just as easily as neurological or physiological pain can trigger emotional responses.
Look into yourself. Be a casual observer, not ignoring your pain, but not letting it consume you. Try to understand how your pain is felt in each of your levels, because change can happen to all three levels, and must happen on all three levels, for deep healing to occur.