This post is the last of the series on why caregivers should write their stories, caregivers of others and caregivers of yourselves. Three reasons addressed in this series are: to keep a record, to vent (“scream your words on the page rather than hurl them into the air”), and to educate and encourage others in similar situations or who want to learn about them.
Hello, again! If you haven’t read Parts I and II here of my Living with Fibromyalgia, you may wish to before you continue.
I want to start with answering the question: What pain relief intervention helped me the most over the long term? One word, therapy. In the midst of my seventeen-month ordeal of crises (Part I), I got the idea from a nursing student of mine when we were talking about a psychiatrist who specialized in psychopharmacology, the branch that focuses primarily on chemical interactions with the brain. Click on the following photo to enlarge:
Regions of the cerebral cortex associated with pain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Since I’d already tried several pain medications and knew that an imbalance of neurochemicals (particularly serotonin) could be contributing to my pain, I decided to see this physician. I failed to mention that during that period of multiple crises, two people close to me died, one being my mother who passed away two days after our party for our mutual birthday. In addition to pain at that time, I was tired and teary and recognized I needed more help than my internist could give me. I had selected this internist because my insurance plan had changed and did not cover my initial rheumatologist.
The psychiatrist worked with me on medications, but then gave me a referral to a therapist. Me? See a therapist? Yes, me, the teacher of mental health nursing. I went for the workup, thinking I would be merrily on my way after a few visits.
But, having over fifty years of life behind me, I had a lot to discover, cry about, and work through. Once, the therapist said, “I have clients who have gone through much less than you have, and they’ve taken a leave of absence from work.” I quickly reassured him that nurses always show up. We do not call in sick. Ever.
After dealing with my past history, I couldn’t let go of him as a supportive sounding board. And here is the reason why staying in therapy was so helpful. I could unload my yuk stuff in his office, learn more about myself, and spare my husband and family much of my frustration of trying to act normal at home and work when I was tired, in pain, and having trouble sleeping. In fact, my grown kids often say yet today, “Mom, you say you’re having pain, but we don’t see it, so it’s hard for us to appreciate how bad it really is for you.”
In April of 2003, I wrote in my journal: “Owned up to having FMS in therapy session yesterday.” It took me that long, from 1997 to 2003, to fully accept my diagnosis. I could finally move on. But it took until February of 2011 to give up trying to get rid of my pain. I’d tracked down the rheumatologist who diagnosed me in 1997 and, after she’d treated me a few months, and after I was sleeping much better and my hot poker pains had reduced from a 10 to a 4-6, she said to me, “Lois, This may be as good as you get.”
Suddenly, I felt a sense of relief. I could stop running after a cure. I could learn how to live with a pain level hovering around 5.
I am not recommending any treatments for you, but I want to tell you what works for me now to keep my fibro flares under control. Five simple guidelines:
1. Say no (to doing anything that is not necessary for living or does not interest you).
2. Move more (to wipe out the opportunity for feel-sorry-for-myself sedentary days).
3. Eat fewer white sugar/flour foods (to increase energy and decrease fibro fog).
4. Pace activities (so you can enjoy what you do without spending a day in bed in between).
5. Use distraction techniques (to confuse the pain signals in your brain, letting you forget the pain when you’re focusing on something fun).
Being retired, I feel blessed that I have control over my time. Plus, I’m thankful to have a supportive family. I can do most everything I want to do. I’m thankful each day that I can walk, talk, see, hear, and write. And eat! I just don’t do anything too long or too fast or too often. But I do, do. And I sincerely hope and pray, if you are in a painful place, you can experience a goodly measure of relief too.
www.nlm.nih.gov (Search “fibromyalgia)
www.rheumatology.org (Search “fibromyalgia)
I want to say thank you to Annie for giving me the opportunity to guest post on her blog. My writing group has encouraged me for about ten years to chronicle my FMS story, so blogging for Annie motivated me to sit in the chair, finally, and get this summary down on paper and out of my head.
And thank you, readers, for following along! You’re welcome to visit me at my blog.
*Reprinted from my guest post on Annie Nowlin’s Lupus Chronicles blog.