My interest in Fibromyalgia has been long standing so much so that I based my dissertation for my counselling degree and research on Fibromyalgia and its connections with trauma, the aim of this was to specialise in this area with my counselling practice.
According to BUPA around 2 in every 100 people have Fibromyalgia but it could be even more as it can be difficult to diagnose. It is 10 times more common in women than men
It has been called the ‘invisible disease’ which is such a poignant term as it captures the hidden symptoms of Fibromyalgia. Most people associate Fibromyalgia with chronic widespread pain and persistent fatigue, disturbed broken sleep and problems with memory sometimes referred to as ‘Fibro Fog’.
However, Fibromyalgia is a more complex disorder. As if the symptoms such as chronic pain were not enough Fibromyalgia is often linked to mental health illnesses such as depression and anxiety.
So why does it have an effect on mental health?
For those who suffer from Fibromyalgia they live day after day with pain, fatigue and immobility, the bottom line is that dealing with pain day in and day out is emotionally draining and exhausting for sufferers. Many of us who do not suffer from this condition can wake up in the morning and get ready and we take that for granted.
For many Fibromyalgia sufferers when they wake up, they are hoping today will be the day that their pain/fatigue is more manageable to allow them to do simple everyday tasks. Fibromyalgia does not follow any kind of pattern, just because you can perform a particular task on Monday does not mean that you can do it again on Tuesday.
I mentioned about fatigue and many of us will use the word fatigue in a very casual way. The fatigue that is associated with Fibromyalgia is far more than the average person experiences when they feel tired.
Fatigue from Fibromyalgia doesn’t mean you need a quick nap or a cup of coffee. When you have Fibromyalgia, you are constantly combatting a lingering sense of exhaustion. Despite the overwhelming fatigue, the pain and discomfort can keep sufferers from falling and staying asleep. Unfortunately, this results in a vicious cycle, as the lack of rest can worsen the symptoms the next day.
Therefore, over a period of time it has the potential to affect their relationships, their ability to work, to socialise which can make sufferers feel isolated and misunderstood due to the emotional and mental burden this condition can cause.
As if the physical and psychological burdens of Fibromyalgia were not enough, the social stigma surrounding it has to be managed as well. Fibromyalgia is a challenging condition to get a grasp of as it presents a list of symptoms that are difficult to identify and harder to describe.
Much in the same way with mental health issues, imagine trying to explain Fibromyalgia to somebody that has never suffered from it. Due to a lack of understanding and education it can breed misinformation and stigma because those who don’t understand see Fibromyalgia sufferers getting on with daily life, work etc and they appear to look healthy.
What makes matters more complicated, is that for a sufferer pushing themselves to their limits on that particular day can set back their symptoms for weeks or even months.
It can lead to thinly veiled accusations of being a hypochondriac and worse. The reality is that unless people have lived in the same shoes as somebody who has Fibromyalgia or a mental health issue, they will never be able to truly understand.
There are many complex diseases effectively managed through the NHS with support from other health care specialists, Fibromyalgia in this same setting should be approached in a similar style but at present it is not the case.
Studies highlight that there appears to be a lack of an approved framework for the management of Fibromyalgia. Given that most Fibromyalgia sufferers will attend their GP initially there appears to be a lack of knowledge and understanding of the association between trauma and Fibromyalgia.
Therefore, the initial assessment for Fibromyalgia by a GP and subsequently a counsellor does not always involve assessing for trauma and providing trauma focussed therapy as part of the interventions to manage it.
Fibromyalgia is an area that I am passionate about working in with clients who come for counselling and I hope this blog can help create more awareness and understanding about how complex and difficult Fibromyalgia is for those who suffer from it.
If you or someone you know would benefit from speaking to me about the impact Fibromyalgia has had on your mental health and how I can help, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Thank you all again for taking the time to read this blog and for all your continuing support which is so greatly appreciated at E-Therapy Ni.
When you are ready to talk, we are here to listen