This has been weighing heavy on my mind especially since I have been struggling with it more so recently, so I thought it might be worth sharing with you. Over the last year and a half, I have been struggling with a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. For those of you who are not familiar with it, fibromyalgia is a musculoskeletal pain that comes with debilitating fatigue, depression, and stomach issues (Mayo Clinic, 2017). Coping with it has been nothing short of frustrating. It took six months of agonizing pain, hospital visits, and puzzled doctors, missing weeks’ worth of work, and weekly blood work to finally be treated for it. It is difficult to diagnose since its symptoms mock many other common disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, mononucleosis, Lyme’s disease, and others, and there is no definitive way to test for fibromyalgia. It is a rule out diagnosis, which means I had to basically be tested for everything else first.
After receiving the news, I engaged in a fair amount of self-reflection. A shocking pattern emerged. The fibromyalgia symptoms significantly worsened during times of stress. I was frightened. I constantly have something going on whether it is in my personal life or the nerve-racking lifestyle of a mental health counselor. It is difficult for me to avoid stress, which meant I would likely be encountering the fibromyalgia frequently. Another revelation came upon me that the fibromyalgia would also affect my mental health. I saw it as a weakness, limiting me in my capabilities in every aspect of my life. I was missing two to three days a week at work. I had to cancel plans with friends and family. I could barely get out of bed to take a shower some days to fulfill the most basic of adult responsibilities. It took a toll on my self-esteem, self-worth, and emotional well-being. This started a vicious cycle between my physical and mental health. When I became stressed, my fibromyalgia symptoms worsened. When they worsened, I became stressed out and on and on.
I remembered back to the first day of an undergraduate class I had called physiological psychology. We reviewed two significant philosophies of the mind that dated back to the days of Plato. The first was called “dualism,” meaning that the mind and body were two separate entities. No one soul was attached to any particular body (Robinson, 2016). On the contrary, the other theory describes the “mind-body connection.” The belief is that our emotions, behaviors, and mental state impact our physical well-being and vice versa (Regents of the University of Minnesota, 2016).
There is no cure for fibromyalgia. There are some medications that can help manage the symptoms. Every doctor I have seen since my diagnosis has said the same thing though: appropriate self-care through stress management, exercise, diet, etc.
Moral of the story: It was essential to nurture my overall well-being and take on a holistic approach. However, if a part of my well-being was damaged that day, I could nurture it on the other end. For instance, if my fibromyalgia symptoms were being exacerbated by stress, then I would engage in a relaxing activity that does not require too much physicality like writing, taking a nap, talking to a friend, etc. On the other hand, the days where my mental/emotional health is lagging, I can engage in a physical activity like taking a walk, going to the gym, or playing basketball. By lifting the one, the others will follow.
-The Caring Counselor
Mayo Clinic. (2017). Fibromyalgia. Retrieved July 21, 2017, from Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fibromyalgia/home/ovc-20317786
Regents of the University of Minnesota. (2016). What is the Mind-Body Connection? Retrieved from Taking Charge of Your Health of Well-Being: https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/what-is-the-mind-body-connection
Robinson, H. (2016, February 29). Dualism. Retrieved July 21, 2017, from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/dualism/