Finding Support for Fibromyalgia
Living with a chronic illness or disability like fibromyalgia can be challenging, but the effects may at times be more challenging than the difficulty itself.
Coworkers, family, and friends may view a disability as a defect or disadvantage, and they may feel pity. On top of this, you will have to adapt your lifestyle and routine to accommodate the illness. Your everyday life may change considerably over time.
When emotional, mental or interpersonal concerns arise as the result of these issues, a therapist or other mental health professional can offer help and support.
How Fibromyalgia Affects Quality of Life
Fibromyalgia affects the muscles and soft tissue, causing widespread muscle and joint pain. You may also experience fatigue and difficulty sleeping. Dealing with fatigue and pain all the time can be stressful.
You likely worry about keeping up with life. Over time, you may become less active and more withdrawn, which can lead to depression.
People diagnosed with fibromyalgia and depression have a hard time with concentration and short-term memory, which make it hard to remember day-to-day things. You might forget little things, like where you put the keys or what you planned for dinner.
Difficulties of Living With Fibromyalgia
When you’re coping with pain and lack of sleep, it’s challenging to function optimally at work or home. You feel frustrated and misunderstood, as many people have difficulty empathizing with this disorder – as there are very few physical signs of illness.
You may be concerned about the stability of your job, whether you can continue to work and whether your employer (or future employers) will discriminate against you.
These frustrations often cause depression and anxiety. Many fibromyalgia patients take antidepressants, which help with pain and fatigue as well as depression.
Self-care is critical in managing fibromyalgia:
On any given “normal” day, the least little thing can trigger a full-blown flare-up leaving you feeling bruised and beaten, to say the least.
- Learn to reduce stress. Overexertion and emotional stress can make fibromyalgia symptoms worse, so it’s good practice to learn how to relax and reduce stress. Saying no without guilt is helpful. Also, people who continue working and other activities do better than those who quit their regular activities. Meditation and deep-breathing exercises also help control stress.
- Get plenty of sleep. Sleep will offset the fatigue of fibromyalgia and help reduce stress.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise helps to reduce stress, depression, and anxiety. You may find exercise difficult at first, but get started gradually and stay with it frequently. Staying moderately active will decrease your symptoms. Walking, swimming, biking, and water aerobics are all appropriate if you have fibromyalgia.
- Pace yourself. Keep your activity level moderate to prevent flares of symptoms.
- Live healthily. Eat wholesome, unprocessed foods, with lots of fruits, veggies, lean protein and whole grains. Limit caffeine intake. Don’t indulge in sweets, carbonated beverages or alcohol. Pursue interests that you enjoy.
Find the Fibromyalgia Support You Need
You can still lead an active, fulfilling life if you have a disability. Legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act protects the rights of people affected by disabilities, and legally prevents discrimination in housing, employment, education, and public facilities.
The diagnosis of a chronic illness may change your life – and even the way you view life, your plans, and relationships. You may doubt your ability to pursue and enjoy intimate relationships or have children. All of this doubt can affect your emotional health.
You may find that family members are either overly concerned or act as if everything is fine. Some people may dismiss your fibromyalgia as something that can be easily overcome. They may want you to “move on” and get past it.
Handling these mixed reactions can be stressful. You may find yourself equally depressed about losing mobility and adjusting to a new self-image.
Therapy and Fibromyalgia Support Groups Can Help
The support of a therapist or other mental health professional can help you adapt and cope with your “new normal.” A mental health professional can help you understand the emotions you’re feeling. You can get guidance in handling situations with family and friends.
A therapist may include your partner, family members, or close friends in a session. You may discuss together how they can best support you, as well as explore their feelings about your diagnosis.
Through support groups or group therapy, you can find a sounding board for handling your everyday issues with people and situations you encounter.
With strong support from family, friends, and therapists – and an optimistic outlook on your future – you can create a life that is healthy and satisfying. You owe it to yourself to find a good therapist. Start by talking to your doctor about the stresses of your life and how it’s affecting your emotional well-being.