How does Mindfulness help Fibromyalgia?
If you suffer from fibromyalgia, you will know only too well what if feels like to live with constant pain. On top of this, many of my clients with fibromyalgia cope with extreme fatigue. Or perhaps the pain and fatigue come and go – so you never know what you are going to feel like and planning is really difficult.
It often takes a long time to get a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. After the initial relief of knowing what the matter is, several clients have told me they are then dismayed to find that there is no cure, and few effective treatments.
One of the reasons I trained as a mindfulness teacher was that in my work as a physiotherapist I regularly came in contact with people affected by chronic pain who had been told they would have to learn to live with it – not at all easy when you have no idea how.
What I like about mindfulness is that it teaches practical ways to cope with pain and fatigue. I think that those who can explain this best are those who live with pain or illness, so I am now going to turn to Louisa, who has Fibromyalgia and who has completed my Mindfulness for Health course.
What does fibromyalgia feel like?
Louisa says ‘I felt angry, I felt like I didn’t have control of my life, I felt lonely and I felt jealous of other people’s seemingly picture perfect lives; I know to some that all might seem a tad melodramatic but those negative thoughts consumed my life; they continuously whirred through my head and it felt overwhelming.
Around this time I was experiencing high levels of anxiety and often had panic attacks. Before I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia I also went through an episode of depression and at my lowest point I felt suicidal.’
It is so easy for others to say, ‘it’s only pain’ but things don’t get much worse than what Louisa is describing. If you experience similar feelings, what can you do to help yourself?
How do you learn to ‘live with the pain’?
Here is Louisa’s answer:
What changed the game for me was to learn about mindfulness and meditation. It was like I had been living in a dark room for the past few years and all of a sudden a light had been switched on; I suddenly became aware of the mental torture that I was putting my mind and body through and of the rut that I somehow found myself in. As my awareness grew, I discovered that a huge portion of my day was filled with negative thoughts, often bouncing between bitterly thinking of the past and then panicking about the future. I was always tense and on automatic pilot, going through the motions until I could climb into bed (which is quite odd really as going to bed didn’t bring much relief as I would often struggle to fall asleep or wake up throughout the night).
Can Stress Cause Pain?
Stress in itself may not be actually causing the pain but for Louisa: ‘Stress was a huge trigger to an increase in pain for me’. Reducing the stress, in some circumstances, may also reduce the pain.
Final words from Louisa
‘Accepting your life may never be the same can be a hard thought to overcome but personally, I now realise my life can still be full of amazing things and can still be enjoyed to the full. I know my symptoms are likely to never truly disappear; I’m under no illusion there shall be harder days than others. Rather than think negatively through those times however, I am going to instead focus my energy on listening to my body, giving myself the self-care I deserve and continue to be grateful for every single day. I am determined to live my life.’
Thank you so much Louisa Tomlin. You can read Louisa’s full blog here
Sheila Bond is the founder of Living Well Mindfulness. She is passionate about sharing the benefits of mindfulness to help people to reduce stress and suffering. She runs mindfulness courses in Newbury, Reading and surrounding areas. If you would like advice on any aspect of how mindfulness could help you, don’t hesitate to contact Sheila: firstname.lastname@example.org or 07990 584078.
To find out more about the course Louisa did with Living Well Mindfulness click here