Writing about Fibromyalgia: The psychological and physiological effects
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”, Maya Angelou
A very interesting interview a while ago on CBC Radio with Michael Enright as host. Dr. Suzanne Koven, who is a Massachusetts General Hospital Writer-in-Residence and a primary care doctor, writes, teaches, and speaks about the healing power of story writing.
She was Enright’s guest. It has allowed me to ponder upon my own need to write about fibromyalgia and in turn for others to comment on my blogs. It becomes a shared community of those of us with chronic pain; it also allows me to reflect upon how I came to this point in life when I have finally completely accepted that I have a lifelong challenge ahead of me.
I frequently review sites about fibromyalgia and while many come and go I wonder at my own need to continue, year after year, to write about the many issues that plague many of us living with this invisible dis-ease. I often become discouraged because most of the searches and comments on an old blog about itching seem to pervade the site, which was and continues to be the most popular topic, much to my surprise.
Of all the symptoms that challenge us, maybe it is itching that has the most physiological and psychological angst associated with it. But, are we all alike in this daily struggle? Or, is there one symptom that hounds us more than others? For me, it is undoubtedly pain. Next, it is the lack of stamina that distresses me since I was once a high-energy person. The past is always there waiting for us, reminiscing about what used to be and lamenting about physiological losses. I have a need to uncover how it all came to be that past events trigger the present.
Life can send us reeling, presenting blows we never recover from, presenting memories that are dependent upon where we are in our lives. Still, I do recognize that life memories are often unreliable. While yet, it is in the storytelling and narrating of my life that I can now see a pattern, a series of events that overwhelmed my ability to deal with sensitive receptors. I reclaim some of this loss through therapeutic writing.
As a mindful writer, I am working to get out of my head and into my body. I know enough ( or not enough!) about neuroplasticity to realize that who I am is malleable and can be changed. The past and the future are not the presents; they are created in the brain. While the past impacts my present, I must “re-engage the healthy self” (Koven interview). This happens for me when I begin ‘narrative therapy’. I don’t want to get stuck there and dwell over and over, but allow my brain to rewire itself so that I no longer see the world in black and white.
I enjoy long comments from readers as it reiterates my view that there is healing power in storytelling. But, in the end, there is nothing but the present moment which, for me, is where I live in springtime. The past is behind me and while it shaped me I have to learn how not to let it affect my catastrophic view of the future. Let me enjoy the beauty of the season.
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