Like many people, I lived in confusion with my chronic pain for some years before I got the diagnosis. When I finally found out that I wasn’t alone, that in fact, my condition had a label and a name “Fibromyalgia”, I did feel somewhat vindicated. However, the next most obvious question was: what to do about it?
I was younger than most when my body seemed to turn against me and the pain started out of the blue. In my final year at university and on a large campus, I suddenly found it difficult just to get around. I could walk only a few steps before the burning pain in my legs seemed to build up and I would have to take a seat. This made previously simple tasks very complicated. Taking transit in rush hour, for example, became a prolonged and sad process. I was unable to stand, but I wasn’t about to ask someone on a full subway car for their seat. Instead, feeling lost in the milieu, I would sit and wait as train after train passed me by, while I looked for one with a free seat. Melodramatic as it may sound, that became very symbolic of my life in general: when illness slows you down for a long time, it starts to feel like life is passing you by.
The chronic pain was a miserable experience but it became compounded by the emotional toll. What a confusion of feelings it was, especially when the diagnosis was still a mystery. No one understood what I was going through, and the symptoms were invisible. I recall one time in a subway elevator, full of elderly folks, when a lady gave me grief for taking up space: “You’re not sick!” she accused me. ‘How do you know?’ I thought miserably.
Up until that point, I had always been a ‘strong’ person. Always playing sports, rarely got ill. I could lift things that other women wouldn’t. The shock of becoming a person who was dependent, incapable, even a burden filled me with so much anxiety, I was an emotional mess. At last I needed a doctor’s note to extend my university final deadlines but when I went to my long-time physician, she was away and someone else was filling in. I could hardly articulate to him what was going on and why I needed the note. He looked somehow amused by my hysteria, and I recall that he told me to get some rest. His dismissive attitude sent me quite over the edge and I left the office hyperventilating. That is something I have only experienced that once in my life.
Perhaps that man did me a favour because I think after that point, I started to look around for alternatives. I started meditating which helped me greatly in dealing with the pain and in beginning to calm my overwrought nervous system. Fibromyalgia is, in fact, the result of an overextended nervous system–we have pushed ourselves too far, taken on too much, kept too much inside, been shocked once too often, lived a too toxic lifestyle, and so on. At this point, anything you can do to calm the nerves is a step in the right direction. Meditation is free, non-toxic, and has great side effects like strengthening the mind and getting you in touch with the inner world instead of obsessing about the outer world.
Mindfulness Meditation such as Vipassana (the practice I was lucky enough to find: http://www.torana.dhamma.org/) provides us with an opportunity to just be in the moment. When we sit in silence, and observe ourselves, we allow nature’s own healing and cleansing energies to rise. Furthermore, we can bring our observations to bear in our conscious lives and become more aware of our thought and habit patterns, which are often destructive. For me, and probably others with Fibromyalgia, there were very deep lessons to be learned about where my pain was actually coming from. I was starting to become empowered as I saw that I had the ability to change my own mind, my own reactions, and in fact I started to make inroads into the pain. I think ‘into’ is a very important word here, because sitting with and actually being with the pain, instead of resisting and trying to get away from it, was instrumental in starting to diffuse it. I recall the phrase ‘what you resist, persists’–I have found this to be true.
As a result of my Fibromyalgia, my life drastically changed. In the long run, it changed for the absolute better. I would never have sought out meditation, relaxation, or homeopathy if illness had not forced me to do so. I was far too cool for any of that in previous years. I was fast and furious and running the wrong way with all of my being. It took some serious pain to put brakes on me.
I found my calling through Fibromyalgia. It turned me into a homeopath. My first prescription was two little pellets of Rhus Tox, a great remedy for joint pains, but with pronounced feeling of restlessness, slight amelioration from motion, and an inability to sit still. That was me to a ‘T’. Sitting still in meditation was almost an impossibility for me and I have no idea still how I managed the full ten day retreat. Homeopathy is a medicine which needs to be individualized, and the Rhus Tox was just what I needed. I am sure the timing was perfect too–everything was aligned for me with that first dose. I was so blown away by the effect of those tiny little pellets that I signed up for homeopathy college within weeks.
Today, I live a completely different life from the one I had before I got sick. I no longer have the pain, and I know how to live and how to take care of myself. I have found some happiness. I still have difficult days but I face them now instead of covering them up, suppressing them or simply running away. It took a lot of work though; a lot of work and a great deal of paying attention to what my body was telling me, instead of trying to fight it. There is a malicious idea floating around out there that disease needs to be fought; that there is some kind of war going on. As a homeopath, I now see that the symptoms of disease are the outer expression of an inner disturbance. They can be taken as a form of communication–the body is showing us what to treat and how to treat it. We need to listen to it in order to heal, though the messages can sometimes be painful. We need to be gentle with ourselves: we are not made of concrete and steel like the modern world.
Everyone’s experience of disease is different but I think there is comfort to be found in reading about someone else’s experience, so I thought it might be worthwhile to write about my story. Having been through it, I know that it is possible to heal from Fibromyalgia, and the more you get involved in the process and help yourself, the better you will do. If you or someone you care about is in a dark place right now, suffering from this condition, just know that there is hope. May you find your healing too. With metta….