When it comes to fibromyalgia, you may have adjusted to life with chronic pain or other symptoms. As a result, you may find that you say, “No,” to life more than you say, “Yes.” And when you do say, “Yes,” it likely comes with a condition. Consider the following scenarios:
- How is your headache? Have you tried putting an ice pack on your neck?
Yes, but I don’t like the cold.
- You said you have a headache. Have you tried putting a heat pad on your neck?
Yes, but I don’t like the heat.
- It seems that ice cream doesn’t agree with you; when you eat it, you immediately get congested. Have you considered not eating ice cream?
Yes, but I love ice cream. It’s one of my few pleasures in life. Why would I deny myself that pleasure?
Have you ever suggested something to a friend and had them respond, “Yes, but…”? Or, have you yourself made that comment? I call this the Yes, but Syndrome, and I’ve worked hard to put it out of my life — and for good reason.
The Yes, but Syndrome can be a hindrance to personal growth and healing from fibromyalgia, and it can especially rear its ugly head when our options already seem limited, and we’re asked to forego something we enjoy or take on something new. Oftentimes, we may even realize that we’re saying yes, but… But, change is difficult.
Fibromyalgia and the Yes, But Syndrome
As I’ve gotten older (and hopefully a bit wiser), I’ve learned a few ways to counteract the yes, but syndrome, and I’ll share five tips that work for me by alleviating some of the pressures that come with dealing with a chronic illness.
Tip #1. Don’t Worry What Other People Think about You.
“What other people think of you is none of your business.”
I have found this adage to be true. Of course, we want others to think highly of us, to like us, and sometimes even to help us. Yet, when fibromyalgia symptoms flare up and a seemingly normal task becomes impossible, a reasonable response would be to ask for help.
Instead, have you experienced this stinking thinking?
Yes, but what will Susie think if I can’t go pick up the kids this afternoon?
She will think I’m unreliable and not want to let my kids play with hers again.
Then she’ll tell the other moms, and no one will want to have anything to do with us.
We’ll be outcasts. My children will be friendless.
They will grow up to hate me.
Oh, my goodness. Slow down and let’s work through this a bit more.
First, Susie is a mom herself and has probably had many times where plans changed, and she couldn’t do something she said she would.
Secondly, are you really so important that one time having to change your plans (or maybe even more than one time) is going to be the topic of conversation among everyone else? Doubtful. It’s also doubtful that your children will be friendless because your living with fibromyalgia.
Lastly, what others think of you is less important than what you think of yourself. Consider the effort you put into mothering your children, loving your spouse, being part of society. As the old hymn says, “Count your many blessings, name them one by one.” Soon, you’ll surprise yourself with gratitude — gratitude for your family, gratitude for the good days you have, and most importantly, gratitude for YOURSELF.
Instead, try this:
Yes, I am in a flare and cannot drive to pick up the kids at Susie’s.
Yes, I told her I would, and now I can’t, so I must ask Susie to bring them home.
Yes, and I will do something nice for Susie the next good day I have.
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Turn the Yes, but into Yes, and.
You will recognize the following four tips from The Four Agreements.
Tip #2. Be Impeccable with Your Word.
Being impeccable with your word applies to words to and about yourself as well as others. Listen to how you speak to yourself. Be kind to yourself and open to new possibilities. Changing that one little word “but” into “and” can open so many doors for you.
Rather than saying to yourself, “Yes, I’d like to be able to walk 30 minutes a day, but there’s just no way I can,” try “Yes, I’d like to walk 30 minutes a day, and I will start with 10 minutes tomorrow and maybe by next month, I will be up to 30.”
As Miguel Ruiz says, “Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.”
Tip #3. Don’t Take Anything Personally.
When friends stop calling to ask you to join them for lunch because you’ve had to cancel so many times, it’s hard not to take that personally. When you see your son’s sad face upon hearing that once again, you cannot go to his baseball game, how can you not take that personally? When your sister makes a snide comment about there always being dirty dishes in your sink, of course you’ll take that personally.
But seriously, none of that is about you. Go back to tip #1. What others think about you is none of your business. Not all of your friends have stopped calling; some of them check in regularly and understand that some days are better than others. Certainly, your eight-year-old son is sad that you can’t be at Wednesday’s ballgame, but he will be delighted to see you in the bleachers at Saturday’s game. And your sister? Well, she’s still mad at you for something that happened when you were 15 and she was 13. It’s really not about you.
Do the best you can. Wait, that’s tip #5.
Tip #4. Don’t Make Assumptions.
Several years ago, my husband and I bought a car that neither of us really wanted. It was a luxury car way out of our budget and inconsistent with our lifestyle. But I thought he was in love with the car, and he thought I was. We didn’t bother to check in with each other and discuss our misgivings. Instead, we both assumed we knew what the other one wanted. So we bought the car.
Yes, but I thought you wanted that car.
We laugh now about that purchase being our Gift of the Magi moment in that we both wanted the other to be happy.
Soon, we realized, however, that neither of us were all that crazy about the car and that a failure to communicate had cost us much more than Della’s $21. We made a pact then and there to not fall into the trap of assumptions again, but to instead be open and honest with each other. And we got rid of the car.
Tip #5. Always Do Your Best.
Some days, your best will be different than on other days — fibromyalgia treatments and symptom relief tend to fluctuate. Figuring out how to maximize your best self is important. For example, Mondays are difficult for me, so I try not to schedule too many things on Monday. Otherwise, I fear my best will suffer. Thursday is my favorite day of the week, and my best on Thursday is almost always top notch. But if I have a flare on a Thursday, and my best work doesn’t quite match up to last week’s, I still know I did the best I could and it’s okay.
In every situation, do the best you can. Removing yes, but from your vocabulary is a good start. Don’t beat yourself up and remember yes, AND.
What is your yes, and story? We’d love to hear it.
This article was first published on ProHealth.com on February 26, 2019 and was updated on September 18, 2020.
Cindy Leyland serves as the Director of Program Operations at the Center for Practical Bioethics and the PAINS-KC Project Director. She lives in Kansas City with her husband, enjoys hiking, reading, and being Gramma Cindy.