Reprinted with the kind permission of Barbara Keddy.
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear. ~ Mark Twain
All of us with fibromyalgia suffer from repressed emotions and are coping with overstimulation and sensory processing sensitivity. Never has it been so challenging as it has been in the past two weeks with the world on the brink of disaster. What is to be done?
We can’t continue to watch the news on a regular basis without feeling the brunt of worldwide fear, anxieties, hatred, rage, and turmoil. We also can’t hide in isolation from outside influences. We are situated betwixt and between our own personal lifelong anxieties and fearful for the volatile and chaotic nature of current politics.
I have grappled with the realization that we with fibromyalgia have certain personality characteristics in common while at the same time there are many differences among us. Personally, I am an introvert while needing to be around people on my own terms. I have a lively interest in people, but no one is all one thing. Good and bad, simple and complex, happy and sad, afraid and courageous- it’s all a mix.
But, we all have in common our anxiety, hyper-vigilance, and overly emphatic nature. For those reasons, we are sensitive to injustice. We are intuitive about the good and the bad in others and quick to judge ourselves, particularly if we believe we are not courageous. We live in fear we will be found lacking in strength of character, deriding ourselves over even mentioning our symptoms of pain and fatigue.
Living with a chronic dis-ease usually changes our lifestyle and abilities. While in my previous life, I was ‘out there’ fighting for issues of social justice: women’s rights, LGBT issues, race, labor and worker’s groups, I can no longer dredge up the energy, nor do I have the physical ability. From these marginalized groups of people, I would find kindred spirits as they too would no doubt suffer from fibromyalgia in great numbers.
But I leave the struggles to the younger generation although this generation has little to hope for and so little to believe in. My thoughts go to my grandchildren and the chaos they have inherited.
Given that people with fibromyalgia have exceptionally sensitive (pathologically so!) central nervous systems, our inner turmoil leads to flare-ups along with depression and anxiety. Thinking about those who are suffering in war torn countries and no doubt have developed PTSD, who live hopelessly with diseases and despair, I have little compassion for myself living in a peaceful country with universal health care.
Happiness isn’t a natural state for me. I don’t trust it. My fury at injustice must be turned to self-gentleness and I must stop imagining the darkest possible scenario. Currently the volume in my central nervous system is turned up high. So, hope is not an easy trait to develop.
Then I watch those younger and more fit people who are resisting injustice, and I experience a surge of willingness to detach from the bonds that keep my central sensitization in a state of upheaval. I am practicing letting go and living with a bit of hope.
Barbara Keddy is Professor Emeritus, School of Nursing, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Barba holds a BS in Nursing and an MA and PhD in Sociology. She is married, a mother and grandmother living on the east coast of Canada. Barbara has lived with fibromyalgia for about 40 years.