of Barbara Keddy
“After a traumatic experience,
the human system of self-preservation seems to go onto permanent alert,
as if the danger might return at any moment.”
~~~ Judith Lewis Herman ~~~
In my book almost a decade ago, I wrote about Gulf War syndrome and the similarities between this condition and fibromyalgia. From the terms ‘shell shock’ and ‘Gulf War syndrome’ has emerged the contemporary ‘Post Traumatic Stress Disorder’ label. We have now landed firmly on the relationship between these three conditions and fibromyalgia. Years and years of studying and researching on the topic of fibromyalgia has convinced me that PTSD and fibromyalgia are the same thing. There I’ve said it! And, finally others are saying it too. What do all those terms share in common? How is it that PTSD and fibromyalgia are twined? Wars, abuse, crises, trauma of many sorts take their toll on us all, but it is the highly sensitive person whose psyche becomes over-burdened. Here are the ways in which the two conditions match:
Insomnia is insidious, silent and invisible. Worse still are night terrors and dreams that rob peace of mind and wear one down. Not only do physical ailments develop from unrestful sleep, but also emotional problems develop. Things that seem bearable somewhat during the day become unbearable in the dark. Sleep deprivation and other disturbances are common.
Often gripped with the feeling of dread but cannot tell why. There is a constant merry-go-round of fearful thoughts in the brain. Looking constantly for anticipated trouble. A neurotic terror of the unknown is a frequent companion. The world is seen in black and white. The anxiety levels rise to panic. Change is not well tolerated.
Lack of contentment
Achieving even little contentment and peace is a struggle. Living in the moment is difficult as there is anticipation of the possibility that danger lurks around the corner. Living with tension and fear of the future while remembering the past is common.
Lack of resilience
Easily startled, frightened even when not in a dangerous situation. Flashbacks in terms of smells, sights and sounds from shocking, scary or crises once experienced. Negative thoughts about oneself result in being hard on self, mired in depressive thoughts.
Along with these emotional reactions, there are the physical ailments that accompany the emotional ones. Pain, fatigue, abdominal upsets, lack of energy, sensitivity to sounds, smells and frightening sights, uncontrollable itching, tingling of limbs and a myriad of other symptoms are what PTSD and fibromyalgia have in common to a lesser or higher degree.
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About the Author: Barbara Keddy, BSc.N., M.A., Ph.D., Professor Emerita, School of Nursing, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, has lived with fibromyalgia for more than 40 years. Barbara has been interested in social justice issues throughout her professional career, with particular focus on women’s health, resulting in her book Women and Fibromyalgia: Living with an Invisible Dis-ease.