When a Loved One Has Fibromyalgia

There are millions of Americans suffering from fibromyalgia, a disease affecting the musculoskeletal system. The vast majority of sufferers are women who experience significant pain and fatigue as a result. These same women often find it difficult to manage daily activities and tasks. Unfortunately, fibromyalgia has not been heavily researched and there is no known cure.

While the disease can be managed, one of the most crucial aspects for a fibromyalgia sufferer is a strong support system. Often, women suffer silently because they do not want to be viewed as whining or complaining. Adding to the difficulty is the fact that fibromyalgia does not cause visible symptoms. Instead, those with the disease may appear perfectly healthy.

If someone in your life has fibromyalgia, here are a few things they wish you knew or understood:

They Really Can’t Do Everything

Even though they appear healthy, a fibromyalgia sufferer experiencing a flare may be unable to perform common, everyday activities or tasks. This is true at work, at home, or in various other social settings.

If your co-worker suffers from fibromyalgia and is unable to work for a few days, it is legitimate. Those with fibro would much rather be at work interacting with others than be at home, isolated and in pain. If your co-worker asks for help with something physical, be understanding. It isn’t easy to ask for help with something that should be simple, like carrying a box. Many sufferers try to conceal the extent of their pain and will push their bodies beyond comfort to avoid asking for assistance. When they ask, it’s usually because they just can’t accomplish what they need to do.

If your spouse has fibro, be understanding if the laundry isn’t folded or dinner isn’t ready one day. She would much rather be able to do her normal activities than be in pain. At the same time, be aware that she probably already feels depressed at not being able to handle everyday activities. Help with or take over more physical activities without making a big deal of it.

If a friend has fibromyalgia, plans aren’t cancelled on a whim. Instead, your friend is probably experiencing a flare and is unable to manage social activities. The sense of isolation can be intense, especially for someone experiencing severe symptoms. An understanding friend who drops by or calls can be incredibly positive during a flare.

They Fight Depression

There is a statistical correlation between fibromyalgia and depression. The link is certainly understandable since chronic pain and social isolation are part of the disease. If someone in your life has fibromyalgia and struggles with depression, it’s not in their head. Instead, they are dealing with a life-altering medical condition. While fibro is not fatal or life-threatening, the impacts of the disease can have a tremendous impact on mood and behavior. Those with mild symptoms may still experience depression when the disease flares, while those with severe symptoms likely deal with depression regularly.

It Hurts – Physically and Emotionally

Again, this may seem obvious since chronic pain is one of the symptoms of the disease. But to put it in context, someone with fibromyalgia may experience excruciating pain from a friendly hug. They also typically have ‘tender spots’ on their body that cannot stand any physical pressure. Needless to say, this also leads to isolation. Human beings need physical contact and affection, but often those with fibromyalgia avoid this in the hopes of avoiding pain. If someone in your life suffers from fibro, don’t be afraid to offer a gentle hug or other physical contact. At the same time, be aware of their physical reaction and limitations. Some days are better than others.

Emotionally, those with fibro may experience pain on multiple levels. Not only is the pain a factor affecting their emotions, but also the reactions of others in their lives can impact them. Because the disease is not visible, many fibromyalgia sufferers experience a lack of understanding from others in their lives and may experience hurt or anxiety as a result. When someone important to you doesn’t believe you are in pain or blames you for being unable to complete normal activities, it hurts emotionally. At the same time, the frustration and limitations of the disease can cause emotional pain. For example, a mother who is unable to pick up her toddler hurts emotionally. At the same time, a mother who is unable to take her teenage child to practice driving hurts emotionally.

While some of these items may seem obvious, many sufferers of fibromyalgia often report a lack of understanding of these basic components. Again, because the disease does not have visible symptoms, those who care for someone with fibro may not be aware of the extent their loved one suffers. Taking a few moments to do talk honestly with a fibromyalgia sufferer and gain better understanding of what they’re experiencing may make a huge difference in their day, week, or life.

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