The Stress of Chronic Illness

I love the posts of the Seeking Equilibrium blog. I wanted to share this one on the stress that having fibromyalgia creates for us. I feel like she took the words right out of my mouth!



The stress of chronic illness.

Where do I begin?

Chronic illness:  the invisible shackles that bind us. It’s been said that we “acquire” Fibromyalgia due to stress. What they fail to acknowledge is the stress that chronic pain brings along with it.

One of my favorites is agreeing to something social. Now, in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “should I put several caveats in the agreement so I don’t look like a no-show again?”

It seems that everything is a fight. Not a physical or verbal fight but a fight of circumstances. You feel like you are fighting against the immovable object.  I was driven, competitive and work obsessed. Then I got slammed and it all went out the window. When you have to redefine yourself….well, it isn’t pretty. We go from mach 2 to ZERO and that takes its toll. That alone brings all kinds of stressors. Most of the people I know define themselves by their work and I was no different.

I was in New Home Sales and loved it. It took a long time to get over the fact that I would never man a sales office again. There is a lot of climbing stairs, movement and memory involved. There are days that I still have a tough time dealing with it, not only because of the income, but I loved what I did.

So, back to feeling like cow plop.

When I have something I want to do it’s kind of a crap shoot whether I’ll go. If the pain level is manageable…of course I go….but on any given day….well, that’s up for grabs too. Weather seems to bother me and it’s been haywire lately.

We want to go away and the stress of traveling is just one more thing. When you can’t sit for more than 20 minutes and it’s a five hour flight……what do you do? I don’t love flying on the best of days let alone the worst of them. Just to get the bulkhead seats I had to get a doctor’s note and show medical records for a reason that I have to sit there. Then the humidity levels are much higher than they are where I live……I’m just hoping that I can sit my fanny on a beach and not care how much pain I’m in.

Did we say stress? It seems that everything has stress attached to it. It may not be overt but it’s still there. Why? Because we cannot fly by the seat of our pants anymore. Every little thing has to be planned out and accounted for……and even then it may not work out. I get so tired of being tired and in pain. I want to shake it off and have pain-free fun.

I want to get out and call people and enjoy life. Now, I’m afraid that I’ll be a big drag because I just can’t do what I used to do. Pain, fatigue and nerve damage…..did I say stress?


Everything revolves around me.

That used to be a good thing,

Now, it’s a pain in the fanny.

Notice I said fanny


Quote of the Day – Blessings

A friend had this quote posted on Facebook. I really like it. I’ve been going through a rough spot and this quote reminds me of the silver linings I keep looking for amidst the chaos.

“Our real blessings often appear to us in the shape of pains, losses and disappointments, but let us have patience and we soon shall see them in their proper figures.”
– Joseph Addison

Acceptance, distraction and cognitive therapy lowers pain intensity

Just stumbled upon this article about new research showing that acceptance, distraction and cognitive therapies do help lessen the intensity of pain for chronic pain sufferers. I have found this to be true in my own experience with fibromyalgia. Although I know that acceptance isn’t permanent and some days I won’t accept it and that distractions that work are different for every person. I wanted to share this article with you.

Benefits of cognitive pain relief methods.

Apr. 10, 2013 — Those who accept their pain condition are best able to tolerate pain, while distraction can be the way to lower pain intensity, according to research reported in The Journal of Pain.

A team of German researchers evaluated the most common short-term cognitive pain management techniques for acute pain — acceptance, distraction and cognitive restructuring. They noted that little is known about the relative efficacy of acceptance strategies compared to other cognitive approaches, such as distraction and cognitive restructuring. The objective was to explore the differential short-term effects of these methods in a sample of 109 female students exposed to thermal mode experimental pain stimuli.

As an adjunctive pain treatment, acceptance is intended to disrupt the link between thoughts and behaviors so patients are willing to tolerate pain. The majority of experimental studies have shown that acceptance strategies are more effective at increasing pain tolerance than other pain regulation strategies.

In the study sample, distraction was used to shift attention away from pain stimulation to lessen pain intensity. With cognitive behavioral structuring, patients are trained to alter their appraisals of pain dysfunction in order to improve their ability to cope with pain. Proponents believe that restructuring pain-related thoughts may affect disability-related behavior, such as avoiding work or recreational activities in fear of pain.

Results of the study showed that acceptance led to increased pain tolerance relative to cognitive restructuring and distraction lowered pain intensity compared to acceptance. No significant differences were detected between distraction and acceptance with regard to pain tolerance. The authors concluded that cognitive restructuring was no different from distraction for increasing pain tolerance. They noted that from a clinical perspective knowledge about cognitive pain management strategies can be useful in gauging treatment outcomes and for refining the treatment of chronic pain.

A Little Zen for Today

A little bit of zen for today courtesy of my yoga teacher. I have to remind myself to be in the moment and to breathe, both of which help me manage my fibromyalgia pain.

Look into this moment. You never know what will come next.

You may anticipate but you cannot control it.

Enjoy. Enjoy this moment.

And this one. Breathe!

Relieve Chronic Pain By De-Stressing, Study Says

Relieve Chronic Pain By De-Stressing, Study Says

Destress Pain Management
Living with chronic pain can be truly stressful, but a new study contributes to growing research that managing stress may help reduce discomfort as well. Doctors from the University of Montreal found an association between the intensity of the pain experienced by chronic pain patients and their reported stress levels.

In the small study of just 24 participants, 16 of whom had chronic pain and 18 of whom were healthy control subjects, researchers found that patients who had a smaller hippocampus were more likely to also have higher cortisol levels. And higher levels of the stress hormone, in turn, contribute to increased reported pain scores on a scale of intensity.

“Our study shows that a small hippocampal volume is associated with higher cortisol levels, which lead to increased vulnerability to pain and could increase the risk of developing pain chronicity,” lead author Étienne Vachon-Presseau said in a statement.

Vachon-Presseau and colleagues measured cortisol levels in saliva samples supplied by all study participants. They then asked them to report pain levels, measured hippocampus size using fMRI and tracked response to pain stimuli using another fMRI.

The fMRI tests revealed that subjects with the smallest hippocampus sizes by volume were also more likely to have a greater response to pain in an area of the brain that’s linked to anticipatory anxiety. Subsequently, analysis showed that those patients were also more likely to have higher levels of cortisol.

Previous research has also shown an association between stress response and chronic pain sufferers. Now, many chronic pain specialists recommend a de-stressing practice like meditation to help ease pain response. The researchers hope their study will help support that treatment.
that treatment.

Posted: 03/03/2013 on