You can’t be blamed for your fibromyalgia, but if you wish to have healthy relationships and manage your symptoms with some success, you do have to take responsibility for it.
Having fibromyalgia is a challenge on so many fronts. Pain, fatigue, the mental and emotional stress, the medications and their side effects, the impact on your ability to earn an income, on your relationships… I could go on. There’s no question it is a lot to manage and it is not fun.
But not taking responsibility for your fibromyalgia puts you in the victim position. What does that mean? See if you recognize any of these feelings.
- Betrayal, or
- Being taken advantage of.
Have any of these emotions taken up residence in your head and your heart? These emotional states are signs that you may be choosing, unconsciously, to react in your life as a victim. This happens when you do not take responsibility for yourself and your illness.
“It is your fibromyalgia,” says Lauren Clucas, South African relationship counsellor and author of the forthcoming book Wanted: How to Create a Relationship that Really Works. “You must take responsibility for what you bring.”
It is important to watch your self-talk around your fibromyalgia or other chronic illness. How does your inner voice speak to and about your illness? Do you ask “why me?” Is it an intruder, or a welcome guest?
If you view your fibromyalgia as an intruder or a nasty bully, Clucas says you are giving your fibro power over your happiness and emotional health.
Back to the welcome guest. You’re probably thinking this is CRAZY. Why would fibromyalgia, or any other chronic illness, with its pain and fatigue and barriers to working be WELCOME?
Clucas explains. “You can view your illness in a detached way. It is not part of you, but visiting. If it is knocking at your door, give it a cup of tea and ask why it has come today.”
If you listen to what your fibromyalgia is telling you about why it has come today, why the flare up is happening now, you might be able to hear it informing you about the nature of the welcome mat you’ve laid. Maybe it is a burst of stress, you’ve not been sleeping well, or your immune system has taken a dip. These are all clues that allow you to observe your actions and behaviours to see how you might intervene in advance and perhaps avoid or reduce the severity of the next flare.
Being responsible for your illness means not engaging in behaviour that you know will trigger a flare or exacerbate your pain and fatigue: drinking coffee when you know you have trouble sleeping, over-exerting yourself repeatedly, consuming foods or alcohol that goad your body into rebellion.
When you take responsibility for your illness, viewing it with detachment as a visitor and not an evil part of you, you give yourself more control over your self-care.
And you give your partner and others with whom you have important relationships the space and freedom to breathe, to talk to you about how your illness affects them, and you can have an open and transparent dialogue about how you can best help each other through the ups and downs that fibro brings with it.
I interviewed Lauren Clucas as part of my research into Friends with Fibro, the book I’m writing about the experiences those of us with fibromyalgia have.