Experience has taught me that trading fibro shame for acceptance leads to better quality of life. Is it a factor of my age? The length of time I’ve had fibro? Or is it that I’m in a better state of mental health than when I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2003? I don’t know. But today, I share the fact of my fibromyalgia far more readily, with far less angst, than ever before.
The Shame of Secret
I was working full-time in a fairly high-stress professional job when first diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I told hardly anyone – outside my family, my closest friends, and my boss. Anyone who I didn’t think needed to know? NO WAY I was going to tell.
Partly this was because of my own shame: I had unconsciously bought into the old and outdated view that fibromyalgia was only in my head. I thought it was somehow my fault. I was embarrassed. I was also overly concerned with what others thought. If I hid the truth, I figured life would go on as it always had. But my fibromyalgia symptoms, including widespread pain and debilitating fatigue, had other ideas. They were on fire. I had no idea how to achieve a better quality of life.
Secrets Breed Stress
What I started to realize was that my perceptions and my reluctance to tell people – why I couldn’t go on that 14-hour strenuous hike, or do hot yoga classes on back-to-back days, or why I needed to take a day off work every two weeks to sleep – was actually making my symptoms worse. Because it took enormous energy to keep the secret and manage the fibs I had to tell to cover up my illness. I was always carrying around an additional layer of stress that kept my adrenals pumping and my autoimmune system out of whack.
I’m not suggesting you walk around and blurt out the fact you have fibro to every stranger you meet. Of course, there are limits to what’s necessary or appropriate to share. I don’t talk about my fibro with everyone or in every conversation. But it’s a truth and a reality and it isn’t anything to be ashamed of. The path to a better quality of life is not paved with secrets.
The Acceptance of Share
In my own case, my fear of judgement fuelled my unwillingness to share. And that was tied to the fact I didn’t accept my own condition. Being comfortable saying, “Oh, that’s because I have fibromyalgia,” and then carrying on with the conversation, is a sign of a healthy level of acceptance with your condition.
Matter-of-fact Makes it Easy
My husband John and I recently spent a couple nights staying with the parents of friends of ours: people we hadn’t previously met. Over dinner, as we passed up potatoes and rice and asked for extra veggies, we explained we were following Dr. Junger’s 21-day Clean Gut cleanse. We’ve been loving our green juice for breakfast, salads for lunch, and a green smoothie for dinner. They asked what our objective was in embarking on the diet. In my old life, I would have blathered on in generalities about wellness or maybe weight loss and skipped any mention of my autoimmune disorder entirely.
Instead, I said, “I have fibromyalgia and I’m working to rebalance my gut bacteria to minimize the assault that processed and inflammatory foods have on my disease.” Truthful, matter-of-fact, and the conversation simply flowed naturally. I did not worry about whether they were judging me. It wasn’t relevant. What matters is my own acceptance of my health condition.
Fibromyalgia is a part of my life and I simply must pay attention– I want to pay attention – to managing it. Opening the gates that had been guarding the secret of my fibro is like a weight lifted off my shoulders. My symptoms seem less bothersome and I enjoy a better quality of life as a result.