If someone you love has fibromyalgia, it can be hard to understand what they’re going through. You know that they are constantly tired. You know that they are in pain. You know that their personality is changing and they experience confusion. Yet, it may be hard for you to believe that someone is actually suffering so much. Chances are, your loved one is frustrated by your lack of understanding. Know that your disbelief and ignorance of fibromyalgia are not uncommon. The condition is notorious for having a credibility problem, even from some physicians. This is because the syndrome is still fairly young. People only started discussing fibromyalgia in the early 1990s, and the American Fibromyalgia Syndrome Association was founded in 1994. Some doctors still don’t view it as a legitimate disorder. Yet, for those who have fibromyalgia, the pain is very real. Even though you may not understand, here are some tips for how to support someone with fibromyalgia.
Three Steps for How to Support Someone with Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia patients experience an emotional toll when they feel like no one believes them or understands what they are going through. Here are three steps for how to support someone with fibromyalgia.
The first and most important step in supporting a loved one is to educate yourself about fibromyalgia. If you understand what fibromyalgia is and how it works, it will help you to be more supportive of your loved oned. So, let’s start with the basics.
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a complex chronic pain disorder that can affect the entire body. It causes pain and tenderness to the touch, and it can also affect people mentally. Symptoms of fibromyalgia include fatigue, struggles with sleeping, stiffness and even cognitive difficulties, and these symptoms can vary in severity. There are an estimated 10 million people in the United States living with fibromyalgia, according to the National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association.
How Fibromyalgia Affects the Brain
The hardest thing to understand about a pain condition is how it can cause memory problems. With fibromyalgia, there really is a thing called fibro fog. Patients actually say that fibro fog is sometimes harder to deal with than the pain! Fibro fog causes short-term memory loss, becoming easily distracted, forgetting plans and struggling to follow conversations. Researchers conducted a study on fibro fog. They used 60 individuals – 30 with fibromyalgia and 30 without it – and researchers found those with fibromyalgia struggled with attention and memory more so than those without it. Unfortunately, there are studies lacking right now to explain what causes fibro fog.
Your loved one is tired all of the time. Perhaps they forget plans you have made together or they cancel often because they don’t feel up to it. All of these things can be frustrating. Now that you understand how fibromyalgia affects the body and the brain, it may easier to be more compassionate. Don’t pity your loved one or yourself for how the condition is affecting your relationship. Simply listen to them, and be sensitive to the situation. Instead of getting frustrated, make sure they know that you support them by offering to help them however you can. Also, help them to fight feelings of isolation.
The third step on how to support someone with fibromyalgia is to listen. If they are frustrated with being tired all of the time, it’s important to let them vent. Part of listening is also finding ways to be positive and encouraging for them. Remind them that despite the challenges, they are not helpless. Help them to see all of the things they can do. This way they can focus on their strengths. Although sometimes it’s hard for fibromyalgia patients to feel up to it, there are things they can do to reduce symptoms such as meditate, yoga, regular exercise, and having a balanced diet. Doing things with them can also be part of learning, loving, and listening when supporting someone with fibromyalgia. Join them for an evening walk, offer to do yoga with them, or support them in a healthier diet.
Do you or someone you love have fibromyalgia? How do you cope with the illness or show your support?