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Monday, October 12, 2009

From FMS Self-Help Course: Managing Emotions

Feelings such as worry, frustration, sadness and loss are common and understandable responses to long-term illnesses such as Fibromyalgia and CFS. They are a result of the changes, limitations and uncertainty brought by illness. Managing feelings deserves a place in your self-management plan, just because they are so common.

There are two additional reasons as well. First, CFS and Fibromyalgia often make emotional reactions stronger than they were before and harder to control. People often say they cry more frequently, get upset more easily or have more angry outbursts than before they were ill. The intensification of feelings applies to positive emotions as well as negative, experiences like seeing a sunset or enjoying a family gathering. Any experience that triggers the production of adrenaline intensifies emotions and, often, makes symptoms worse as well.

Second, emotions can interact with symptoms in a vicious cycle. For example, being in constant pain can trigger worries about the future. Worry leads to muscle tension, which, in turn, increases pain. You can interrupt this cycle in several ways, for example by learning relaxation to reduce muscle tension or by changing your “self-talk” to reduce worry.


Depression is common in people with CFS and fibromyalgia. Some of the depression is situational, a reaction to the limits, disruption, losses and uncertainty brought by long-term illness. This type of depression is captured in the remark, “Who could have these conditions and not be depressed?” Self-management strategies are often helpful in response to this type of depression.

Depression may be biochemical, as well, created by changes in the chemistry of the brain. Self-management strategies may also be useful for this type of depression, but treatment normally includes medication, too.

Depression may be triggered by a sense of helplessness, by fear, frustration and anxiety, by loss, or by uncertainty about the future. Signs of depression include feelings of unhappiness or sadness, lack of interest in friends or activities, isolation, suicidal thoughts, and loss of self-esteem. Serious or long-term depression or thoughts of suicide call for immediate help from a doctor, therapist or suicide-prevention service.


CFS and fibromyalgia usually bring many serious losses. We often experience loss of control over our bodies, loss of friends and loss of valued activities. We may be forced to give up our job and thereby lose income, companionship and challenge. And often we have to abandon dreams, thus losing the future we had envisioned for ourselves. In sum, we experience the loss of the person we used to be and the person we hoped to become.

Loss can trigger a variety of reactions, including denial, worry, anger, guilt, and sadness. An individual may experience some, but not necessarily all, of these reactions, may experience some more than once or may feel more than one at the same time. Working through loss is often a several year process, normally ending in acceptance. Acceptance combines recognition that life has changed with a realization of the need to lead a different kind of life than before.

The assignment for this week is to answer and discuss the following questions:

  • What do you do to help yourself feel better when you’re feeling blue?

  • What strategies help you work through the losses brought by your illness?
I will be posting my answers soon. How would you answer these questions?

Love and hugs,

1 comment:

  1. 1) First, I monitor my self-talk - usually not an issue, but I always check that first. If I'm experiencing negative self-talk, addressing that is of utmost importance. "No, I am not worthless, I am ill." "Maybe tomorrow (or next week), I'll be able to ______." "No sense punishing myself more than the fibro does already." etc... I create a "mood playlist" where I start with my current mood, and slowly transition to happier feel-good stuff... I remind myself of my spiritual values, which helps tremendously! Also, getting out of the house, even if I just make hubby drive me around for a while, or just sit in the yard or a park and soak in some sunshine.

    2) There are people missing limbs - I am lucky! There are people starving - I have food! There are people with no shelter - I have a roof! I also look for the positive changes brought on fibro... I have more appreciation for beautiful sunsets, the sounds of the ciccadas in the trees, the things that can make me smile or laugh.

    I'm stubborn, and I don't pick up on subtlety, so in some ways, I think the FMS was a blessing to teach me to slow down and focus more on what is TRULY important. In some ways I am a quick study, but in other ways, I always did have to learn the hard way...


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