|Most of us with FM, discover something rather interesting. That we seem to “get better” as time goes on. Almost all of us can say that we are not as bad off now, as we were years ago, when we were first diagnosed with FM.Now, this brings up several issues that need to be covered, not so much about ourselves, but often about how others feel about us and what they expect of us.
For most of us, the main reason we are “better” off is due to the simple fact we have learned, as time has gone on, how not to wake the dragon. Meaning we have learned to make changes in how we lead our lives, that let the dragon that is FM at least doze, if not sleep.
We have learned, not to overdo for example, even when we feel relatively well. This is frustrating and a hard one to learn, for the simple reason when we do have a “good” day, we tend to try and “make up” for all the things we let slide on the bad days.
This is a mistake however, as we just end up going down for another round of pain and misery. ( See Push crash, on site ) So we learn, once the Dragon is napping, not to walk over and kick it and wake it up again. There is a problem with this stance however, not so much for ourselves, but for others, friends, family and even our Doctors.
The medical society may note the improvement and often makes the mistake of thinking we are “better” and therefore, might cut back on the very medical support we may need to maintain that state of “better.” Our friends and family may take notice and start piling more things on our plate for us to do, and or, cut back on the things they were handling for us, since we “seem” to be better.
This is perfectly understandable, from their point of view, but it is a mistake for them to make the assumption that just because we have finally reached a point were we are not entirely miserable everyday, means that the FM has gone away. As it will certainly prove to us, the first time we try and push ourselves to do things that will wake it up.
We have learned what things help our symptoms and what makes them worse, when it comes to our diet, or sleeping patterns for example. We have learned what actions will demand a high price in pain and have figured out other ways to do them and or, we avoid doing them. Learning to live with FM is an on going process, of self education.
For each of us, that education is one of a kind, as none of us reacts the same way to all things. We cannot even be positive of the same reaction to our behaviors or actions, on any given day, as the daily limits, if you will, can change without notice with FM. They can change on us, day by day or even hour by hour.
This is tough one to figure out, as we have to recognize some very small signs. We tend to learn that we are poking the dragon and to stop doing whatever it is, so that it can doze on, rather than fully wake it up and have it start biting us. We become the best detectives of our own bodies and we can often learn to see even the small signs that tell us, stop doing X or we will wake the dragon.
Passing for normal:
We sometimes make the mistake of thinking, that just because we have somewhat tamed the beast, that we have bested it. This can lead to a very self delusional state called ( Passing for normal on site ). A behavior of which anyone with a disability is familiar, as nearly all of us have tried it at some point.
This “put on” front, can make those around us more comfortable, as it presents them a “face” they can deal with. Which, while it might help others, it does little for us, besides keep the dragon of FM awake and lively for most of us.
Lack of understanding by others:
If we avoid the things that aggravate our FM and do not attempt to do more than is reasonable for our condition, we often can maintain a state of “better” provided however, that we keep right on NOT doing the things that will aggravate it. This is the state that is the most difficult for others to understand.
As we seem to be better, therefore, they assume we are better and their expectations of us, rise. This can lead to some serious problems when we try and explain that no, we cannot do …. fill in the blank …. action, despite the fact that to all appearances, we seem as if we should be perfectly able to do so.
This so called “appearance of normal” leads others, from family, to our doctor to believe we are “faking” the extent of our disablement, to avoid work or actions that we do not want to do. It can lead others to believe that we are just “lazy” or trying to shirk our responsibilities.
This unfortunate side effect can be the hardest hurdle of all for a person with FM. We have finally gotten to a point where we are not in intolerable pain every waking hour and society as a whole, suddenly wants us to tempt fate and behave “normal” again. And since we, if we are wise, we refuse to do so, we must be malingering, as we appear to be in “good” shape. ( You look fine, and why that is a lie, the face of FM on site )
By definition: “Malingering is a medical and psychological term that refers to an individual fabricating or exaggerating the symptoms of mental or physical disorders for a variety of motives, including getting financial compensation (often tied to fraud), avoiding work or military service, obtaining drugs, getting lighter criminal sentences, trying to get out of going to school, or simply to attract attention or sympathy. ” Wikipedia
So there are those who have a short term problem, that will heal, who will “milk” the disabled state, for as long as possible, even to the point doing hurtful things to themselves, to keep the “benefit” of being injured, coming. Now, anyone who deliberately extends a disabled state, when they have the option to be fully healed, has some serious maturity and mental issues, it goes almost without saying.
However, since there are people who do this and it is commonly known that there are such people, it is assumed that we with FM, fall into the same category. This is despite the fact that our FM is not yet able to be cured and appearances not withstanding, has NOT gone away
Catch-22, describing a …. situation which presents the illusion of choice, while preventing any real choice..”
We with FM, find ourselves in what is called in America, a catch 22 situation, meaning … if we seem to be normal, we are expected to behave as if we are healed. Yet if we attempt to do such a thing, we will fall right back into the round of pain and perpetual flares, that we were experiencing at the time we were first diagnosed.
The reason we had so many flares then, is we did not know what we were doing that was setting them off, as we did not understand the disease.
But, since we have learned to make the behavioral and other life style or dietary changes, ( as well as, one hopes, have the proper medical support ) that will allow the dragon to doze, we are damned for our very state of seeming to be near “normal.” And will often be pressured by our family and our doctors to act on that appearance, even though for the most part, that would be to our own self detriment.
So, do not allow your friends, family or your doctor, let your appearance fool them into thinking that everything is fine. You must explain to them, as often as is needed, that yes, you have found a state where your FM is more tolerable. But the only way to keep it that way, is to let the Dragon doze and for them not to try and make you do the things that will wake it up, as it is you, who will pay the price in pain.
Self defeating attitude:
To many, the prior statements are considered self defeating. Meaning, they will tell you that if you accept limits, that you have a self defeating mind set and will “never get better” or worse ” you don’t want to get better” or… you get the drift. The medical society is particularly bad at this, with their attempts to “normalize” us. To the medical world, anything not normal is deviant and needs “correction.”
This is despite the fact that they have yet to offer us anything that comes even close to curing FM. They cannot even agree on the causes of it. Yet we, as the person who has to suffer for overdoing it are expected to “push” ourselves at their command, take whatever drugs they hand us and just ” do what we are told.” It is yet another catch 22, medical style. There is often no good choice.
We are expected by almost everyone, from our family, to our doctor, to push, push push ourselves, whenever possible. Our failure to do so, at any opportunity, means to many, that we have “given up.” Never mind the fact, that we have simply found a balance point with FM, to create the least amount of pain and discomfort, as possible.
My personal advice is … ignore well meaning friends, family and yes, even your doctor, if they attempt to force you back into the same condition you were in, before you understood what FM means and learned how, in some degree, to manage the illness. Let the dragon sleep.