Fibromyalgically Sexy! (bet you haven’t seen those two words in a sentence together before!)

It’s been a long, exhausting day. It’s only 9pm, but you feel like it’s 4 in the morning and you’re ready to fall over. Suddenly your other half looks at you in that way, smiles and strokes your arm, and you know they want to make love, but all you can do is stare at them in shock.

Do you NOT know how I’m feeling?

Decreased sexual interest is not a common characteristic of FM. Nonetheless, a 2003 Brazilian study, involving women in their 40s and 50s, half of whom had FM and half of whom did not, found that the healthy group was likelier to have had a regular sexual relationship in the last six months than those with FM. The FM group members were less satisfied with their sex life, had more pain during intercourse, experienced more fatigue during sexual intimacy, and were less likely to initiate sexual intimacy than healthy women.

We already know that FM is more foe than friend.  While many of us are too tired for sex, it is the muscle pain that leads to pressure and a squeezing of the pelvic area and lower back that ultimately result in muscle cramping during sexual intercourse. This naturally causes a great deal of discomfort for an individual with FM, making it difficult to engage in certain sexual behaviours.

Sex eventually becomes something that is no longer pleasurable (I can’t believe I said that!), but a negative experience. One’s natural tendency is to avoid such physically intimate situations, especially given that one is too tired or sore for sex. So, who can be bothered?

Further, taking a toll on one’s sex life are FM medications that decrease libido and a man’s ability to attain or maintain erection. Anti-depressants can also take a toll on one’s sexual functioning. A person living with FM may react negatively to bodily changes, like weight changes and the loss of muscle mass.

As lovers feel less connected in the boudoir, their sexual relationship takes a hit (ie: unless they take steps to stay mentally and spiritually connected while attempting to be physically intimate). It’s important to realise that the release of hormones and endorphins, natural opioids, during sex can help to relieve FM symptoms, like pain and depression, and boosting well-being. This double-sided sword is that while sex can relieve symptoms of FM, like pain and depression, FM itself results in a decreased libido, fatigue and pain that hinder the individual’s desire and ability to engage in sexual intercourse.

Maintaining your sex life is vital to your health and well-being. In order to have a healthy sex life, why not try some of these pointers:

  1. Practice acceptance. Adapt. Make peace with the fact that you need to deal with this condition, and then allow yourself to reclaim your life in every way.
  2. Maintain a regiment that helps you to feel good about yourself – not necessarily just grooming. Sometimes you need to treat yourself to feel good. Take yourself off for a hot oil massage or a manicure.
  3. Stay physically active, preferably with your partner, as much as possible, as another way to feel better about yourself, possibly boosting your sex drive.
  4. Manage stress with relaxation techniques like meditation.
  5. Talk to your doctor about how your condition is affecting your sex life, including any medications that may be at play.
  6. Arm yourself with information. Become educated about your condition and how FM impacts your sexuality and sexual expression. This is a must in talking to your partner about everything that’s taking place. Being informed can also help to alleviate your lover’s concerns, helping both of you to stay emotionally connected.
  7. Allow your partner to be more active during sex if possible (Absolutely nothing bad about THAT!)
  8. Plan for sex after luxuriating in a warm bath or using a moist heat application, both of which ease FM pain, inflammation, muscle spasms, and stiffness.
  9. Experiment with different sexual positions. There are plenty of activities and positions that are ideal for fatigue; and many ways to avoid painful sex. And have fun trying them ALL out!
  10. Enjoy each other despite flare ups. Part of this is not being so goal-oriented during a love-making session. Allow things to happen as they can.
  11. Stay physically connected by just cuddling (unless such is not made possible by allondynia, where the brain misinterprets neutral or pleasant stimuli for pain).

Finally? Don’t give up. It might feel like you’re never going to want to have sex ever again – but that’s the fibro talking, not you. Lust strikes at the oddest moment, and people can have sex in a myriad of ways. So have fun exploring what works best for you. and you’ll feel IT again. And when you do, take advantage of it, and enjoy it!

N.B. This whole post (and the research involved) developed from me wanting to tell you about the new thongs/g-strings now available in my shop. However, as I looked into it more, it became increasingly difficult to ask if you were feeling unapologetically naughty. Hmm – obviously, I did anyway.

Started One Place…Finished Elsewhere

And back from Pilates

…having first asked them to display some Awareness:

But this post isn’t about the Awareness Campaign, it’s about my lousy night’s sleep last night…you know that sleep where you feel that you’re only ‘drowsing’ (is that a real word?) in and out, where anything can and does wake you, where you open your eyes and you’re still too tired to move or get up but you can’t fall back to sleep properly, where it feels like hours but it’s only been 4 minutes since you looked at the clock, where you never feel refreshed; and where you still have highly vivid dreams.

I am assuming that all of this is because I didn’t take my zolpidem last night and went with the melatonin – but I fell asleep well enough, I just couldn’t stay asleep……And I’m so tired but, at least, I know why.

I have been involved in some very carefully plotted murders, ending up by me running into a court and interrupting, holding a milk carton, and telling them to wait in a very dramatic turn of events.Think black and white movie a la 12 Angry Men, but with loads of action scenes a la NCIS and Criminal Minds; then add strobe.

It’s very difficult to watch and it hurts my head and my eyes, but I can’t really do anything about it as it’s playing on the huge screen in my head.

I always wake up before I know what happens next – no matter how much I fight to get back to that place in the movie. I don’t know if I actually wake up or if I was dreaming in my dream of me dreaming and waking up. All I know is that when I finally wake up (properly), I feel like I have done some big time running and thinking!

It is with that background that I attended Pilates today. On my walk to the gym, my stomach muscles began protesting – how did they know where I was going? It’s been a week since the previous class, so I had thought that any left-over delayed onset muscle soreness would have disappeared – WRONG! the minute I tried to do anything from the table top position (hee! hee! aren’t I the expert?), my transversus abdominus and internal oblique muscles began to scream. I would have thought that I would have been able to do more (as compared the previous class) this week – WRONG again! Not only did everything hurt more but I seemed to be much more uncoordinated. My entire balance was off, way off! And the room was spinning before my eyes after every new movement.

Think this will turn me off it? Not yet, I’m going back Thursday evening – the stretching still felt amazing (at the time, anyway)!

Circuitously Healthy

I have been working on being as pro-active as possible in my battle against FM: I’ve given up Pepsi-Max, I’m exercising my little heart out and I’m alternating therapy. I’ve been trying to change my diet and introduce more vegetables. When I went on that lunch with Thais, I had an absolutely amazing Harvest Pie – loaded with a massive amount of vegetables (you have no idea how hard that is for me to say!) Since then I have been trying to replicate that pie (and I DON’T cook) in both a pie and muffin version. In the process, I would not be under-estimating that I have thrown away about $80 of ingredients. So, that’s it – I am not trying again. I shall stick to the packet cake section of the supermarket (although one version of a pie was not bad)!

Anyway, back to the point, getting healthy. Yesterday I visited the doctor. As a side issue, I asked about melatonin. She was all for it and promptly gave me a script for Circadin. The active ingredient in Circadin is melatonin.

Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally by the human body. However, the amount of melatonin an individual’s body produces decreases with age.

Melatonin is secreted by the pineal gland (a hormone-producing gland in the brain) according to a circadian rhythm – that is, a time pattern that is repeated each day. The pineal gland begins secreting melatonin each day in the evening. Secretion peaks in the early hours of the morning (2–4 am), then diminishes in the remainder of the night and remains low throughout the day, before melatonin secretion commences again the following evening.

Melatonin, both naturally produced and added to the body in medication, functions to control the body’s circadian rhythm (its rhythm over a 24 hour period, including patterns of sleep and wakefulness). It also controls the body’s response to the dark-light cycle. It induces a hypnotic effect and increases sleepiness.

It’s very expensive for a drug that isn’t really a drug ($38.40). In fact, it is more than double the Zolpidem (Stilnox). I have to take it between one – two hours before bed-time, which means a) I have to remember, and b) I have to plan it, rather than just taking it and falling asleep almost immediately. I’ll have to let you know how this one goes.

And, once again, I got side-tracked…getting healthy! Despite all the complaints and pain during the last week, I have not been discouraged and I am about to embark upon my second Pilates class – hmmm…really, really long way to tell you that, huh?

Good Pain to You All!

Yippee! I have a day off! Yes, I realise that I’m not working but I’ve been filling my days with Pilates, acupuncture, doctors’ visits, warm water classes, babysitting, etc. So, today is all mine!

I just woke up and spent two hours trying to work out how to get of bed. I couldn’t sit myself up. Damn Joseph Pilates! The muscles deep, deep (under all and any fat) inside my tummy have said ‘No More!’ The pains are right where my appendix scar is (on the right side – and before they did it laproscopically) and the mirror image on my left side.  I need one of those metal thingys that they have above hospital beds for patients to lift themselves up.

When you exercise, your abdominal muscles contract and expand over and over again. Repeating an activity several times causes the tissue fibres in your muscles to tear at the microscopic level. This is how you build muscle and bulk up. But it can also be (slightly?) painful – I can’t cough without feeling excruciating pain tearing at my insides; and I can’t sit upright (I can sit hunched over or I can lean back against the couch).

Pain is your body’s way of telling you that there is something wrong, but not all pain is bad. Many people seek out exercise that gives them the ‘good pain factor’ (WHAT-THE-?) as they like to feel that they have worked themselves hard.  So how are we supposed to distinguish good pain from bad pain?

Good pain feels like a moderate to strong discomfort (sometimes burning as in lactic acid build up sensation) in the muscles you are working and should go away after discontinuing the movement.  Any delayed onset muscle soreness, as a result of the exercises session, should disappear within a day or two after exercise. Ummm, oops, I may have overdone it (again?)

So between attempts at getting out of bed and dozing, I finally worked out that I can bend my legs (no lifting them) and roll onto my side, then I have to unfold my legs and angle them over the side of the bed, and push myself up using my elbows – long process but I’m up!

And now it’s my day off – so I have time (and maybe the energy) to hang out my washing, do another load, pick up the clean clothes that I had thrown on my bed so I would put them away before bed (two nights ago) but, instead just shoved them onto the floor. I want to attempt to put my FM Awareness nail decals on. Oh, yeah, Passover starts tonight so early dinner at my Dad’s; and I have to remember to pick up the flowers for Dad’s partner, Yvonne.

Umm, did anyone say day off?

Happy Easter and Passover to you all!

Pilates Pleasure

Yesterday, I downloaded my FREE 14 day pass to the local gym (which is very local – it’s about 500 metres down the street!) and went to have a chat to a lovely lady about my condition and what her gym could do for me. We talked about the yoga and Pilates sessions; and we talked about what would happen after the 14 days was up. (I had to explain that I was absolutely broke and had to be very careful about where I chose to invest my limited funds.) Firstly, she gave me an extra week on my pass. Then she said that, if I find the classes are working for me, she could work out a special price so I could attend just those classes and not have to pay for the use of the entire gym. WOW! Nice lady!

To today:

Getting out of bed early, so my body will be functioning (not necessarily well), for a 9.20am Pilates class is not easy, but I’m motivated and I promised you guys a report…

So, I just got out of the shower (yes! I had a shower) after cooling down from the session. And I gotta say: Whoo Eee! (that’s a shout of glee!)Am I feeling energised! Already my muscles ache – but it’s a different sensation than the FM pain. It’s the pleasurable awareness that all my muscles are there and have been stretched and manipulated. (For those who don’t have sex very often, it’s sort of like the day after feeling…yeah, you feel tired and achy but hey! It was worth it and let’s do it again!)

Now I didn’t do that kind of stuff!

We did Mat-based Pilates (not so easy to get up off the floor at the end, though) – this is a series of exercises performed on the floor using gravity and your own body weight to provide the resistance. The central aim is to condition the deeper, supporting muscles of the body to improve posture, balance and coordination. By focusing on your core strength, you (supposedly) enhance the little muscles in the body so you’re better able to support the larger ligaments, tendons and joints. Pilates is a very intense stretching class that incorporates workouts for your abdominal, leg, arm and back muscles – I found the stretching remarkable (it was like my poor, exhausted muscles could finally open up and take a breath of fresh air) and it’s nice to know that I still have some flexibility. Strength-wise? I have none! Anything that involved holding up my own body – even standing on my tippy-toes – was challenging. But it’s only the beginning of my learning curve…

Pilates encourages you to think about how you perform everyday movements. It heightens your body awareness; it helps you ensure your body is working at its optimal level all the time. Pilates will give you more of a holistic result than most other exercises regimes. It will make you focus on your breathing which is great for improving circulation and relieving stress. It is alleged to be a fantastic way to balance out your health and wellbeing.

Pilates is actually great for people with injuries, weak muscles and particularly bad posture because it encourages you to strengthen your problem areas in a relaxed and low impact way. (NB: It is advisable that anyone with serious injuries consults their doctor or physio though. Pregnant women should also get the okay from their doctor before proceeding.)

Now, tomorrow (or maybe even later on today) I know I’m going to hurt – I’m hoping it is the spent muscle type of hurt and not the FM hurt (but I may be kidding myself – I’ll let you know then).

Joseph Pilate

But I’ll know exactly who to blame: Joseph Pilates developed the yoga-like moves to rehabilitate Second World War soldiers. He then modified the style for injured dancers and so the modern-day method was born.

I’m looking after the beautiful Z tomorrow too, so I had better not hurt too much – playing with Z involves at least one walk to the park and a lot of kicking (then chasing) a ball around. I then have hydrotherapy so the warm water will soothe my tired, spent, exhausted, weary, drained, fatigued, wiped out body.

From just sitting on the couch last week, I‘ve suddenly got a REALLY busy schedule!

When a Good Poking is Just Not Good Enough

Guess what? Acupuncture again today – YIPPEE! Felt absolutely awful on the day after it last week (supposedly that was my body getting rid of toxins), but I was still excited about a positive step towards managing my FM. Anyway, I’m lying there with the little altar thingy on my belly button and needles poking out of the top of my head, my forehead, my legs and my arms; and thinking about buying watermelon and cigarettes at the supermarket on the way home, maybe an Easter Bunny, too (or two!) and how to make it easier to vote on the entries in the Fibromyalgia Awareness Day Video Competition.

My eyes are squeezed shut as a defence against the fluoro lighting and I realise that I’m not really relaxed at all. So, my brain starts chatting to the rest of me:

Deep breath – ok, relax those shoulders…let them sink into the pillow behind my head. breathe deeply. Hey! this would be a perfect time to meditate! if only you knew how to mediate…hmm, clear your head – am I supposed to be thinking about nothing, something, a beach? think about your third eye (that’s supposed to be the area just above the area between your eyes)…weird shapes forming in the darkness of my closed eyes – watermelon – stop! where did that shape go? There behind that even blacker cloud. Now I can see it…doesn’t that look like spades around a circle? oh, with some clubs embossed on top? – watermelon…I wonder if the lady who will cut up my watermelon is working today – stop. look for the shape…maybe that’s meditation. or maybe I should learn to meditate before I try it for myself – ha! maybe I’ll have to write a post about this – ooh, the shape is zooming in and out…or am I closing my eyes too tightly? concentrate on the shape…clear your head of other thoughts – watermelon…

…and so it went until my acupuncturist popped in to extract the needles.

Supposedly, meditation can help us to understand our own mind. We can learn how to transform our mind from negative to positive, from disturbed to peaceful, from unhappy to happy. Did my mind sound peaceful to you?

The purpose of meditation is to make our mind calm and peaceful. If our mind is peaceful, we will be free from worries and mental discomfort, and so we will experience true happiness; but if our mind is not peaceful, we will find it very difficult to be happy, even if we are living in the very best conditions.[1]

I find it difficult to control my mind (at the moment, as do you, most probably). Many people have trouble with meditation at it seems as if their minds are like a balloon in the wind – blown here and there by external circumstances. My mind doesn’t seem to need external stimuli; it hops from one thought to another like a frog in a pond.

Meditation is thought to influence the abnormal neurological pathways that make FM sufferers experience pain differently and have lower pain thresholds than those without the condition. It is understood to be due to an imbalance in both brain hormones and the processing of pain signals. Studies over the last 10 years have demonstrated that a regular meditation practice positively changes the way the brain is structured and how it functions.[2]

Furthermore, American professor of affective neuroscience Richard Davidson states: ‘What we found is that the longtime practitioners showed brain activation on a scale we have never seen before. Their mental practice has an effect on the brain in the same way golf or tennis practice enhances performance.’

It demonstrates,he said, that the brain is capable of being trained and physically modified in ways few people can imagine.

Accordingly, for me (after I practice some more), meditation is good medicine.

***Tomorrow, I’m trying a Pilates session – stay tuned!


[1] http://www.how-to-meditate.org/breathing-meditations.htm/

[2] Dr Daniel Lewis, Fibromyalgia and Meditation, http://www.fmaware.org/News28b55.html?i=g6jyL5vriNaHZxABsr2ZKA…

(Acu)Puncturing the Pain

Today, I woke up at 6.25! Five minutes before that dreadful alarm had a chance to go off (although I still took the 5 minutes plus the 10 other SNOOZE minutes to get moving).

But why in such a good mood? you might ask…

I’m off to acupuncture this morning…Yippee! Looking to get rid of some of the pain (at least, for a short while), have a short forced relax and get rid of some of the toxins.

So, for those who have never had this experience (and I promise it’s a good one):

acupuncture: (Chinese: 针灸; pinyin: zhēnjiǔ)  an alternative medicine methodology originating in ancient China that treats patients by manipulating thin, solid needles which have been inserted into acupuncture points in the skin (it does not hurt, guys – slight shock then, maybe, a feeling of uncomfortable-ness – and then the feeling disappears and you don’t feel anything!) According to Traditional Chinese medicine, stimulating these points can correct imbalances in the flow of qi through channels known as meridians. My acupuncturist decides which points to treat by observing and questioning me in order to make a diagnosis according to the tradition which he utilises. In TCM, there are four diagnostic methods:

  • Inspection focuses on the face and particularly on the tongue, including analysis of the tongue size, shape, tension, color and coating, and the absence or presence of teeth marks around the edge.
  • Auscultation and olfaction refer, respectively, to listening for particular sounds (such as wheezing) and attending to body odor.
  • Inquiring focuses on the “seven inquiries”, which are: chills and fever; perspiration; appetite, thirst and taste; defecation and urination; pain; sleep; and menses and leukorrhea.
  • Palpation includes feeling the body for tender A-shi points, and palpation of the left and right radial pulses at two levels of pressure (superficial and deep) and three positions Cun, Guan, Chi (immediately proximal to the wrist crease, and one and two fingers’ breadth proximally, usually palpitated with the index, middle and ring fingers).

cupping: an ancient form of alternative medicine in which a local suction is created on the skin; practitioners believe this mobilizes blood flow in order to promote healing. Suction is created using heat (fire) or mechanical devices (hand or electrical pumps) – the heat is from the suction is not HOT, it is slightly warm. When the cup is removed, it feels like some-let out a facelift on your back (you need to visualise that!)

moxibustion – My acupuncturist accompanied his treatment of me with moxibustion, the burning of cone-shaped preparations of Artemisia vulgaris (mugwort), which he placed on my stomach (on top of my belly button) – although it sounds like it would smell terrible, it is actually quite relaxing. Traditionally moxibustion was used for chronic diseases.

The reason I’m telling you all of this is that studies have found acupuncture is helpful in treating the fatigue and anxiety commonly experienced by fibromyalgia patients.

Have you ever seen happier flowers?

And, after all the puncturing, sucking and using my body as an altar, I feel GREAT! So great that, when I walked past the florist, I HAD TO buy happy flowers.

Ok, I’m now off to continue learning some video making skills for the Fibromyalgia Awareness Day video competition!