Working It Out Mathematically

1A recent study suggested that something as simple as mental stress tests (math test) or eating or other sympathetic nervous system activators can activate the back muscles of people with fibromyalgia. That study suggested FM patients’ muscles could be in state of almost continual activation.

 

2Electrical signals trigger the muscle contractions that people use to produce force but those signals should diminish in between the muscle contractions. Another FM study suggests that the electrical signals in the muscles of FM patients, under load, go into a hyper-active state; and do NOT relax, that the muscles in FM patients are constantly being prodded to contract.

1+2

crossMakes sense, right? WRONG!

If this was correct I should look like this

arrow

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I wake up, every one of my muscles feels like it has had a major work-out. When I’ve walked to the post office (less than a block), it feels like I have run a marathon. Just like all of you, my muscles always feel tight and contracted.

I would expect that we were supermen or women in disguise thBUT the inability to turn our muscle activity off and allow them to rest suggests our muscles are chronically tensed, not strong.

This continued state of activation left the muscles in a state of something called ‘after-depolarization’. Depolarization simply refers to a change in the electrical status of a membrane. The membrane should switch from positive to negative regularly – allowing electrical currents (ions) to contract, relax, contract, relax, etc. the muscles. In a state of after-depolarization a state of confusion reigns, interrupting that regular pattern of ‘depolarization,’ leaving the membranes in a twitchy, unsettled state.

After-depolarization causes the muscle membrane to send the ‘contract’ message much more easily.  Neither of the above studies tell us what is causing this but the ongoing electrical activity/muscle contraction in FM suggests chronically activated systems play a role in our pain.

♩♫ Lyric(a) Writing is an Interesting Process ♫♩

So Week 3 started today…my body aches just a little more each day, the fog is not lifting (which I really thought it would), and my face hurts beyond words.

doses

It doesn’t help that I had to go to the dentist for a Crown preparation so last night was spent with some frozen vegetables attached to my cheek.

And I’ve hit exhaustion – I think I have over-loaded myself with the Thunderclap campaigning (nagging), blogging every day, reminding contributors for the next issue of LIVING WELL with FIBROMYALGIA, tweeting, my shop and my FB page – it’ll all quiet down after May 12th but right now, I keep getting anxious that I’ve forgotten something to do. spireI’m also trying to get ‘them’ to light a spire (that we have in Melbourne) in PURPLE for May 12th (looking forward to a night-time picnic with Thais (did I tell you she’s back?) under the spire – anyone else coming? You can help by emailing the appropriate people)

I’m also trying for Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House but I think I’ve left that one too late! (If you want to help with this one: tweet to @VividLive  Niagara Falls will B PURPLE from 10:15-10:30PM EST on May 12 for #Fibromyalgia Awareness: can we light up the Bridge & Opera House?

sydney opera house Sydney_Harbour_Bridge01

So I haven’t had a chance to FEEL anything. I just want to rest BUT I don’t feel I can as this is the lead-up to Awareness Day (I can rest afterwards, right?).

I try not to nap during the day (no matter how bad it gets) but today, I fell asleep for 4 hours.

My body just wants to stop – but, as you can see, I have no idea if it’s medication related or just life!

Let’s Pretend…

Just the other day, Susan from Fibronaut at Home wrote a wonderful post:

Do Something You Love Today

Yes, we hurt.  Yes, we are tired.  We want awareness for all invisible illnesses now.  We want to be able to earn a living, spend time with our loved ones and do everything we used to enjoy before pain and fatigue took over our lives.   Today, just for a little while, let’s pretend.  Let’s pretend we don’t hurt.  Let’s pretend we aren’t tired.  Instead of bemoaning our current existence, let’s imagine that everything is fan-freaking-tastic.  Ignore the housework, ignore the bills, ignore the screaming/whining/fighting kids*, ignore anything that would normally have you pulling your hair out.  Today, we are all going to take a little me-time.

chronic comic 167I am listening to classical music, reading a book and still in my pajamas.  I’m contemplating getting up and getting in the shower, but after that, I have no plans to do any housework.  The dishwasher needs to be loaded and there are three loads of laundry to fold.  The toilet is disgusting and the bath tub has a very unattractive ring.  Today is the first day in over a week that I can see the garden and it is supposed to be over 50°F.  All of the things I “need” to do will be here tomorrow.

What I really need is a day to me.  I need a day without any guilt over what I have or haven’t done, said, thought or felt.  I am clearing my mind of all that, focusing on the music playing and the story I’m reading (Thrown By A Curve by Jaci Burton) and letting everything else go.  After I get the kids home from school, I’m going to work on an apron I’m sewing and that is it.  When my hubby gets home from work, I will NOT immediately assume that he sees the house exactly as he left it this morning and thinks I’m a lazy ass and wonders what I did all day.  I’m going to greet him with a kiss and a smile.  We’ve been married 13 years.  He knows me and he still loves me.  If he didn’t, he wouldn’t still be here.  And who knows?  With all the resting and ignoring of life’s problems I’m doing today, the bedroom door might end up locked while we’re taking a “nap” (wink, wink).  I might as well add doing-the-one-I-love to the doing-something-I-love list.

Shower, listen to music, read, sew, love.  How will you take your me-time?

*Check in with the kids from time to time, just to be sure they are all still alive and accounted for.

271. doing nothing

Me? My me-time is spent just pottering in my little courtyard full of purple pots and purple plants.

My me-time has become restricted by lack of funds but, seeing as we’re pretending, let’s pretend I have some money (not lots and lots, just enough), no pain or fatigue and, while we’re at it, a wonderful partner (Hey! This is fantasy world!):

I would sleep in and wake refreshed (yes! really!) I’d have a full body, warm oil massage, followed by a reflexology session. Then, I’d lay in my comfy bed, very relaxed and read a good book (hopefully – most books that I have been reading have been really good until the end, then they disappoint!) I’d go out to dinner and have fresh falafel, followed by strawberry and nutella crepes (without any subsequent IBS issues) with a wonderful man who I know and love. Then we’d go home, have mind-blowing sex (would I pretend about any other kind?) and, finally, fall asleep spooning!

What about you?

In Exactly 4 Hours…

In exactly 4 hours, I should get to see how/if all the hard work of the last couple of months, promoting (read ‘nagging’) the Make Fibromyalgia VISIBLE Thunderclap, has had any type of effect on Facebook and Twitter.

Hopefully, all of those supporters (as I write, at 757) and at least some of their friends and family (currently at 254,384) will upload this picture to their Facebook cover-photos for the entire month of May.

Right click this picture to save to your computer; then upload to your cover photo.

Click on this picture: Right click on the full-size header to save to your computer; then upload to your cover photo.

Visible army squareHopefully, all 953 members of the VISIBLE Army will upload their VISIBLE Army photo to their profile pictures for the entire month of May.

Hopefully, in exactly 4 hours, more people will be aware the Fibromyalgia exists.

However, in exactly 4 hours, I will be sitting in my dentist’s chair, getting prepped for a crown (Not happy, Jan!)

lrg_Ornamental_Divider__Englische_Linie

niagaraBut one thing I definitely won’t be missing is when Niagara Falls goes PURPLE for Fibromyalgia Awareness. Niagara Falls will be PURPLE from 10:15 to 10:30pm EST on May 12th. No, I won’t be going to Canada! I’ll be watching it live from my lounge room in Melbourne, Australia on http://www.niagarafallslive.com/

If you want to see it, too, and you’re somewhere else in the world, check out the countdown to Live Webcast: Niagara Falls & Fibromyalgia Awareness.

Can you tell? I’m a bit excited by all the happenings for Fibromyalgia Awareness.

My Final Fibro-my-Appeal

It’s the last day before the Make Fibromyalgia VISIBLE Thunderclap goes off!

For those who have no idea what I’m talking about: this is NOT a Facebook page or website specific project – so I have been hoping that this will be supported by ALL of us!

I started a(nother) Fibromyalgia Awareness initiative in which I would be honoured if EVERYONE would get involved: it’s called a Thunder Clap.

What is Thunderclap?

Thunderclap is a tool that lets a message be heard by saying it together. When we reach our goal number (which we have!), Thunderclap will share the same message on EVERY supporters’ Twitter and/or Facebook page at the same time! You and others will share the same message together, spreading an idea through Facebook and Twitter that cannot be ignored!

For example:

Clap 1

 

As of when I wrote this, we have 704 supporters with a potential social reach of 228,394 people.

What is THIS Thunderclap?

clap 2

I don’t know how to turn Facebook purple (like the breast cancer awareness people do with pink), so this Thunderclap is me asking EVERYONE to upload the following cover photo to their own profiles for the entire month of May.

header

The message will be published on every supporters’ Facebook page and/or Twitter feed on May 1st at at 12:00 AM EDT. Here’s the world-wide times (yes, I know it’s a small picture — just click on it to enlarge):

time

What Can YOU do to Help?

1. To support the THUNDERCLAP personally, click the link then you can:

  • add more social reach with Twitter or Facebook; and/or
  • promote the THUNDERCLAP by sharing or tweeting.

2. You can promote it on your Facebook page

clap 3

3. You can write a blog post to let all your followers know about the project.

clap 4

4. On May 1st, upload the cover photo to your Facebook page (AND upload your VISIBLE Army picture to your profile photo)

Our goal: to no longer be ignored! Just think…we could be trending in May!

I really hope you jump on board…and I hope this campaign can bring some major awareness!

Many people (and doctors) do not know what it is (or doubt its existence) – it is time to make people aware!

Help take the mystery out of Fibromyalgia, and help spread something more powerful: HOPE!

Please share, tweet, re-blog, etc. Let’s get as much coverage as possible!.

And REMEMBER please:

A Fibromyalgia Fairytale

If you read my FB post, you’ll know that I am NOT in the most amazing mood! And a parable is the only way I can even put into words the way I’m feeling

zombieOnce upon a time there was a gargantuan, purple she-monster, who lived in a small village, where she used to terrorise the man/boys (ages 29 – 35). Round and round the village, she used to lope (because walking hurt) after them – never catching them.

One day, she just gave up (or, at least, she is trying to). It was no use anyway; all the beautiful she-villagers were catching the man/boys – there were none left for the she-monster.

beautiful people

And no matter how much filler she used, she was never going to have gorgeous, full lips. No matter how much she dieted (especially with her Lyrica dosage), she was never going to be slim. No matter how much moisturiser she used (and that’s when she remembered), she was never going to be younger.

That same day, she realised that she was never going to meet anyone (she was unable to leave the village)…

At the same time as that realisation hit her, a group of man/boys whooshed by in their chariot and yelled out, at the top of their voices, “you #()^%ing, ugly (&%T!!!!’

And that was my day (and how I felt all day!)

(S)Lumbar Support

Understanding how insomnia and other sleep problems contribute to hopelessness can help all FM patients.

Insomnia and disturbed sleep are common among people with depression and other mental health problems. In fact, disturbing research indicates that people with depression are significantly more likely to experience insomnia symptoms. So, which one came first? The chicken or the egg?

Most distressing is that insomnia also has been linked to an elevated risk for suicide. A recent study offers new details about the relationship between insomnia and suicidal thoughts among people with depression.

Researchers at Georgia Regents University examined the possible influence of insomnia and disturbed sleep among patients with a history of depression and suicide.

59 FMG insomniaTheir study included 50 patients between the ages 20-84. All had received treatment for depression either as in-patients or out-patients, or in the emergency room. Seventy-two percent of the participants were women, and a majority—56%–had attempted suicide at least once. Researchers measured levels of depression and insomnia, feelings of hopelessness, as well as the presence and severity of nightmares and attitudes and beliefs about sleep.

On average:

  • Participants experienced moderate insomnia
  • Analysis showed an association between the presence and severity of insomnia and suicidal thoughts (as expected)
  • Among people with depression, insomnia contributes to a sense of hopelessness about sleep, according to researchers. These negative feelings about sleep, as well as nightmares experienced by people with depression and insomnia, may be critical predictors for suicidal thoughts.
  • Researchers also analyzed data to examine the possible relationship between nightmares and attitudes about sleep with suicidal thoughts, and found significant associations. When these additional sleep problems were included in the analysis, insomnia itself was no longer directly associated with suicidal thoughts.

This suggests that insomnia may have an indirect effect on suicidal thoughts, through the presence of these other symptoms, in patients who are depressed.

This is important new information in the understanding of the link between insomnia and suicide. The presence of these symptoms—nightmares and feelings of hopelessness about sleep—may be a more specific predictor of suicide risk among people with depression than insomnia in general.

And because FM patients often have feelings of hopelessness about sleep (Hey! many of us haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in years!), this is important research.

Earlier work by some of the same researchers explored the relationship between insomnia and suicide. Their study included 60 patients between the ages 18-70. Two thirds were women, and all suffered from major depression and insomnia symptoms.

The researchers found that the severity of insomnia among these patients was linked to degree of suicidal thoughts. More severe insomnia was associated with higher intensity of suicidal thoughts. In their analysis, researchers isolated insomnia from other symptoms of depression, such as low mood and inability to experience pleasure. They determined that insomnia is an independent predictor of suicidal thinking.

This latest study has built on those findings, looking with greater depth and specificity at how insomnia and related attitudes and behaviours of disrupted sleep may influence suicidal thoughts.

Other research has shown a strong association between insomnia and disrupted sleep and suicide for people with depression and other psychiatric disorders:

  • Hungarian researchers found that sleep disturbances and nightmares elevated the risk of suicide by as much as 4 times among men, and as much as 3 times among women. In this study, frequent nightmares and sleep disorders were associated with a higher risk of suicide than depression.

The connection between insomnia and suicidal thoughts, influenced by nightmares and the presence of negative attitudes and beliefs about sleep, may  provide important new options for suicide prevention and treatment of depression and suicidal thoughts. By identifying nightmares and dysfunctional, negative attitudes about sleep as important predictors of suicidal thinking in people with depression, the medical profession may, finally, be better able to identify those who are at greater risk for self-harm.

La ♫ La ♪ La…Lyrica(l) Lullaby

So it’s been a week since Whatever…Nothing! – that means the first week of Lyrica weaning is over.

doses

I can’t say that I’ve noticed much change: I had some huge headaches and face pain but that can be blamed on a cracked tooth that now needs a crown (bloody! bloody!); I had a couple of totally fogged out days but that was nothing really different; and today, I had an amazingly great day – just because sometimes (and hopefully more often), that just happens.

I think tonight’s reduction may make more of a change because it’s a reduction of the night dose. If Lyrica is as good at helping us sleep as they say so, then I may start experiencing some trouble. Of course, I hope not and I’m really not expecting any trouble…yet!

Week 3 (and onwards) scares the hell out of me…and you’ll get to hear ALL about it (hee! hee! Lucky you!)

D is for…Fibromyalgia?

No matter how positive you try to be, there are days when it really gets to you and you go tumbling back into that black hole that seems to eat all the good in your life. Transform your chronic lifeWendy from Transform Your Chronic Life has described this feeling perfectly in her post ‘Fighting the Five “Ds” of Fibromyalgia‘:

Like your most annoying relative, the five “Ds” of fibromyalgia tend to show up over and over.

Diagnosis – Depending on how long you’ve been sick, being diagnosed with fibro can either be a huge relief or throw you into a deep depression. If you’ve been hearing, “there’s nothing wrong with you;” for years, finding out that you actually AREN’T crazy is a major relief. On the other hand, once you realize that having a diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean the doctors are going to be able to actually DO anything but try to manage your symptoms, you’re likely to fall into the rest of the “Ds.” Even worse, a fibromyalgia diagnosis frequently leads to even more diagnoses, since there are multiple co-occurring illnesses that go along with it.

Desperation – Desperation is a big issue for people with fibromyalgia, whether it’s a desperate search for treatments that work or a desperate struggle to pay the bills. No two fibro patients have exactly the same set of symptoms, and the treatments that work for one may not work for someone else. The worse your symptoms, the more likely it is that you either won’t be able to work at all, or that you’ll only be able to work part-time, and both cause major financial issues.

Depression – Depression tends to be a frequent visitor in the lives of those with any chronic illness. You don’t only have to live with pain and other disabling symptoms, you get to hear your doctors telling you there’s nothing they can do for you, your friends and family telling you there’s nothing wrong with you, and society telling you you’re nothing but a lazy leech who would rather lie around and watch tv while everyone else works to support you. And people wonder why you get depressed?

Even if you have a job, the stress of trying to make ends meet on what little you can make can also lead to depression. If you can only work part-time, or can only FIND a part-time job, the situation is even worse. Do you buy medicine so you’re ABLE to work, or buy food? Do you pay the utilities this week, or hope they won’t turn them off before your next check so you can actually EAT this week?

Despair – The previous “Ds” have a bad tendency to lead to despair.  You feel trapped, and can’t find any way out. It can be a horrible cycle, and it’s not easy to find a way to break it, especially when financial issues play a part. When rent and utilities take every penny you can scrape together, and you spend days or weeks hungry, despair can eat your world.

Defeat – Finally, there’s defeat; the last, and maybe worst, of the “Ds.” Defeat is a stopper, because once you feel defeated, you’re likely to give up. “What’s the point of fighting any more?” you think. It feels like no matter what you try, it goes wrong; no matter what you do, or don’t do, things just keep getting worse. It gets to the point that you feel like everything you do makes the situation worse, so why bother to do anything anymore?

I’ll leave Wendy there for the moment…

…and answer by saying that it has to get better than this! This cannot be ALL there is. We must have been put here for a reason – we just have to find it!

Step Up and Get Back to Being YOU!

Chronic pain has a way of radically changing a person’s life; even those with strong self- esteem and coping skills struggle (yep, even me!). Healthy self-esteem enables us to accept, respect, trust and believe in ourselves. Chronic pain can take that away from us: for some, the most difficult blow comes when you can no longer do things connected to your identity (loss of a job, not being able to participate in sports or hobbies, not being able to spend time with friends); for others, using a cane or walker or having to use a handicapped placard is devastating.

Whatever it is…you no longer feel like YOU; instead, you are just a bag of symptoms. This is exactly what Connie from Alice in Fibroland wrote about this week:

I took the stairs

Stairs

Yesterday, I took the stairs, instead of the elevator, and that made all the difference.

I was having a good morning.  I’m taking some new medications, one to help me sleep better and one to wake up my body during the day.  It seemed like an innocent flight of stairs, and I was feeling ok.  I was feeling stronger, braver – that little fear inside that says this is what life is going to be like from now on was quiet.  So I took the stairs.

And it came rushing back.  The strength flew away and took the bravery with it.  My breath was gone, my muscles were jelly.  I was no longer me, no longer ok.  I was fibro again.

There was a day earlier this year where I had the briefest moment of insight.  For weeks before, I had been sick, on top of fibro, with the flu and pneumonia.  At doctor’s visits, I had become my symptoms.  I wasn’t Connie; I was shortness of breath, exhaustion, fever.  But for a brief moment, as I was recovering from those illnesses: I didn’t feel any shortness of breath, so I wasn’t shortness of breath.  And I didn’t feel any exhaustion or fever, so I wasn’t those symptoms, either.  I was me, just me.

It’s the same with fibro.  In a search for answers, we become our symptoms.  We are fatigue, we are pain, we are fog.  It is such a struggle to climb those stairs, with the symptoms that are weighing us down, pulling us away from our true selves.

And yesterday, when I decided to take the stairs, I wasn’t my symptoms.  I was me, who used to take the stairs.  But by the time I made it to the top, I was fibro again.

To someone who is used to doing it all, learning to balance, to pace and to set limitations — weighing the stairs over the grocery store or the post office over cleaning the bathroom — is like learning to breathe underwater.  In the long run, taking the stairs isn’t important.  Neither is my ‘To Do’ list, cleaning the bathroom, or even the post office.  What’s important isn’t the doing or the things.  It’s the being, just being me.

You are NOT your illness! 

You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

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