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A woman with a history of trauma, newly diagnosed with fibromyalgia, wants to understand her conditi

20 Feb
A woman with a history of trauma, newly diagnosed with fibromyalgia, wants to understand her condition better and deal with it in a more holistic way if possible..
Dear BR,

I have suffered quite a few traumas in my life. My father committed suicide a few days after my 16th birthday, and I am now 39 years old. I didn’t feel it affected me that much then, but looking back now, I am sure it did.

I also suffered a bad break-up when my partner left me and my 18-month-old child about 10 years ago, and was then diagnosed with depression. I was on antidepressants for a couple of years and received counseling.

For the last couple of years, I have been struggling with tiredness and my body aching badly. I was told I had rheumatoid arthritis. After seeing a specialist in this area, he came up with the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia - something I dont know much about.

My GP then put me on a drug called Endep 25, which I take daily, and that seems to help. But I would love to do something a little more drug free if possible. Could you help me with understanding Fibromyalgia and the ways I can deal with it better?
Pauline :)

Dear Pauline,
I talk quite a bit in my book, Invisible Heroes, about the connection between posttraumatic stress and chronic pain conditions - especially fibromyalgia. The neurophysiology of traumatic stress means a constant cycling of, first alarm biochemicals and then sedation biochemicals, in the body’s attempt to reregulate after being so severely imbalanced by threat. These chemicals can build up in the muscle tissue as pain-generating kinins, that don’t get discharged through fight or flight, and so they make trouble in the form of pain.

This is why, in addition to your medication, it would be a good idea for you to work at what we call self-soothing or re-regulation techniques, that retrain the body to settle itself down again, the way it used to do, before the traumas. This, along with light exercise and massage (to help move that pain-generating gunk out of the tissue) should help reduce your pain so that you can take less medication.

These self-regulation practices could be any or all of the following: guided imagery (you might want to try our Relaxation & Wellness or our Healthful Sleep or Healing Trauma ); breathwork (such as Andy Weil’s CD ); mindfulness meditation (such as Jon Kabat-Zinn’s work); yoga (we have a whole page of wonderful yoga teachers and materials) or qigong (such as Ken Cohen’s guided practices).

Good luck to you, and let us know how it goes!

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award