Fibromyalgia: a biopsychosocial phenomenon

“Trauma’s imprint is more endemic than we realize”, Gabor Mate’

Self image is important to happiness. I have been struck of late about the ways in which women (in particular) feel diminished by the chronic pain and fatigue accompanying fibromyalgia. Our self worth has been destroyed by our physical and emotional symptoms. Despairing of the nature of our lives we withdraw into our own selves without much joy in our everyday living. Often referring back to what our lives were like before the demon attacked almost every part of the body sporadically, our views of ourselves as worthwhile members of our family and friends is often hopeless. This social aspect of fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is common among the comments found on most websites. The lack of energy from intense fatigue and pain contributes to our sense of self worth and often social withdrawal is the result. We are not often happy- anxiety and depression plague us. Hopelessness is common. We often dis-engage from social activities because of pain and fatigue.

Lately while following a particular website I am discouraged at how frequently the readers want to discuss with others the symptoms and treatments for specific physiological (biological) conditions without an understanding of the root cause of the syndrome. No doubt this is due to our hope that a cure will be forthcoming and the agony of many of the symptoms will disappear. This is a normal reaction to the mental and physical pain we experience, particularly in the era of expectance of fixing what ails us by health care professionals. It seems that none of our body parts are immune to pain.

Most of us do not want to address the psycho within the biopsychosocial model which is crucial to an understanding of FMS. The root cause of this dis-ease has not developed overnight but began early in our developmental years. For a greater understanding of this process read Dr.Gabor Mate’ and son Daniel’s book: “the Myth of Normal- Trauma, Illness& Healing in a Toxic Culture” (2022, Alfred A. Knopf Canada). In order to accept this view of the root cause of FMS we have to be willing to become painfully self reflective. It all begins here; the work is up to us- there isn’t a magic treatment or medication which will make life easier unless we are willing to take that first step. Many cannot either afford or find a good therapist so the work becomes even more difficult but it is do-able on our own if we dig deep enough.

Do we:

Look after others to the detriment of ourselves? Where and how did this begin in our developmental years? What kind of nurturing did we receive as babies/ children? What wounds did we suffer as children? What kinds of trauma did we experience and possibly still do? Was it war, poverty, racism, homophobia, sexual- emotional- physical abuse, or perhaps not even those huge injustices or wounds but those that are considered small but having a huge and lasting impact on our development? Still unacknowledged to what extent do they affect us today?

2 thoughts on “Fibromyalgia: a biopsychosocial phenomenon

  1. Kim

    I had a mother who somewhat cold and easy to anger. These characteristics Rosen after my father died when I was 14. I know I have been somewhat quiet and shy since my teenage years. My main social engagements were my sports teams in high school and college and then my work colleagues as an adult. With my fibro and ME/CFS, I can no longer work or participate in much exercise. These has greatly impact my social isolation.

  2. Barbara Keddy Post author

    Dear Kim: I have read your comments with sadness about the wounds you suffered in your childhood development. It is little wonder you developed fibromyalgia. Your nervous system is set up to anticipate the worse after all your trauma in your early life. I congratulate you on recognizing what has precipitated this condition that you (and I) have developed from our early childhood. You are no doubt a highly empathetic, highly sensitive and over caring person who has probably walked on eggs to protect yourself from your mother’s anger. I do hope my book will prove helpful to you as well as Dr. Gabor Mate and Daniel Mate’s book. Please keep in touch as uncovering the root cause of your dis-ease is so significant and you are already understanding so much about your own.
    Kind regards,

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