Fibromyalgia made it hard for 46 year old Vera to get her legs out of bed in the morning. As she moved toward the bathroom and began her toilette the pangs of pain moved to her hands, head and neck. It brought tears to her eyes. It made her angry to think that Kurt hadn’t even thought of organizing things around the house to make life a little easier for her. Vera remembered the arguments about accompanying her on doctors appointments and got even more angry. But she never said anything to him. She turned her mind to the support group she would attend later that day, although it wasn’t successful in easing her physical discomfort.
Vera found it easier to focus on the fibromyalgia pain than her scary emotions
As she ate breakfast, flashbacks of her early family file flooded Vera’s vision. She relived the tension she used to feel coming home from school wondering if her parents would fight out loud or give each other the cold shoulder. Her mother would take out her frustration on Vera the oldest and quietest of her kids. Her muscles tightened up as she recalled the fear of uncertainty and not knowing how to speak about her worries. It was the same thing now. She didn’t know how to talk about the anxiety of not being able to take care of herself. Vera had no words for the anger at her father for not making her mother happy, and at Kurt for being equally insensitive and uncaring. What she did have was body pain that ranged from dull aches to excruciating pain for which no specific organic cause had been found. Fibromyalgia was the diagnosis. It came with fatigue, slowing down of actions and restricting her life. It was making Vera dependent on pain medication and on a husband who let her down, repeating the cycle of her childhood.
Stuffing her anger made Vera’s fibromyalgia more acute and distressing
Vera’s struggles in talking about her anger and stress as a child and now as an adult make it more likely that her experience of pain when the fibromyalgia flares up will be more intense and debilitating. The European Journal of Pain, 2010 reported a study comparing female fibromyalgic sufferers who expressed versus those that repressed their anger. The greater the inhibition of anger the greater the experience of pain in women with fibromyalgia. Those who got angry and expressed it in the situation in which it was aroused experienced the least amount of pain.
No amount of positive thinking eased her excruciating fibromyalgic pain
When compared to healthy women, those who avoid strong negative emotions like anger and let it fester unprocessed are more likely to suffer fibromyalgia. In addition focusing on positive emotions does not appear to be a sufficient buffer. According to a report in the 2008 Journal of Psychosomatic Research, it is the lack of processing of negative emotions that precipitates the cycle of pain in fibromyalgic sufferers irrespective of the amount or duration of positive thoughts. Vera wasn’t more sensitive than most women to negative emotions like anger, but she experienced them more often and never learned to express them in a healthy way. It compromised her neuroendocrine functioning, lowering her pain threshold both physically and psychologically, suggests a study on women with fibromyalgia published in Arthritis Care and Research, 2010