In a recent edition of Fibromyalgia Aware magazine there was an article titled “10 Things You Should Never Say to a Fibromyalgia Patient,” by Linda Meilink. Here are the ten things she listed:
1. I think I have that too.
2. My sister-in-law has fibromyalgia and she’s still working. She says it helps to take her mind off the pain.
3. But you look okay.
4. Is that a real disease.
5. Maybe you just need some B vitamins.
6. Do you have any percocet? I could sure use one right now.
7. Well, we all start to ache when we get older.
8. Can you hold this box for me? I can’t find my keys.
9. Does this mean you won’t live as long.
10. Well, just try to look on the bright side.
Linda Meilink goes on to qualify each thing on her list, and these clearly come from her own personal experience. But it got me to thinking. What has been said to me over the years that has just made me cringe? So here is my list.
1. Did you see that commercial for the new drug that cures Fibromyalgia? – Now this drives me nuts because, A) It does not CURE Fibromyalgia. It is an anti-seizure medicine which has proven to reduce pain in FM patients. B) Pain is just one of the symptoms of FM and it does nothing to address the others – fatigue, fibrofog, dizziness, sleep disorders, etc. C) It has its own list of side affects that some of us would rather not expose ourselves to, and D) I chose not to take prescription drugs to treat my FM.
2. Fibromyalgia is what they diagnose you with when they are not sure what is wrong with you. – ARGH!!! I heard this most recently from someone who was quoting his friend – AND HIS FRIEND IS A DOCTOR! FM is still under-researched and misunderstood, but it is real, and recent testing is going a long way to prove that. Now if everyone in the medical field would just open their mind to the possibility, great progress could be made.
3. If you would just exercise you would feel better. – It is not that simple. Yes, gentle exercise can be beneficial for fibromyalgia, but it can and does cause flare-ups. It is a matter of slowly building up your tolerance, but forgive us if we do not go out of our way to deliberately cause ourselves more pain. It really is a vicious circle. If you knew something you ate would make you healthier, but that you were going to throw up violently each time you ate it, could you?
4. You can’t be here by 10AM, how about 11:30AM? – Uh, no. When I am down, I am down. I will not magically get better in an hour and a half. But thanks for being flexible!
5. Well it is really common. – Okay, so does that mean it should be easier to deal with? Are you equating it to acne or ingrown toenails? I just don’t understand this comment. Pain may be common, but it is still painful. Common does not equal easy to live with. And part of what makes it seem so common is that it is currently being over-diagnosed, but that is for another post.
6. A lot of people are much worse off than you are. – First off, this is absolutely true. I have a lot of fortune in my life – friends, family, etc. But everything is contextual. This is my life, and this is what I struggle to live with everyday. Somedays I manage well, but others I am a total and complete mess. Does that mean that I am being insensitive to my neighbor who has terminal cancer? No, I don’t think so. It simply means I am struggling and could use a little empathy. So reminding me that it could be worse does not make me feel better, it simply makes me feel guilty for indulging in a little self pity.
7. How is your back? – I got this one a lot after I was first diagnosed 11 years ago. The original injury which brought on my FM was to my neck. I had never had issues with my back, and yet numerous people asked me this. Often the same person more than once. Pretty ungrateful of me to not appreciate their interest in my health, but it always confused and frustrated me. This is a much more appropriate question since the accident two years ago. My back is killing me right now!
8. Have you tried acupuncture? – I would love to try acupuncture, but who can afford it? It is not something you can do one time and reap the benefits of it. It is something you need to do repeatedly, and it is costly. I have not always had insurance, and when I have acupuncture/massage is not covered. It is too bad that holistic medicine is for the most part not covered and that it is so expensive.
9. Maybe you are just depressed. – For a lot of patients Fibromyalgia and depression do go hand in hand, and until recently many doctors believed that FM came out of depression, but that is not the case. Many women with FM have never suffered from depression. I have had some pretty low days, but I can honestly say that I have never been clinically depressed. FM has changed my life so dramatically I have had a lot of trouble adjusting and adapting. I have been mad, sad, angry, unreasonable, and a few times I felt close to losing my mind – but tell me, could you be physically tortured and never respond dramatically to it?
10. Silence. – No response is sometimes the worst response. I have had new doctors sit and smile condescendingly at me while I explained to them I have Fibromyalgia. They never say it, but I know they are thinking that it is not real, that what I am experiencing can be explained away, that I am weak, and a hypochondriac. They say a lot by sitting there saying nothing at all and I hate them for it. I hate their close-mindedness and their pre-judgement of me. I can never get past their silence.
So that is my list. What is on your list?
NOTE: My husband thought this was a little edgy and he could tell I was clearly not feeling well when I wrote it. The very nature of the subject tends toward negativity. I hope this is not too abrupt to read but I am choosing not to edit myself.