If you have been diagnosed longer than a few years, you most likely recognize the shift in the awareness and overall understanding of fibromyalgia. Yes, there are still uneducated nay-sayers out there, but the gap between reality and perception is definitely closing in and this is a very good thing. Awareness is key!
So again, what does all this Fibromyalgia Awareness mean and how do we benefit? Here is my take on the matter:
5 Reasons Fibromyalgia Awareness Campaigns are a Good Thing
1. No longer having to give a medical dissertation every time someone learns I have fibromyalgia.
Even if their understanding of FM is only as “that pain thing,” most people have heard of FM, know someone with FM, and have a general understanding of the debilitating symptoms of FM. I no longer feel like I am fighting a losing battle in trying to help people understand this complicated condition. Every day there are more and more resources out there, which generally give sound explanations and advice – like the American Pain Foundation, and their campaign to spread awareness. Good stuff!
2. A greater understanding and awareness of fibromyalgia in the medical community.
And again, yes, there are exceptions. We all have our doctor horror stories, but more and more I am hearing stories of wonderfully helpful and compassionate doctors; doctors serious about addressing the complex and highly individualized symptoms of FM; doctors determined to find ways to bring their patients relief and improve their quality of life. There is an ever increasing number of doctors out there determined to take on the ugliness that is FM, and this shift is a direct result of a growing compassion due to growing awareness.
3. New diagnostic criteria.
One of the main reasons fibromyalgia has not been easy to diagnose, treat, and even understand is there is no definitive diagnostic test. The fibromyalgia tender point test is so subjective that many medical professionals did not place any value in it as a means to diagnose FM (and therefore avoiding dealing with FM patients altogether). The results can vary from day to day with each FM patient, and each practitioner brings their own subjective understanding to the process. Too much variance! But now that FM is widely accepted as a legitimate chronic illness, clearer and better diagnostic criteria are being developed, and this is a very good thing. There is hope that eventually there will even be a definitive diagnostic test, possibly Brain Imaging, saliva, or blood testing. Better understanding and treatment are on the horizon.
4. A greater understanding of what can and will help alleviate symptoms of fibromyalgia.
While there is no clear cut – “Do this, Don’t do that” – we do have a better understanding of the lifestyle changes we can make that will help improve our quality of life. We understand that mindful movement is important for our bodies, with the key word being mindful – mindful of our own unique bodies and limitations. We understand that nutrition plays a large role in exacerbating the symptoms of FM. I have yet to meet a person with FM that did not benefit from eating a healthier diet. We understand that relaxation and stress management play a huge role in the severity of our symptoms and our ability to cope. Yes, our minds and bodies are clearly connected. We understand that we have a measurable amount of control over the suffering involved in living with a chronic illness. We have choices!
Happiness is a choice, not a condition. ~Carlos Santana
5. Hope and Community.
HOPE: More and more I am reading and hearing success stories of people learning to live well with fibromyalgia. This is not the same thing as living symptom free of FM. Living well generally occurs after a period of emotional exploration leading to eventual acceptance – acceptance that we are whole, despite all that is different – we have options, despite all that has changed – we are valuable, despite all we have had to let go. With acceptance, we are free to explore the potential of today and the promise of tomorrow. And we are all full of potential!
COMMUNITY: More and more I am seeing new bloggers in the fibromyalgia community, more facebook groups, and just a general outreach and community building effort. I have said it before and I will say it again – Community is Everything! Where else would we turn for understanding, support, information, education, encouragement? Some of my dearest friends have come to me through my FM community. I love when I see friendships form between people who have connected on a blog, or facebook page , or twitter. It is happening everyday, and it is a beautiful thing!
So this is what awareness looks like. This is how awareness creates change. And this is how we each benefit from the continued awareness of fibromyalgia created by campaigns like Fibromyalgia Awareness Month, and Fibromyalgia Awareness Day. Get involved. Do something to help spread awareness – talk about it, write about it, leave a comment on your favorite blog, send an article or a great online resource to your doctor or your loved ones. Do something. Be a part of the change.