“IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD!”
Is this you?--
"I get tired of people telling me that my fibromyalgia, shingles pain, neuropathy, and arthritis are 'all in your head,' as if my pain is not real or as if I am faking it or exaggerating it to get attention or to get out of having to work. I can’t get through to them—I am so frustrated!”
"I am depressed because of my loss of function due to my pain, and because people tell me just 'don't think about it' or 'buck up' and ‘just get busy.’ Not thinking about it is not going to bring my function back. And I can’t ‘get busy’ because I hurt too much. I wish they would believe me. If I could fix it I would!"
Guess what? It IS in your head, actually research has shown it is in your brain.
No reports of babies being born with FM exist. Brain changes (neuroplasticity) associated with FM develop during adolescence or adulthood. These activities at the synaptic level in the cerebral cortex are considered neuronal plasticities, especially changes in the thalamus-cingulate pathway in the cerebral cortex. Shyu and Vogt (2009) report that some changes may be related to the transition from acute pain to chronic pain and due to syndromes of constant noxious stimulation.
Known modifications in the brain include “excitability, changes in the routing of information, and changes in functional mapping of the body on many neural structures in the spinal cord and the brain” (Møller, 2014, p. 201), first sustaining chronic pain and then perpetuating it. Please go to Fibro Facts for more scientific information.
People who are not in chronic pain day in and day out don’t understand what you are going through. Their advice might work for their aches and pains, but their pain is not your pain; it is not there all the time, does not wear them down they way your pain wears you down. They really don’t understand.
Others’ lack of understanding and invalidation of your pain is a common problem. As a chronic pain sufferer, I have experienced it as well.
Let’s take a look at why others don’t easily understand your suffering. A broken arm is obvious. Everyone can see your cast and your sling. Sometimes friends sign your cast, which is meant to cheer you up in a humorous way (you may remember this from school days?).
But if the cause of your pain cannot be seen, is hidden inside your body, response by others is quite different, and this is what you are experiencing and where the problem lies.
Chronic pain shows itself silently and indirectly: fatigue, depression, anxiety, headaches, muscle aches that don’t actually incapacitate or cause a limb to stop working the way a broken arm does.
You might look OK to someone else’s eye, but they can’t “see” inside you. The only way they may know you are in pain is if you verbalize it. If the words you use to talk about your pain sound intense to the listener, but you look OK to their inexperienced eye, you may not be believed. “Seeing is believing,” unfortunately.
And that’s where the trouble starts. That is where you start being disbelieved and even invalidated. That is where the pain is most definitely in your body from your point of view but “in your head” from some disbelievers’ perspectives.
When you are confronted with this disbelief and invalidation and take it personally, your pain gets worse because now you have more stress and feelings of isolation and loneliness. The people you rely upon to listen to you and give support almost turn their backs. If they were close to you, you may feel let down.
Hopefully, your situation is not that bad. But to whatever degree you are experiencing friends and others telling you “it’s all in your head,” and feeling alone, I am here to tell you that I am with you, I believe you, I believe in you.
Knowing that I hear you, believe you, and do not judge or doubt you, is therapeutic in itself. Your anxiety level will drop. Your sense of isolation and loneliness will lessen. Basically, your stress level will be less when you know you are finally being heard and believed.
When you are less stressed, calmer inside, your physical pain will lessen too. Why is that? One simple reason is that when you are stressed, worried, frustrated, lonely, and nobody seems to listen or care, your muscles tense. Stress makes tense muscles.
You already have tense muscles from resisting your pain. Now you add stress to those same muscles, and they aren’t just tense, they actually hurt. Your muscles go from tense to painful. Or, if your muscles already hurt, with the added stress the pain gets worse.
Basically, I have been saying that, at a deep level, you have been calling out for help in one way or another to people who are supposed to care and, instead of helping they have been telling you that there is “nothing wrong” with you and that you “don’t need” help—invalidating your cry for help.
This is truly terrifying on a deep level, and that fear and sense of helplessness may be experienced consciously as anger, frustration, anxiety, depression or what is commonly called stress.
Learn more today, go to Fibro Facts page or
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