Stress tends to trigger the aches and pains in my body that my rheumatologist believes are due to fibromyalgia (rather than Sjogren’s Syndrome, as my labs of late have been normal). And as I wrote about just last week, my beloved dog died at the end of September. It’s the most traumatic thing I’ve gone through in a long time. But I’ve been doing my best to check in with my body: Do I need to rest? Eat something? Drink water? Sleep? Cry (again and again and again)?
The funny thing is, my body has been feeling good. Even my stomach, that always seems to hurt for some reason or another, has been okay. I actually joked with my therapist last week that apparently daily grief-driven crying jags do my body good.
But I noticed something this week. Like so many, I’ve spent the week seeing #MeToo in my social media newsfeeds. And last night, I finally sat down and watched a good friend tell her (devastating) #MeToo story about being raped by a friend. In middle school.
Like so many, I have my own #MeToo story. Stories, more accurately. Watching my friend tell her story, and knowing how so many of my closest friends have had horrible experiences ranging from rape to molestation to physical and emotional abuse to aggressive sexual assault…then thinking of my own daughter and what might be in her future…
Well, within minutes, my body seized up. To the point that the physical pain brought me to tears. Given I just had my labs done the week before, I can only conclude one thing: fibro flare.
From the Mayo Clinic:
“Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals. Symptoms sometimes begin after a physical trauma, surgery, infection or significant psychological stress. In other cases, symptoms gradually accumulate over time with no single triggering event.”
Women are more likely than men to have fibromyalgia. There’s no cure. And it’s a chronic condition.
I developed physically earlier than many of my peers. My body may have looked like a woman’s, but I was still a child. So I hid it. I wore baggy clothes. I stopped standing up straight. I hated the attention I received because of my body.
It’s fair to say that I started hating my body around the 5th grade. Many of my friends did, too.
Now, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m an evidence based medicine woman. And there is evidence that points to a correlation between chronic pain disorders and trauma. But how sad is it that the sexualization of young woman has become such a part of our collective story, that I never once considered my experiences as trauma. In my mind, it was all part of the experience of being a woman.
Now I’m a woman with an autoimmune disorder, IBS, and fibromyalgia. I’ve struggled with anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. Much of the work I have done in therapy has centered on my body never being good enough.
I can’t discount the instantaneous pain I felt last night watching my friend tell her #MeToo story. I can’t discount the fact my overly sensitive body has been able to handle the significant grief of losing my best buddy–yet instantly reacted to the reminder of what nearly every woman in our society has gone through.
From here on out, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’m going to pay better attention to when my pain flares. And I’m curious if anyone else has experienced something similar.