Today I walked into a very large health club teeming with very fit people exercising to beat the band, and I went into the ladies’ locker room, got into my middle-aged swim suit with a little skirt which helps avert eyes from my middle-aged thighs, climbed into a pool with other people and proceeded to practice swimming laps. I’m proud to say if I can keep my nose plugged, I can swim all the way across the pool without stopping now. But that’s not the greatest achievement of the night. The greatest achievement was driving there, getting out of the car, and walking through the front door. My mantra was going in my head, “You’ve got this, you can do this, you’ve got this, you can do this…” Anxiety didn’t win tonight.
According to an article about fibromyalgia and anxiety (see Amutio et al in the library), about 35% of people with fibro have problems with anxiety. They did a study looking at mindfulness training as a way of first alleviating stress and anxiety, and secondarily relieving fibro symptoms, because, as they point out, stress and anxiety exacerbates fibro symptoms.
This is not a new idea, but the way they discuss anxiety for fibro patients is interesting. Anger, they note, is a big part of the anxiety component for fibro patients, and this is an anger toward ourselves. While some anger can flow toward the condition itself, the pain itself, fibro patients are very hard on themselves. Mindfulness, according to Amutio et al, is to “cultivate an attitude of kindness, acceptance, generosity, and patience toward unpleasant emotions and thoughts that may arise.” It teaches “self-compassion,” coping strategies for when we beat ourselves up for not being able to do or be all the things we perceive other people think we should do or be. It teaches us not just how to give ourselves a break, but true acceptance of who we are at that particular moment in time, fibro notwithstanding. Acceptance of ourselves, compassion for ourselves.
Today, I’m happy with myself.