I made the mistake this morning of using a Google search trying to find an article I had seen quite a while ago. The article was about a study that researchers had done to determine how the general public view people with fibromyalgia. It was a surprising article because well over 90% of the respondents not only empathized with fibro patients, they understood in general what fibro patients were going through. I have to find that article again. Since I just found the sports bras and yoga pants I’ve been missing for over a week and they were exactly where they were supposed to be, I’m expecting to put my finger on that article within a week…
What I found on line were mostly older posts – I think the newest was from 2012 – but they were disheartening, calling fibro a “fake” syndrome and more. The thing is, attitudes have changed a great deal. Researchers are obviously taking fibromyalgia seriously because they are putting time and resources into looking at the underlying causes of fibromyalgia – NOT how fibromyalgia is all in patients’ heads.
Researchers are getting closer, however, and it is possible to give a pretty solid answer to people who ask (possibly doubtfully) what fibro actually is: Fibro patients have elevated levels of pain neurotransmitters and lower levels of pain neuromodulators. In other words, fibro patients have increased levels of substance P, nerve-growth factor, and glutamate – the stuff that increases painful sensation – while at the same time they have decreased levels of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine – the stuff that suppresses pain. This is very simplistic, and only a tip of the fibro iceberg, and no one knows why fibro patients have “off” chemistry, but it is an established fact that fibromyalgia is not a psychological disorder, it is a physiological disorder, and the chemical imbalance indicates that.
We have pain without injury. We have the added challenge of acknowledging that our pain is not causing injury and to keep moving despite the pain. Like my doctor told me when she first diagnosed me – every day we have a mountain to climb that no one else sees, but we have to keep climbing it. Fibro is not about what we can’t do. Fibro is about everything we can do.