1. In order to be supportive to someone with fibromyalgia or any chronic illness, you first need to understand what the condition is. Fibromyalgia is more then just chronic pain. Research is the best option to arm yourself with information. The web holds a-lot of knowledge at a click of a button. Just be aware of what sites you are reading, there are many misconceptions about fibromyalgia floating about. If your loved one is on medications – know that with the use of medications comes unwanted side effects. With knowledge comes greater understanding!
2. Understand the pain cycle and pain scale of chronic pain. Chronic pain is not the same type of pain a sprained ankle brings. The pain from a sprained ankle will eventually go away. Chronic pain is just that- chronic. It will not heal or go away. I am left dealing with extreme pain that is debilitating. Did you know fibromyalgia pain is listed on the McGill pain scale just below childbirth!?
3. Offer to help with tasks or chores around the house. Don’t automatically assume you need to do everything for me. I appreciate the help, but I still need to maintain a sense of independence. Fibromyalgia has takes away many things from me. Please allow me to continue to keep some independence, but at the same time offer help where you can. Even if you know a task I’m working on is going to possibly backfire and cause increased pain or symptoms to arise allow me to try. I often use these moments to evaluate my limits.
4. Please know that living with fibromyalgia we grieve who we used to be. I miss the full of life, spontaneous person I used to be too! It is said people living with any chronic condition, tend to go through the 7 stages of grief. I may be frustrated with myself, but it comes out as anger towards you. Let me say this now. I’m sorry for the way I react somedays. Frustration can get the better side of me. I am still learning how to accept my illness.
5. Chronic illnesses can cause a flood of emotions and can begin to effect our mental health. Please watch for signs of anxiety or depression quietly. Living in extreme pain and dealing with all the other symptoms cause mental exhaustion. I may not connect how living with fibromyalgia affects my mental health early on. If you notice any signs of anxiety or depression, please be gentle in telling me.
6. Sometimes we just need someone to listen without judgement or opinions being put forth. As the saying goes, “Sometimes we need someone to simply be there. Not to fix anything or to do anything in particular. But just to let us feel that we are cared for and supported!”
7. Know that we understand it is as hard on you as it is us. Chronic illness affects all involved. Please understand it will be a difficult road ahead. Support each other the best we can and try not to get angry with each other. There will be times where it happens. After all, we are only human.
8. Please understand I am not my pain. It is not my fault that my pain levels and other symptoms arise at what seems like the most inconvenient times. I still want to live and enjoy life as much as you do. If we had plans to go do something and suddenly can’t I am not being difficult. Please remain flexible! Be realistic instead of having extremely high expectations when it comes to making plans.
9. Please respect my physical limitations. Fibromyalgia is often accompanied with fatigue. I get fatigued very quickly. Know that my fatigue is not like your tiredness. My fatigue doesn’t go away. Some days I need to slow down or take a break. Just because I was capable of something today, doesn’t mean I will be capable tomorrow.
10. Please take the time to believe what you see and what I tell you. I am not just making up symptoms, to share with you. My pain is real and so are all my symptoms I speak of. There is often a misconception that chronic pain suffers fake or exaggerate their pain. Don’t you think if I could choose I would choose to be happy, full of life and be who I once was – before the chronic illness over took my body!? I don’t enjoy being isolated from others and possibly have to be in bed all day long.