Fibromyalgia: How Can Family and Friends Help
Fibromyalgia is not a well known condition in the same way as arthritis or even a slipped disc. But it is a condition that can be quite debilitating and often makes the sufferer tired, even exhausted, tender and in pain. Which means that it can be difficult for family and friends to understand the condition and to know what to do to help.
People who live with someone with fibromyalgia usually do not regard themselves as ‘carers’ in the traditional sense. Yet they do have a part to play in helping someone with fibrmyalgia live as normal a life as possible and so there is an element of caring there, even though it may be much less intensive than caring for someone who cannot walk or who is recovering from an injury etc.
The Invisible Illness
You cannot ‘see’ fibromyalgia in the same way that you can see a broken leg or a condition such as eczema. This can make it difficult to understand, but it is essentially a breakdown in communication between the brain and the body, when the neurotransmitters effectively malfunction.
Although it is not life threatening it can be a very painful condition, with patients experiencing pain and tenderness all over the body. In addition, someone with fibromyalgia is deprived of good quality sleep because they will either return to a light sleep or awaken when they fall into deep sleep. Since the body uses deep sleep to refresh the body and repair any damage done during the day, fybromyalgia sufferers will be denied this recuperation and will awaken tired and often very stiff.
Headaches and loss of balance are other symptoms. There may be weight gain and often acid reflux is a problem. There can be very severe tenderness at times and sometimes patients will develop ridges on their fingernails.
How Can Family And Friends Help
It can be difficult for family and friends to understand this condition because it can be very erratic in the sense that there can be good days and bad days, with no two days being exactly the same.
Obviously it helps when those close to someone with fibromyalgia can understand a little, because this can help the patient feel less isolated and alone.
The key thing to bear in mind is that although fibromyalgia is not life threatening and sometimes can seem like ‘lots of different complaints’ it can be very distressing for people who have the condition. Each symptom that they have may not be life threatening or very severe, but each of these symptoms add up and cumulatively they have a significant impact on someone’s quality of life. So it is important not to dismiss any symptoms as not being important because they do matter and it is because there are so many that makes them so significant.
Not ‘In The Mind’
It is also important to remember that this is not a psychiatric condition, but a physical one, so adopting an attitude of trying to jolt someone out of their fibromyalgia is not going to be successful. It may even make the patient feel more isolated.
The best way to know whether you should help someone with this condition is simply to ask them; some days they may need a lot of help, some days they may need very little.
Someone with fybromyalgia may also suffer with low self-esteem, or feel quite depressed. This can result in their feeling isolated and often as if other people simply don’t understand their condition. Encouraging someone to talk about their condition and ensuring that some quality time is included as much as possible can really help improve their self-esteem and also counter depression.