Living with fibromyalgia and chronic pain has put me in a not-so-great state of mind more times than I can count. It’s easy to get stuck in that negative state and struggle to come out of it. It’s harder to maintain any sort of positivity, but its essential to be as positive whenever possible. Having a positive mindset with fibromyalgia can improve symptoms.Having a #positive #mindset with #fibromyalgia can improve symptoms and #mentalhealth. #beingfibromom Click To Tweet
It’s Easy to Think Negative
I often find myself being confronted with not-so-great days such as having a flare-up of symptoms or just feeling crummy, and it usually ends in me visualizing the worst future for my family and me. All the possibilities, usually negative ones, will enter my mind, and then I slowly become even more frustrated, stressed, and upset. Thinking negative thoughts only adds to the intensity of fibromyalgia symptoms and is an unhealthy mindset.
I say thinking negatively will help me to better prepare for the worst situation. I mean, that’s what problem solvers do, correct – prepare for the worst and hope for the best? It’s not healthy like I said, but I’ve been doing it for so long, it’s a bad habit to break.
The Most Jovial Sick Person
One time after a trip to the emergency room, I decided to stop that negative way of thinking when it comes to my chronic illness. How did an ER trip change my thinking? Here’s what happened.
What landed me in the ER on this particular occasion was nerve issues in my foot. At this particular time of the year, I was stressed with working on my blog full time while trying to properly care for my loving family. My nerves could not take the stress and started acting out in the form of severe burning, tingling, and numbing in my left foot.
After going through triage and put in a room, a medical student came in and started taking notes on my symptoms searching for any possible causes for the problem. She stated that I have a lot of medical issues for being only 32 (at the time).
I laughed and started joking about me being an old soul in a young body. She went on to talk about some of my other medical issues *insert boring medical jargon* and I continued to laugh and tell jokes. I mean, what else could I do? She wasn’t telling me anything new and it’s quite depressing when I think about it.
Before leaving to get the doctor, she told me that I was “the most jovial sick person” she had ever met. She couldn’t believe I live in daily, constant chronic pain and be so “upbeat and cheerful”. Then she left the room.
Opening the Flood Gates of Negativity
Then I was left with my thoughts in that tiny room with no one to laugh and joke with about my medical issues and my burning foot. That left me with a lot of time to think. This is what I thought:
“How could she think I’m so cheery? I’m definitely not happy with this foot pain!”
“I’m not an ‘upbeat and cheerful’ person. I hate this pain. I hate living this way.”
“Why do I always have to be the one in the hospital/ER/doctor’s office? When can I catch a break?”
Laughing to myself: “She wouldn’t think I was so cheery if she saw me laid up in the bed crying myself to sleep because of the pain. Or the days when my depression gets so bad that the bed is my only refuge.”
On and on the thoughts came. It was as though the flood gates of negativity opened and my mind was the basin to catch all of it. Then I stopped thinking and closed my eyes in an attempt for peace.
Having a Positive Mindset with Fibromyalgia
This is the clarity that came to me: Here I was living in chronic pain and fibromyalgia among a variety of other medical problems, and this medical student was telling me how positive she thought I was! Imagine that! And imagine if I was more positive and upbeat and cheery about these medical setbacks. Any setback really.
What if instead of looking at the bad in a situation I searched for some sort of good? Would I be in a better mindset because of positive thinking? It certainly wouldn’t hurt to try. It would most certainly be healthier and less stressful to think positively. Lorraine Faehndrich states in her article How to Think More Positively When You’re in Pain:
Because your body doesn’t know the difference between a real threat and one that your mind is creating, these thoughts lead to a continuously activated Fight or Flight response – which increases pain, anxiety, and stress. This further alerts the inner lizard to danger, re-triggers the fight or flight response, increases pain, anxiety, and stress – and so on and so on. A vicious cycle is created. Until you understand it, this cycle is difficult to stop.
This cemented my determination to change the way I think and to begin having a positive mindset with fibromyalgia.
How to Have a Positive Mindset
As I stated earlier, it’s not easy to change a bad habit, so it’s not going to be easy to switch to a better mindset. There are ways to do it slowly over time, and UW Health has advice on how to do it in the article Chronic Pain: Using Healthy Thinking.
You could also try meditation to relieve stress or yoga. My friend, Melissa Reynolds, is a certified holistic life coach and yoga instructor. Having fibromyalgia herself, Melissa walks you through yoga and meditation to release stress and manage pain. You can check out this recent interview I had with her about Yoga with Fibromyalgia and Your Family.
If you struggle with negative thoughts, it didn’t develop overnight and likewise, it won’t be overnight that your mindset changes. However you want to give it a shot, don’t give up. Give yourself time, patience, and grace. You will overcome it and you will be glad you did it.