Our separate selves deal with distressing questions and answers differently. We both react and avoid. All of us, however – including those with fibromyalgia and chronic illness – tend to respond in the same way to emotions we’d rather not feel. There are a lot of fears and deep emotions right now about getting COVID-19, avoiding it, and our potential for recovery. That’s just human nature, right?
In this month of Fibromyalgia Awareness, I’m sharing answers to the questions submitted by this Rebuilding Wellness community. Here’s an answer that reads between the lines. It answers a question that wasn’t asked.
The first question I’m answering discussed finding calm and relaxation in this period of quarantine and the unknown. I’ve answered this in 3 parts. This is Part 3 of my answer.
You can find Part 1 – Fibromyalgia Answers – Uncertainty here.
You can find Part 2 – Fibromyalgia Answers – Sleep & Relaxation here.
It’s now time to answer the part of the question that wasn’t asked!
Fibromyalgia Answers – Separate Selves
Concern, fear, and anxiety of the unknown is a common pulse point in the quarantined world we live in. And, for those with fibromyalgia and chronic illness, there’s an added layer. Many live with a compromised immune system that puts them at a greater risk.
When it comes to our future health, what’s going to happen? What could happen? What will happen?
As I’ve mentioned before, the world is a stewpot of uncertainty.
Today, I’d like to share something you’re probably not aware of. Something that happens at a nonconscious level and has been part of your own behavior patterns for a lifetime.
It’s human nature to want to avoid
feeling unpleasant emotions.
You might be aware of this concept but are likely unaware of the consequences. When we feel afraid, nervous, fearful, worried, anxious, etc. we want to be anywhere but “in” our bodies.
We want to escape.
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I’m Beside Myself with Worry
I’m sure you’ve heard this saying before. It’s truer than you know.
When scary thoughts show up, they also arrive with emotional baggage – the types we’d rather not carry. Our instant (and non-thinking) reaction is to move away from them. Rather than staying in the moment and feeling the wave of emotion, we step outside of ourselves. We want to distract and divert our emotions but not really being present. We may eat, watch TV, play games, bicker with others, or find our own favorite form of avoidance.
This is all very normal behavior.
When uncomfortable emotions arrive, we want to feel ANYTHING other than how we’re feeling that moment. We bounce to other thoughts and feelings which also have no resolution. We can’t really run away from ourselves so the emotion cycles back. We again try to distract ourselves. See the unproductive looping behavior?
Why does it matter?
When we step away from emotions we perceive as negative, we’re actually stepping away from ourselves. We are disassociating.
We tend to disassociate
when in fight, flight, or freeze response.
The Fibromyalgia Body Under Stress
Under duress, our bodies naturally react with the fight, flight, or freeze response. For most of us with chronic illness, this is so familiar, it’s actually our new normal. We’re used to this jumpy, anxious, “tired but wired,” and can’t relax feeling.
We’re hyper-aware, hyper-vigilant, and hyper-attuned to threats of any kind. It’s not a surprise to find that this is an exhausting way to live. It takes an exorbitant amount of energy to always feel on guard.
And, your body feels that.
A hyper-alert body has severe physical and emotional limitations.
- It can’t digest well, absorb nutrients, relax, or process information efficiently.
- It has difficulty with problem-solving and viewing situations from other angles.
- It has compromised breathing patterns (short, shallow breaths), and poor oxygenation.
- It has problems falling asleep and staying asleep.
- It becomes a breeding ground for increased symptoms, additional chronic health challenges, and more.
- It creates the “busy mind” scenario that falsely spreads the belief that worrying is doing something.
- Healing does not occur in a hyper-alert state.
These are just a few of the ways we experience this “separate selves” phenomenon. And …
We must be aware of a phenomenon in order to change it.
Unifying Separate Selves
The answer to this problem is both easy and difficult: it’s easy to do, difficult to remember to do, and difficult to stick with it.
The solution is in Part 2 of this Fibromyalgia Question series. We not only need relaxation and sleep – we must have it in order to heal.
There are more benefits to a relaxed body than I have room for, but here are a few highlights.
- A relaxed body can think more clearly.
- A relaxed body has fewer impulses to distract with overeating, overdrinking, overspending, over-analyzing, over-anything.
- A relaxed body can simplify problems and find solutions.
- A relaxed body can digest food, absorb vitamins and minerals, and metabolize nutrients with efficiency.
- A relaxed body can heal.
When we feel frustrated, worried, concerned, anxious, etc. – relaxation methods should be our first line of defense. Take a deep breath. Simply become aware of the emotion (don’t try to push it away) and let it pass.
The word “emotion” means energy in motion. Emotions like to move. Help them along by acknowledging them (without judgment) and becoming curious about how you feel. Notice that even scary emotions don’t last long. Perhaps only 45 seconds or so? Let go of looping thoughts that generate and regenerate emotions we’re trying to avoid. (TIP: This is what keeps them unresolved.)
Instead, practice mindfulness starting with a few deep breaths. This is one way to stay focused on where you are (physically) so that you can stop the dissociation process. Increase your awareness of how you feel and stay present with it. Discover the benefit of staying present (despite emotions that may feel icky) and notice how quickly they shift, change, and then go away.
This new awareness takes practice. Making it work for you is a trial and error process. Stay curious. Stay objective. Stay kind. Stay focused and persistent.
I can’t wait to hear about your experience as your body begins to heal. Share your practices below!
Want to ask your own questions for me to answer in a future post? Here’s how!
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