How to Deal with Family and Friends Who Don't Understand Fibromyalgia
The Beatles once said that people can get by with a little help from their friends (and family). Unfortunately, many people do not have the support circles they need. This lack of support can make dealing with fibromyalgia especially difficult.
There is good news, though, for people who find their family and friends to be less than understanding: Most people are unsupportive not because they don’t want to be, but because they don’t understand fibromyalgia. It can be incredibly painful emotionally when someone feels intense physical pain and no one “gets” it. The isolation can take a toll on one’s mental and physical health, thus worsening their condition. Don’t worry, though! There are plenty of ways to get help from your family and friends!
Lack of support from family and friends can make it difficult to deal with fibromyalgia. Many people do not understand fibromyalgia symptoms and so are less than helpful. When a person feels intense physical pain and no one understands it, it can cause severe emotional distress. The person may feel isolated and the condition may worsen because of it. However, there are many ways you can get help from your family and friends.
Explaining the Pain
When you tell your family and friends that you’re in pain, they understand only when they have experienced similar discomfort. For instance, if you have a migraine (which is a symptom of fibromyalgia) and you share it with a family member who has never had one, they may think that a headache and a migraine are the same thing. This can cause stressful and negative interactions, so you should communicate with your loved one at a level that they can understand. Sometimes you may find difficult to find the words to make them understand. The following are a few ways to approach such situations:
- Education: You can explain to your family and friends about fibromyalgia. Although it will be time consuming, it would also make things easier for you. You can use visual aids to help represent your research, along with charts and graphs. Popular website like YouTube can also be good resources to utilize.
- Use comparisons: When dealing with fibromyalgia, use comparisons to get your point across. You can tell people, for example, that it feels like you constantly have a fever and feel fatigued, foggy, and achy. You can explain that in fibromyalgia, you use more energy than your body produces.
- Be proactive: You should introduce the acronym SHINE to your family members. It stands for:
- Sleep — Get adequate amounts of sleep.
- Hormones — Get the necessary hormone treatments.
- Immunity/Infections — Be proactive about infections and get them treated promptly.
- Nutrition — Take vitamin supplements and be nutritious about your food choices.
- Exercise — Get active to the best of your ability.
- Advance plans: With fibromyalgia, it is often difficult to make plans in advance. However, most people are happy to work with you once you explain to them that some days you may feel sick. Listening to your body carefully is very important — after all, your family doesn’t want you to overexert yourself. Reassure them that you’ll have fun with them once you feel better.
- Ask for help: Just because people can’t tell that you’re sick does not mean they’ll refuse to help you. At the same time, try not to overburden one person again and again. You can either ask them for help directly or ask for help to find a care aid for you.
- Respect boundaries: Understand that they, too, have their own responsibilities and be appreciative of the help they offer. Be gracious to them for their care since caregiving is known to be stressful and has an extremely high burn-out rate.
- Keep the lines of communication open: You should feel free to talk to them about your condition. Have conversations with specific people whom you feel you can trust.