1995: The end of life as I knew it:. I began experiencing excruciating burning pain in my hands, arms and legs. In 1996 fibromyalgia was not recognized by the medical community as a “real” ailment. Doctors considered it to be a syndrome: unexplainable, unverifiable and in all probability psychosomatic. Their unofficial diagnosis was “Hysterical Middle Aged Woman’s Syndrome”.
Doctor after doctor, told me, test after test after expensive test came back negative, that nothing was wrong with meand to go home and “Get a life”. Some looked at me knowingly, like we shared a secret “You’re a psychotherapist. You know about psychology” – Wink, Wink. The only reason I winked back was to blink away the tears that were threatening to disrupt the façade that I wasn’t a hysterical middle-aged woman.
I just wanted someone to put a name to what I had. Gynecologists, gastroenterologists, cardiologists, neurologists, rheumatologists, environmental specialists, acupuncturists, immunologists, chiropractors, Yup you are reading right! They are ALL in the plural. I didn’t just see one of each. I saw private practitioners, researchers, and heads of hospital departments. I’m sure each of them wrote “HYPOCHONDRIAC” on their charts.
Over two-plus decades later I’m no longer middle-aged, just hysterical. I still struggle and some mornings I wake up feeling like a locomotive hit me and the bottoms of my feet on fire even tho the only thing they touched for 7 hours was a sheet. BUT now that the pharmaceutical companies have realized there’s over 10 million people, in the United States alone and millions more world-wide, with this condition the research is progressing.
Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue/ME are finally recognized “officially” as an illness. The research now points to the possibility these conditions are auto-immune, neuro-inflammatory disorders in the brain.
Those doctors were right after all — it IS all in my head!
One of my long time friends (whose initials are jw but shall remain nameless) is a bit of a sugarcarboholic and green isn’t her favorite food color. She also is in chronic pain and lacks energy. When I found this research I wanted to share itand I know she reads this blog.
The Chemistry of Joy
Our mood, outlook and energy levels are determined to a huge extent by the chemicals serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and their relationship to one another.
We feel good when they are in balance. Beta endorphins also create a feeling of well-being, connectedness to others, and emotional stability. They even help us tolerate pain.
If levels of norepinephrine and dopamine are low,people will slow down, sleep a lot, have trouble concentrating and find it hard to motivate themselves.They can have a “sluggish” depression.
On the other hand, people with high levels of norepinephrine and dopamine, and possibly low levels of serotonin often feel angry, resentful and despairing.They can be critical and demanding. This would be an “agitated ” depression.
A third kind of depression can occur with low levels of serotonin, which results in people feeling fearful , worried and inadequate. This is an “anxious” depression.
In the Kitchen by Peggy
Sluggish Depression – Eating to INCREASE norepinephrine and dopamine: Eat high quality proteins throughout the day, lean beef, low-fat meats and fish.
Agitated Depression – Eating to DECREASE norepinephrine and dopamine: eat the same as to increase serotonin but eat very small amounts of protein. A vegetarian diet would be good.
Anxious Depression – Eating to INCREASE serotonin: Increase carbs, eat tryptophan, which is in nuts, dairy, and meats. Eat regularly throughout the day. Get some protein, but not a large amount.
SUGAR (also alcohol) elevates beta endorphins, which may be why people have sugar cravings. This elevation only lasts a short time, because the body metabolizes it quickly. This results in a “low” that follows the sugar “high”, and you want more sugar! My friend (who shall remain nameless) can avoid this by eatingcomplex carbs and protein.
Cholesterol helps the brain make the chemicals we need. So if you are depressed, eat some fat: Halibut, salmon, grains and nuts that have omega 3 and animal fat with omega 6 are both needed in balance.
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Hopefully my friend will not only read this post but start to eat better. To make sure, I’ll suggest it for the book we are working on . . .
“Hacking Your Way to Happiness”(It’s a work in progress, just like my friend).
Haven’t drawn for months as I stopped going to art class when I fractured my ankle (couldn’t drive). The fall semester of classes just started and I was curious to see if I’d lost all the progress I’d made.
I was even more curious to see how my energy held up since the fractured triggered the worst of all my fibromyalgia symptoms. My arms hurt during the 1 minute poses – probably because I was drawing furiously, holding tight to the charcoal, trying to stay in the saddle.
During these 5 -10 minute poses I slowed myself down to a trot.
Charcoal (The model isn’t as volumptuous as I drew her)
Charcoal (See? She’s quite svelte)
With this chronic condition I’m continually weighing the pain & pleasure ratio, trying to decide if the pleasure I get from activities is worth the ensuing pain.
I do not like being an old lady.There’s not much I can do about it but I don’t like it. I don’t like it! I do NOT like it! If there was someone watching right now I would lay down on the floor, pummel my legs up and down and scream out obscenities which I’m too embarrassed to write down proving I’m an old lady because I was taught that ladies, no matter their age, don’t swear. Even now, when I can’t be sent to my room, I hesitate to say “hell” or “shit” much less utter worse. The problem is I don’t even know what current swear words are. (There’s even a bigger problem if I lay down on the floor. With no one here to watch I might not be able to get back up without help.)
The urban slang dictionary didn’t exist until I was well past middle age and I couldn’t even look up cuss words that were creative. I’m now stuck with the “hells” and “I don’t give a damns” because that’s all I learned.
Let’s talk about wrinkles(it’s easier than the belly fat that has accumulated around my mid-section when even sucking in my stomach it still blubs around like Santa Claus’ bowl full of jelly. So wrinkles it is.)
Why would I want wrinkles? . . . to prove I’m as wise as I have ostensibly become? Phony baloney, I’v never seen a wrinkled owl. Rather than look wise it’s easier to look down my elongating nose at people who have plastic surgery, botox or collagen treatments. If I weren’t scared of pain and had the money I’d get rid of my wrinkles. Instead, I’m doomed to cultivating a self-righteous attitude about my aging, sagging, bagging body and pretend to embrace how old I am.
I’ve tried political correctness – how wonderful it is to be wise, to have accumulated all this worldly experience and be on social security . . . I’ve tried to embrace aging, smile when people ask me what I do and act like it’s wonderful to have no career, no purpose, no energy. I’ve tried wrinkle creams that promise me youth. I’ve tried laughing at the “old age” cartoons that appear in my in-box and sting in their truths.
Give me the money (and a bottle of numbing vodka – ladies don’t want alcohol breath) and I’ll be on the next surgeon’s schedule to tighten my jowls, pull up my eyelids and get rid of the bags under my eyes . . .
I’ve even considered moving to another country where old age is supposedly venerated. But I’m too tired to pack so I live in these here United States where I’m wise enough to know it’s the youth who say it like it is and have the energy to make this world a better place.
Old age – phooey. It’s highly over-rated . . . by the elderly.
Those of you who have followed this blog or CATNIPblog know I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 1996. That’s approximately when my battle with eating too much – preferably carbohydrates mixed with liberal doses of refined sugar – began. I eat constantly throughout the day. If I’m bored, depressed, upset, happy, sad, tired, excited, I eat. My theory was I was self medicating, creating a dopamine surge in my brain to dull the fibro pain. Mice are now disproving my rationalization. Mice of all things. Who knew?
The Mouse “Knows” by judy
Penn neuroscientists have found that animals’ brains can suppress feelings of chronic pain when they are hungry.
The study, which was published in the science journal Cell, found that temporarily shutting down chronic pain is part of animals’ survival behaviors when searching for food.
According to a press release, approximately 300 neurons are capable of shifting the brain’s focus to hunger, thus eclipsing the effect of chronic pain.
The researchers apparently didn’t set out expecting that hunger would influence pain sensation so significantly, but when they saw these behaviors unfold, it made sense to them. “If you’re an animal, it doesn’t matter if you have an injury, you need to be able to overcome that in order to go find the nutrients you need to survive.”
Experiments were conducted on mice and found that compared to their well-fed counterparts, hungry mice had less of a response to inflammatory pain. The effect of hunger on mice is similar to that of an anti-inflammatory painkiller, the report said.
The Penn team also discovered that the neurotransmitter NPY is primarily responsible for selectively suppressing pain responses. This research could potentially be applied in humans to ameliorate chronic pain after injuries and serve as an alternative to opioid medications.
Naked Mole Rat sez: “At your service. We rodents are here to help”.
Twenty-eight days since fracturing my ankle (but who’s counting). I was looking forward to my doctor’s appointment yesterday (“looking forward to a doctor’s appointment” – now, that’s a first for me) thinking I will finally give the orthopedic boot the boot and be frrrrrrreeeeeeee. Not. I forgot the ligament was going to take longer to heal than the bone.
The good news: The bone is healing, I don’t have to wear the boot to bed, the wrapping is off and can take a shower without my foot sticking out into the room.
The mediocre news: I have to transition from the boot into an ankle brace sloooooooooowly . . . for a month.
The bad news: My ankle hurts if I walk and pain makes me crabby.
Elixir Fixer by Peggy
This would make a lesser person take to the bottle. Which reminds me, today is National Wine Day. Read this fascinating post on the benefits of wine which include things I need RIGHT NOW:
Anti-aging (who knew?)
Blood thinning (so it no longer boils)
Boosts immune system
Increases bone density
and . . . 6 more benefits (you’ll have to click on the link below to learn how all 10 benefits help you)