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Fibromyalgia / CFS / Anxiety & Depression / Invisible Illness: The viscious circle of ‘Catch 22’ & Setbacks versus Flares: Which is which?
Do you have Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue, Fog, Depression and/or Anxiety or any other Illness where you flare from time to time and one illness rubs onto another one making you feel worse?
Do you know the difference between a flare and a setback?
Many people don’t and often treat themselves for a flare when in fact they’ve possibly just over-exerted themsselves and need to rest up for a few days and develop their pacing routines better.
I’d like to take this opportunity to look at this in a way that is is easy to see how each illness has a knock on effect on each other through the use of Flow Charting examples of my own experiences of flares and setbacks. By doing this I hope to show that by doing this yourself you will also be able to recognise some of your own triggers so you can begin to create coping strategies for your own times of need ie: for during a flare and for during a setback, and also for when you become ill. Also, I hope to show the differences between a setback and a flare.
I have Fibro, Chronic Pain, CFS, Chronic Anxiety & Depression and occassionally have terrible cognitive capabilities including Fibro/Brain Fog.
My thoughts/experiences/examples regarding myself are below!
How do you think your Fibromyalgia affects your Pain, Me/CFS and Fibro Fog? For instance:
Do you feel weaker with a lot less energy?
Are your problems with Fibro Fog worsened?
Does your mood change?
Does your anxiety increase?
Then consider, what effects does your CFS then have back on your Fibromyalgia & pain? For instance:
Do you find your pain levels rise?
Again, do you feel weaker?
Does your level of mobility change as a result?
How’s your mood, had it changed again?
Does it make you lethargic and depressed?
Would you say that you are caught in a viscious circle of ‘Catch 22’ where one problem (let’s say the fibro & pain) effects another problem (let’s say fatigue), which then goes onto affect everything else including your cognitive functioning ( let’s say fibro fog)?
Questions you might ask yourself?:
How do think you can help yourself to manage all 3 at same the time?
Does it affect your job? and how? are there changes which work could make to make it less uncomfortable for you and easier to cope?
What changes can you make to help yourself cope with the Viscious circle of
PAIN >>>> FATIGUE >>>> FOG >>>> PAIN >>>> FATIGUE >>>> FOG
Map flow charts of your experiences if you can, what does it tell you?
I’d like to take this opportunity to show you how the 3 illnesses all affect each other through the use of FLOW CHARTING what happens during my flares and setbacks. It is easier to see the patterns of events in relation to how they effect one another creating a catch 22 type viscious circle that was hard to break.
I admit that I found that this was the case for me a few years back and finding a way off that viscious circle was not an easy ride!
It took a few years of counselling, a pain management program and a few lifestyle changes to combat my problem. I don’t think I will ever resolve it completely but through careful planning and pacing techniques I can survive it.
I designed coping strategies for times of setbacks and flares (yes, they are two separate issues), my setbacks occur after I’ve overdone things whereas my Flares are usually triggered by something associated with my Fibro or HMS hypersensitivities. Your flares could be triggered by something completely different.
If you look closely at what happens to you when you are flaring or having a setback you can then see what is effecting what, so I shall give you some personal examples.
Example of one of my own Flare Triggers:
A constantly changing bout of weather and air pressures can set off a flare for me just as much as an increase in my anxiety.
When I refuse to stop for 10 minutes and push to finish my task and I end up with higher pain levels that is a setback & I end up off my feet for a few days and do nothing but rest up!
A setback for me is usually easier to remedy with a bit of rest and adequate pain medication and/or therapy for a few days, whereas a flare needs to run its course like a cold or the flu, which is echoed in the flu type symptoms which occur when I’m flaring 😮
(Sorry if I’m equating a fibro flare to a cold/flu but I am speaking from my own experiences.)
A flare can last for days or months!
In my opinion we treat ourselves differently for each problem because they require it.
Finally! Please remember that I’m just a fellow Spoonie and not a medical professional. I’m just sharing info and my experiences with you 🙂 We are all different so how we react to things are different, my experiences may not be the same as yours and how we resolve our own problems will also be different.
If you ever feel your symptoms are worsening the best place for advice is your doctor, they may be able to help you 🙂
This is the research blog of Dr Sally Pezaro. Sally is 'The Academic Midwife' working to secure excellence in teaching and maternity services. Specialist interests include maternity services, workforce and midwifery research.