Fibromyalgia part two: Mental health
Updated: Dec 13, 2022
Mel Rising Dawn Cordeiro
Last week, I wrote about the physical issues that go along with having fibromyalgia. This week, I am going to address the mental health issues as well. As with any chronic condition, there is a risk for long-term mental concerns.
Depression, of course, is one of the main concerns. Depression may not hit immediately, and the level of depression will depend on the progression of the fibromyalgia. Because fibromyalgia affects everyone differently, some individuals may experience only severe pains. Some people may not even see progression with their diagnosis. For those that do, the loss of freedom and mobility as you learn to navigate the world, and what your new limits are, can be depressing. The new loss of control of your body, having to ask someone for help and figuring out what you are capable of doing can bring about feelings of anger and resentment, as well as fear and sadness.
Most, if not all, fibromyalgia patients will experience brain fog at some point. I like to describe brain fog as the mental equivalent of looking through a foggy car windshield. The severity of the brain fog depends on the person, as it also depends on the progression of the disease.
Having brain fog is awful. I, too, have this and in all honesty, it makes me feel stupid sometimes. Having brain fog means forgetting words, not having the ability to recall finer details, having little to no memory of things, no matter when they occurred and just severe, general forgetfulness.
Brain fog in and of itself can lead to depression because those with fibromyalgia lose the ability to self-express. Speaking skills are lost, as well as writing skills. The ability to learn new things is also often hindered. Brain fog means a lot of repetition, telling the same stories over and over again or even repeating the same thought multiple times. Often times, the feeling of being “stupid” or a “screw-up” for forgetting or misplacing something can lead to us putting ourselves down. Those who do not understand fibromyalgia, or who are not even aware of the diagnosis, will also put us down.
Joking about memory loss is okay if you know the person you are joking with, or if they crack a joke first. No one enjoys being called “dumb” or “stupid,” but it happens. Those who call us names are also the ones who make us feel detrimental to society when using assistive devices in public places. I used to joke with my friends when I was younger that I had a terrible memory and couldn’t even remember what I ate for breakfast. It was true back then that I had a poor memory, but it took me years to finally discover why.
Keeping a positive attitude and mentality is a hard thing to do. It’s hard to do in today’s world in general, nevermind for someone who has a chronic pain condition. Asking for help can be hard, but having someone there, even if they don’t understand fibromyalgia, can be a beneficial mental and emotional boost.
Those people I know who have fibromyalgia are always willing to answer questions, myself included. We just ask for patience, as sometimes we repeat ourselves a million and one times, forgetting what we’ve already told you.