In many ways Fibromyalgia is a disease of the senses. I’ve read that when someone goes blind, their sense of smell and hearing becomes more acute. It’s the bodies way of compensating for the loss of one sense. It’s seems like a Fibro warrior’s body is doing that double time and it’s making us into Superman.
We smell “better.” Warriors are more attuned to smell and often sneeze when we go into perfume shops or become nauseated by chemical smells. As child I knew whenever my dad would pour acid (a super version of drano) in the bathroom tub because it smelled sweet – and gross. No one else could smell it.
Our hearing is also sensitized. John thinks it’s strange that I can’t stand some of his music choices. He listens to what I’ve deemed adolescent angry boy music or the “lithium” channel on sirius radio. It literally makes my skin crawl. I want to scream and shake my head to make it stop. Talk radio also drives me crazy. I become irrationally annoyed whenever it’s on. It never made sense to me. Until now.
Our sight is also affected. I’ve had trouble with my night vision for years. I especially have trouble if it’s raining or when I’m turning left. I’ve already driven into corn fields because I missed the road I was turning onto. I also have a sensitivity in my right eye in the dark. It bothers me when I go to movies, or watch tv in the dark. I can’t be on the computer at night without an overhead light on. I also have a lot of trouble with lights that are on the same level as my eyes. Table lamps that are at the same height as my eye must be turned off. So freaking weird, right?!
I don’t even think I need to mention the sense of touch. Any Fibro Warrior knows that our perception of touch is totally off.
The question becomes. Why are our senses so out of wack? Is it simply a symptom of the disease or is it because our bodies are on high alert. I read a theory that Fibromyalgia is the result of our bodies being in constant Fight or Flight response. That somewhere deep in our brains a switch went off telling us there is danger afoot and we need to stay alert and fight it off.
That really resonates with me. It certainly explains why our senses are super human. If our body thinks danger (which I’m going to refer to as The Bear) is lurking around the corner it’s going to hypersensitize everything. Our brain is telling our nose to smell, look and listen for The Bear.
It also explains why our sleep is so terrible! While we’re snoozing, our brain is saying, Wait! The Bear might be outside your door, you can’t go into a deep restorative sleep because you might not hear it and The Bear might eat you! I’ve been saying for years that if you turn on a light, it’ll wake me up.
On top of that, fight or flight response makes our muscles tense up in response to the stress hormones and adrenaline that’s now coursing through our bodies. So here we are sleeping and our brain is telling our muscles to stay alert for The Bear. You might have to jump up at a moments notice and fight The Bear. You can’t relax or you might get eaten! Stay alert Margo!
There have been studies done of people without a sleep disorder where their sleep cycle is disrupted throughout the night (kinda like what our brain is doing to us). Within a few days, these people start to show a loss of cognition & muscle fatigue. And this is happening to our bodies EVERY NIGHT! It makes me wonder if many of the symptoms of Fibromyalgia are actually caused by our sleep dysfunction. And if so, wouldn’t better sleep greatly relieve our symptoms?
Before you grab your keys and run to CVS to get a sleeping pill; I have some bad news. In everything that I’ve read, it’s been said over and over again that sleeping pills don’t help Fibro Warriors sleep better. I think it’s because sleeping pills help you to fall asleep but they don’t help you stay asleep – which is our inherant problem. We keep waking up in the night.
So now the question is, how do we turn off our Fight or Flight response? Is it even possible? If our brains believed we were out of danger, would we sleep better and then ultimately would many of our symptoms subside? Will deep breathing, meditation or yoga help us? Should be spend time visualizing ourselves making friends with The Bear and having tea? How do we tap into the deep recesses of our brain that’s screaming danger and calm it down?
As of now, it can’t be done. We aren’t in control of it, which is frustrating since it’s our brain! Shouldn’t we be able to control it! Unfortunately we can’t. Fibromyalgia isn’t a psychological disorder. While it’s all in our heads, it’s really not. If that makes any sense.
For now I’m hoping that some doctor out there is asking these same questions and exploring how to calm our brain, which in turn will calm our entire being.
Yours in Health,