tai chi and fobromyalgia
I've found it quite difficult to put in writing how it feels to have Fibromyalgia, without getting morbid or sounding negative. It has been my experience that it is very necessary to stay positive and not to dwell on the negative.
Well, what does Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS for short) mean? Well, to put it in a nutshell, it means, having 'muscle pain throughout the body' (Think of how it feels to have flu on its worst day). You have brain-fog, you forget things, you have very poor concentration. You are tired all the time. You get insomnia, depression, panic/anxiety attacks, irritable bowel syndrome, dry eye syndrome and a multitude of other symptoms. Your body rebels against everything you’ve ever done or anything you want to do. The silliest thing will send it into shock, make believing you’ve had a major accident when in reality you’ve had a minor bump or scrape. FMS is very much a condition controlled by stress and we all acknowledge that we live in an extremely stressful society.
I was diagnosed with FMS a few years after giving birth to my daughter who is now 25, almost 26. I went through the usual visits to the hospital, was given a plethora of handouts detailing what FMS is and how to cope but the truth is doctors really don’t know how to deal with it as they can’t cure the condition. I visited the Bath Royal Rheumatology Hospital for weeks on end in an effort to learn how to cope with my condition and have had various other treatments in an effort to alleviate the pain. Medication didn’t really help, it just masked the symptoms and left me feeling like a zombie. But I tried what the doctors prescribed with the thought that if I didn’t try it then I couldn’t say it didn’t work. For me the medication route just didn’t work.
I started tai chi initially because it was on my list of “Things to do”. Then as the weeks went by and I learned more about this ancient art, I realised that if I stuck with it I could help my body overcome the battle that was raging inside me. I know this sounds incredibly dramatic, but that’s truly how it feels. You have no control over the pain and worse none of what you’re going though shows on the outside, everyone thinks you look healthy and can’t understand why you’re making a fuss. You get labelled hypochondriac and similar hurtful names by family friends and colleagues. Doing tai chi was not easy. Not just because my brain had to come to terms with remembering the choreography but because my body didn’t always want to co-operate - it hurt. It hurt like hell. Many was the time that I had to choose to go to class or stay home because I was in pain before class and knew that it would only get worse if I went. Staying home was the easy option and I was never one for the easy path. So I would go to class, do what I was able to do and then if necessary, sit down and watch before joining in again when the muscle spasms had lessened.
The best lesson I learned was the 70% rule. Truth to tell, it was one that took me a while to learn, (FMS sufferers tend to be perfectionists so rail against giving anything less than giving 100%). But none the less, when it finally sank in it became a mantra that I now live by. My body is like an elastic band, if I continue to stretch it to 100% it will eventually snap, but keep it to 70% and I’ve always got 30% in reserve for those days when the FMS tries to get the better of me.
Now 11 years later I instruct my own class in a fitness studio and help with a class in The Forest of Dean in Gloucester with the person who was my instructor when I first started Tai Chi. I attend workshops as often as I can and enjoy the experience of learning new things and improving what I have learned and am still learning. I still have days when I need to sit down and watch for a while but with perseverance and practice, those episodes have lessened. I think of tai chi as a journey. A journey where the speed with which I travel may vary. Sometimes my journey is a smooth, pain free one and at other times I need to sit a while and watch the world go by before joining in again. Tai Chi has enabled me to take control of my FMS not the other way round. It may not be the easiest of paths to take but as the saying goes “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Linda Batt - 50 Years Young