Why I had to give up perfectionism to recover from fibromyalgia

I think I have always been a perfectionist to a greater or lesser degree.

Whilst I am still always going to push myself to achieve as much as I can, in order to recover from fibromyalgia I have had to learn to cut myself some slack.

In 2013, in the struggle between me and chronic fatigue, the fatigue started to win and it started beating me. At that point I saw the GP and all my blood results came back normal there were no thyroid issues, no pre or type 2 diabetes and no other problems. So at that point I went home, kept pulling my socks up and continued to push on. I should have been listening to my body at this point but no, I continued to work, run a home and home-educate whilst berating myself for not being able to achieve more. What I didn’t do was stop…and that is when the chronic pain kicked in to add to the fatigue.

Nearly a year after the fatigue had started I saw the GP again. Again the blood results were normal except for a massive deficiency of vitamin D – that is a story for another day but needless to say the supplement was helpful but didn’t cure the symptoms. At this point I was referred for an MRI scan that showed degenerative disc disease in the majority of my spine (for this read…normal aging and disregard it). The scan didn’t explain the accompanying symptoms (pain, fatigue, insomnia, IBS, anxiety, plantar fasciitis, hip tendonitis,chest pain, headaches and jaw pain) so eventually I saw the rheumatologist who agreed with my diagnosis of fibromyalgia but still I pushed on because ‘battling’ the fibromyalgia become a mission.

Eventually in 2017 I found myself at the SIRPA (Stress Illness Recovery Practitioners Association) conference in London. The conference was entitled Chronic Pain: The Role of Emotions. Among the amazing speakers were Georgie Oldfield, Dr Howard Schubiner, Donna Jackson Nakazawa and Dr David Hanscomb. They had all studied the work of Dr John Sarno (The MindBody Prescription) and for the first time I felt I was surrounded by people who ‘got it’. They could explain the pain from a neurobiological point of view and using a biopsychosocial approach were having great success in aiding people with chronic pain in their recovery.

A few months later I found myself a SIRPA practitioner and there was a moment in our second or third appointment when he helped me to realise that the situation that was putting the most pressure on me, was me! The incessant voice within my head giving me such a hard time. The striving to be good enough against a bench mark not set by others but by my own perfectionist standards. My inner critic was very hard to please and the negative self talk was contributing to a huge level of self induced stress. This almost perpetual stress was triggering my fight/flight response. My brain didn’t know it was me and the constant agitated state was leading to an increased level of muscle tone as I got ready for the fleeing that never happened.

So after my appointment, well not quite immediately, I learnt to check that inner voice and now I no longer strive to be good enough but just to be enough. When you realise you are enough it becomes clear that you are worth putting the effort into for your recovery.

So now I practice much more self care. If I don’t get the washing up done before going to bed, I forgive myself, rest and get it done the next day. Not an excellent example I know but it was whilst elbow deep in a huge pile of washing up that this blog topic came to mind.

I am now training to be a SIRPA practitioner alongside my osteopathy and whilst I am not quite 100% recovered myself I am better enough and have the awareness to know when to listen to the voice in my head and when I need to disregard it and use one of the tools in our pain recovery toolkit to calm any rising overwhelm.