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Hygiene for the Head

As printed in the Blackfly Gazette 4/1/2015

Mental health is a difficult subject to broach for many people. There has been a stigma regarding this for as long as there has been an issue. But the truth is that all of us suffer from poor mental hygiene in one way or another. I only have to mention Robin Williams to evoke a strong association between someone whom we all love, yet someone who felt so alone and even unloved.

There is a stark contrast between the time we take for our physical health, compared to our mental health. We even train our children to brush their teeth, take baths, wash their hands. As an example of how we train our kids, I remember when my nephew when under 5 years old and playing outside, skinned his knee. He knew enough to come inside to the bathroom, wipe the grit out of the wound, then reach for a band-aid. He was protecting his body from infection. But how much time has his parents spent training him to understand how to handle issues such as loneliness or rejection?

Lets take the example of a 40 year old divorced woman who is going out on a date. She was so excited beforehand, she bought a new dress, coloured her hair, purchased new makeup pallets and felt the best she has in a long time. But halfway through the meal, the guy just stands up and says, “I’m just not able to do this” and walks out. She is frozen. Unable to get up she turns to a friend who says, “What are you thinking, going out with him? Why did you get your hopes up? Your hips are huge, you can’t hold an adult conversation… Why did you even try?”

Now, that is truly shocking thing to say, isn’t it? Hearing that you would scream at the top of your lungs, DISOWN THAT SO-CALLED FRIEND! But the truth is, if I told you that was what she was thinking about herself, you would understand her doing that. Our very minds and emotions are fickle, and can turn on us in a flash. Those were her first thoughts, and a huge telling of how much we lack in understanding of mental hygiene.

We suffer far more injuries mentally than than physically. Yet we tell depressed persons, it is all in your mind, shake it off. Now, imagine telling someone with a broken bone, walk it off, the pain is just in your leg. The more you use it, the less it will hurt. You just need to get out more. Just think positive.

My mom and I have always been very close. Not to say I was a momma’s boy, but we had actually had a really great friendship. We spoke on the phone, if not every day, then every-other. Then I moved to Alabama for collage, and she re-married about the same time, and this was before cell phones were common. We were reliant on her to call a payphone in the dorm, but we had a ritual worked out. She would call at a certain time every week. Only one day, I didn’t hear from her. Just, no call. I checked the phone, it worked fine. So I thought maybe something came up, she will likely call tomorrow. But the next day came and went, still no call. Then I figured, well, maybe she forgot this week, something came up, I’m sure she will call next week. Only next week came, and the phone rang many times, but it was never for me. So what did I think now? Maybe she just doesn’t miss me as much as I miss her. That was the start of a dark and lonely road. It was weeks. I was devastated.

Finally one of the Residential Advisers let me use his phone to call home, and when I did, I found out my mom was really upset too. The phone company changed the phone number to the payphone and disconnected the old one. There was a notice that went out, but I failed to get it. When I told my mom how devastated I was, she asked me, well, why didn’t you call collect, or ask to use another phone before? I didn’t have an answer for that.

Loneliness had crept in and gouged huge mental scars. Prolonged or chronic loneliness causes enormous problems. It creates a feeling that people care for us much less than they really do, and it is compounded by a feeling that we shouldn’t even try to reach out because we will only be setting ourselves up for more heartache, when our heart is already aching more than we can possibly bare. It is solely a feeling that we are disconnected with everyone.

Chronic Loneliness can cause death, just as cancer or cigarettes. It can cause hypertension, stress, our immune system to drop, and even make us 14% more likely to die. How are you at combating the feeling of loneliness?

Something else that we all face is failure, and we need to train ourselves to react to it properly. Take the example of three toddlers playing with identical toys. The toy is clear and has three buttons on it and a slide bar. If you slide the bar, it opens to give access to to the candy inside.

The first child notices the blue button and tries with all her might to pull on the button, to no avail. So then she pushes the button, over and over – still nothing. She sets it down and her bottom lip begins to quiver, and soon the tears are flowing. The second child sees all of this, looks at the toy and just shuts down and cries. Didn’t even try. The third child had done everything she could think of on the blue button, the yellow button and even tried to pry the lid off herself. Finally she grabs the red slide and gains access. The other two begin to really wail, seeing that the third actually got to her candy.

Three very different reactions to the same challenge, and to some degree, we all fit one of these temperaments. If we are convinced that we are going to fail, we only prove ourselves right. Many of us are functioning at a much lower level than our potential, simply because we have a mental expectation of what we can do, or how much we are willing to try. We have to fight the feeling that we can’t succeed, every day.

In all three examples above, there is one mental process that we find in common. In each case the most negativity came from a mental process called ruminating. It means to really chew on, or to go over and over in our mind. We question, over-analyze and calculate fault, usually with ourselves. And once you start that habit, it is extremely difficult to stop. We feel it is very important to process it, to analyze it more, compounding the issue. Then another situation comes up, and we find it is just like the other, only proving ourselves as at fault and it compounds again. We can try to do something else, but we keep falling back into those thoughts. The cycle makes that moment even more important, and so we must analyze it more.

If we find ourselves in this situation, we have to stop that process, it is toxic. A psychologist once helped me to understand that if we find something else to concentrate on for just 2 minutes, we can pull out of that moment. When it comes up again, concentrate on something else for at least 2 minutes. Then again and again, as often as you need to, and to this day I still need that advice.

Rumination is not always the issue, and stopping this is not a cure by any means, just something we can change to improve our mental hygiene. We do need to remove the stigma from mental health issues. Stop assuming that people are at fault for their own depression, and recognize that we all need help and support, especially when our minds turn on us.

In the past as personal hygiene – washing hands and brushing teeth – improved life expectancy increased by about 50% over a few decades. If we improve our own mental hygiene, how much more will our quality of life improve? If you are struggling with any of these issues, or just feel the need to talk to someone, we have a great resource right here in town. The Perth-Andover Mental Health Services has a great staff that can help – they certainly have helped me. If you need assistance, or would like to discuss options there are a few numbers for you. Addiction and Mental Health Services: 273-4701, Mobile Crisis After Hours Services: 1(888)667-0444, Kids Help Line: 1(800)668-6868

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Are Smartphones Making You Dumb?

As printed in the Blackfly Gazette 4/15/2015

How much time do you spend with your smartphone? Not just having it in your pocket, but how much time, or how many times a day are you checking it? Right now, reading this article, are you thinking about where your phone is, or if you have any new messages? Can you sit at the table for a meal with your family without checking it, even if it lets you know there is a new message or alert? Most of us would say no, if we are being honest. Maybe we need to rethink our relationship with our smartphones because they are not making us smart.

With new apps such as Breakfree (Android only, Apple is coming soon), you can track the time you spend and the number of occurrences that you are checking your smartphone. The average adult is spending 2 to 4 hours using apps or games and interrupting their day 110 times to check social media apps, even just to see that there are no new alerts. Beside being incredibly rude to those around us, is there any harm in checking in every few moments? In a word, yes. Our phones are interrupting a critical process that we all need. Boredom.

I know that sounds crazy, but it is absolutely true. Boredom starts a critical thought process that seriously improves our mental health. The human mind has been studied for hundreds of years, but we are only now beginning to understand the science of mind-wondering, the act of allowing one thought to lead you to another. There is a direct link between creativity and this kind of daydreaming. It involves allowing yourself to spend time being open to ideas, pondering thoughts, and meditating on a challenge or set of circumstances. By allowing ourselves uninterrupted time to think about a subject we are substantially more intelligent in our conclusions.

But what happens when our smartphones chirp? When we hear that ding to tell us a new email has arrived? It derails our thought process, we become substantially less intelligent in our conclusions because of these interruptions. It takes time and effort to get to this state of mind and we are much less likely to find ourselves back in that mode after pulling up our phones. And we become more like a lab rat. We have literally conditioned ourselves to respond to email dings, Twitter chirps, Facebook alerts and reminder bells, much like lab rats are conditioned to push leavers or buttons, run mazes and perform specific tasks.

Not only does this time – this boredom – help us to be more creative, but we also enter into a process of positive constructive criticism. This is a state that analyzes our own actions and judges them according to our conscience. Yes, this will occasionally create some uncomfortable moments, even regret. It is critical that we do this. It is how we learn from our own mistakes or consider how we can overcome obstacles – becoming more mentally and emotionally intelligent.

The effect of constant interruptions, or picking up our smartphones to avoid these thoughts, is that we significantly reduce our emotional intelligence. We learn to use the phone as a thought-crusher. This is a disease, a cancer of humanity, especially if we are allowing kids to do this at an early age. Through boredom we learn at an early age how to reflect and adjust our behaviors. Let the kids be bored, when you were a kid, you were. If I told my parents I was bored, I ended up scrubbing floors, doing dishes or working in the yard. It is valuable experience to be able to deal with boredom and be creative enough to entertain ourselves.

I’m not saying it is going to be easy. The temptation is enormous to pull out our smartphones and tablets, believe me. But we need to be less of a lab rat, and display more intelligence and creativity.

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Your Loyalty

As printed in the Blackfly Gazette 3/13/2015

The other day I was in town and a big red truck pulls in front of me. You probably have seen it in town, its big, red and a truck, you really can’t miss it. But what caught my fancy is not any of those details, but the huge lettering plastered on the back window. MOPAR. I couldn’t help but think that it must have cost him money to put that on his truck. How did he begin to feel so proud of factory branded replacement parts for Dodge, Fiat and Chrysler? So much so, that his loyalty to that brand has become part of his identity?

It happens to us all, on some level. We all have shirts that are branded, hats, purses, shoes. Nearly everything has a logo or branding on it somewhere, and we feel a strong sense of loyalty to particular brands. When I really reflected on this I realized that I only buy Dawn dish detergent, New Balance sneakers, Coca Cola, Dial bar soap and Bulls Eye BBQ sauce. I wouldn’t be caught dead in a ball cap with Chevy on it, I would rather go thirsty than drink a Pepsi and I wouldn’t accept a pair of Nike shoes if you gave them to me. But why? Have you ever considered why you developed a loyalty to a brand?

Lets take a look at where we are exposed to messages that beg our loyalty. No, its not from the cool kids, not your friends. The major influence upon us is Television. For every 30 minutes of TV you watch, 14 to 16 minutes is commercial time, and that doesn’t even cover product placement in the show content. We are bombarded by messages, over and over again, that are actually designed and engineered to manipulate your loyalty. Agencies hire psychologists to support their brand management, and delve deeply into how they can make you feel emotionally bonded to their brand. They know that if you are tied this way, you will forever be loyal, even making them part of your very identity, as the guy with the big red truck. You know it is his truck, because it says Mopar on it.

Lets take one brand that we all know well: Tim Horton’s. The next time you see one of their commercials, think about what emotions they are trying to evoke from you. Family, well being, winning a hockey game, coming home, even just being a Canadian. And any Canadian who has been on a long road trip into the more Southern States will tell you where the first Tim’s was on their way back home. When my wife and I got married in Florida, spending two weeks away, tears welled in her eyes when she saw the first Tim’s. The emotional bond was so strong that Tim Horton’s was home to her, part of her identity, who she is. If you ask her today she will still be able tell you where it was – Augusta, ME – and how happy she felt when she saw it.

Tim Horton’s isn’t the only one. Think about the messages behind Coke, they inspire you to be happy or to share love. Pepsi makes you hip. Pizza Hut = family happiness. Nike = athleticism. Gucci = wealth. Budweiser = sex and strong traditions. Bud Light = fun/party. Coors = relaxing with friends. Dodge = being a real man. Dawn = labour free cleanliness. Windex = the only streak-free windows… I could go on for days, but the question this raises is this; is my loyalty to any particular brand deserved?

Lets take a sample from a beverage such as Coca Cola or Pepsi. The average Teen will drink a minimum of 3 a day. Assuming that one is from a vending machine, gas station or restaurant and two are at home from a box, in just 4 years – over their high-school career – they have drank $12,000.00 away. For that money, what loyalty does that soda display to that Teen? Or to their parent who actually spent the money? Z E R O, zip, zilch, nada. Does it make you think again about buying a t-shirt with a Pepsi logo on it? I have nothing against your fashion choices, but lets take this idea, and show how it could have an impact on our area.

I realize that alcohol is not for everyone, but this is one area where we can actually make a small change and help boost our economy, right here. Sitting in front of the liquor store for 30 minutes, I watched 3/4 of the people walk out of the store with imported beer from The States. Bud Light, Coors, MGD and the like. If I asked them why, they would say it is what they like, but is it really about taste? Any psychologist, especially in marketing, will tell you that they seriously doubt it. Our emotional reasoning is the largest part of our purchasing habits. When was the last time you thought about why you buy these products? Is your loyalty misplaced?

Here is something to consider, we have the Rail Car Brewery just down river. Mitch has been putting out amazing hand-crafted beers – he really puts his heart and soul into every one of them. His son, Justin, with Basset Hound Brewery even contributes some of these and has been considering going commercial as well. If we show our loyalty to them, how much money would stay in our local economy? Instead of helping several executives buy a new luxury yacht, you may force Mitch or Justin to create new jobs, spend money with local builders to expand, or maybe they will buy a boat that you have a chance to enjoy with them, on our river. The best part of buying their beer? The taste. There is something I heard once from someone in the craft brewery trade; “When was the last time you tasted a Bud Light? Never. It has no taste.” I happen to agree with that sentiment, believing our town water has a more developed flavor profile. As we mature, so should our palate. Mitch and Justin’s beers have actual flavor, and for that they already have my loyalty.

So now I turn this question to you: What else do we have here in town that may deserve a little of our loyalty?

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Trees Are Made of Air & Other Science Facts

As printed in the Blackfly Gazette – 3/6/2015

Trees are actually made of air. Really, they are. Think about it, if they were made of soil, there would be a rather large pit around the base of the tree. And the oxygen that they release is not derived from the carbon dioxide that they absorb. I know, that sounds like heresy, but it is true. I recently learned that when trees absorb carbon dioxide, they turn that into a sugar that is used to create more – well – tree. It is not breaking the carbon from the oxygen and releasing the oxygen to the air. The `oxygen that is released is actually from the water that pull up from the ground. There is proof, I’m not just spouting nonsense, but we will get there in a minute.

After basic education most of us have moved on to earning rather than learning or, job over school. But it is human nature to enjoy learning something that we find interesting. Maybe not picking up a book and studying for the BAR exam on your own. But picking up an interesting fact here and there is rewarding to us all. And lets face it, science is not standing still. Human understanding of our world is changing every day. Like trees are made of air, the Earth is not flat and it revolves around our sun, which revolves around in our galaxy, and the centre of our galaxy is at least one large black hole…

But you hated science in school didn’t you? Maybe hate isn’t the right word, but not every moment was enthralling, and you are not alone. I’ve never read a text book that I liked. Where I went to school (big city), we had 40 students to a class and lets face it, finding out if the redhead in the front row already had a date for the dance was higher on my priorities than the atomic weight of niobium. I wasn’t the class clown or anything, and maybe I was the one who gave him the idea, but school wasn’t all about learning.

So, why now? Simply because we can now cherry-pick the ideas that we find fascinating, and there is a resource we didn’t have when I was in school. YouTube. There are some really great channels that are produced by passionate people who love teaching as much as learning. Seeing the science in action is truly an awesome experience, but finding quality, current information can be daunting. There are a lot of channels to sift through… So I thought I would share just 5 of my favourites. Rather than giving you links that you can’t click on in print, I will give you the names. You can enter the names as they are typed below in the search box on the YouTube website to find them.

SmarterEveryDay

By far, my favourite! Destin lives in Alabama and makes frequent use of ultra-high speed cameras. Ever thought about a tattoo? He created the video that has been circulating the internet and Facebook showing the needles digging in. His about page says: I explore the world using science. That’s pretty much all there is to it. Watch 2 videos. If you learn something AWESOME, subscribe.

Vsauce

Michael lives in London, but he is an American. His channel asks some very strange questions, then answers them with science. Questions such as, what would happen if everyone on Earth jumped at the same time? Or, Is all fair in love and war? Is a bowl of cereal, soup? All questions you probibly would never think of, but really facinating to look at things from a little different perspective. There are also Vsauce2 and Vsauce3. While facts and factoids are the focus, if you like video games or want to get really cool game themed gifts, these are must see channels!

MinutePysics

Ever wondered what gravity actually is? We know what it does. It is what draws you irresistibly down on your face when you step on ice. But why? Or what is it? Have you heard anything about the Higgs Bozon? Ever wondered why it is so significant? There are a few videos about that. How about, Why is the solar system flat? Short animated explanations of how physics work. There is also a sister channel called MinuteEarth that is equaly fascinating.

Veritasium

Science and Engineering. There is an explanation of quantum entanglement that just about anyone can understand, as well as answering questions such as Why does aluminum feel colder than wood?

SciShow

Hank and other guests explain science in bite-size chunks. Questions such as, do fish drink water? Why does your tongue stick to the flagpole? Many of their videos cover several subjects, giving brief explanations on what is going on in science today.

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Follow Your Dreams

As printed in the Blackfly Gazette 5/20/2015

What did you want to be when you were a kid? I’m not talking about when you were 5 and saw your first firetruck racing down the road, or the big green tractor turning dirt over in the field. Just a little older, maybe 10 or 12. At that age we were learning about scientists, astronauts, engineers, and doctors. We were taught about how astronomers were able to show the planets revolving around our sun, how biologist discovered what makes our bodies work, and even how mathematicians and physicists can explain, well, everything. Names that everyone can recognize are Einstein, Armstrong, Newton, and Franklin. So what was it for you? And really, more than just what it was, but also think about why it captured your attention.

For me personally, I was always fascinated with art and architecture. I wanted, really wanted, to work in an art museum as a curator or give lectures to help others appreciate and understand truly great works. Why? My parents had less than zero appreciation for anything related to contemporary art. True art was the grand masters who nearly created photographic works, and this cheap upstart called Pollock or this womanizing Picasso guy had no sense whatsoever. They simply did not understand the works, why Gerard Richter smeared his paints, why Jackson Pollock slung his strings of color. However – my grandfather did. He took me to museums and taught me about art and color. Paul McKinney (my grandfather and personal art historian) was the person who invented the three-color printing process that is still used today for every magazine, book and newspaper. If you have a color printer at home, it has the same three colors in cartridges that he designed. My interest in art was developed by learning about it from an engineering perspective.

No matter what it was that you were so interested in as a child, it was no doubt a similar experience to mine. In essence, you learned about something and it sparked an emotional response. You found excitement and even joy in that subject, only to find out that there was a career in that field. That desire was sparked by the joy of learning. You were fascinated by being able to create blueprints of buildings that someone could build, or maybe even being the person who built the structure. Or you wanted to work with animals as a veterinarian or with kids as a teacher. Your whole life flashed in front of you. You wanted that as your costume and you even pretended to do that with your siblings or neighbors.

So did you reach your dream? Don’t feel bad if you didn’t, life happens. There could have been education hurdles, jobs moved to foreign countries, unplanned parenthood or any number of circumstances that threw us hurdling down another path. Or maybe what we were interested in just doesn’t pay bills. But that doesn’t mean that our curiosity has to wane. The things we loved as a child, we can still do or learn about. That was the case with me. Despite my love of art, I went to collage, got a degree in telecommunications and worked for the telephone company as a high level troubleshooter and project manager. There wasn’t a lick of art to it. I only became an artist a few years ago.

What if I told you that your dreams, like mine, don’t have to die completely? No, really, they don’t. While we may not want to start a career change, we can still learn about what interests us. Here are a few resources:

First of all, lets get the big ones out of the way… Doctor, Lawyer, or others that require extended commitment to schooling. There are no bones about it, college is the only true path to these careers, however having an interest in the field doesn’t necessarily mean college. Think about the individual subjects that are involved and start with Google. You can learn a lot about anatomy, biology, chemistry and physics online. There are also a number of books available at the library on these subjects, and with a New Brunswick library card, you can check out many titles on your smartphone or tablet by downloading the app called Overdrive. I usually have 2 – 3 books checked out, even audio books to listen to while working away at something else or driving.

University of New Brunswick has a great deal of classes designed for adults in continued education. Programs such as Art with Grand-kids, pet grooming, creative writing or photography, and even a class for women on do-it-yourself projects. You can browse many subjects here: unb.ca/cel/programs

YouTube. You can learn about anything on YouTube. It is mind boggling the number of people, like you, who are interested in any subject you can imagine. Do you want to change out a bathroom sink? Check YouTube. Do you want to learn how to build a model airplane? Check YouTube. Want to learn how to subtract a number by adding? Check YouTube. (Yes it is there! youtube.com/watch?v=PS5p9caXS4U )

If you can’t find what you are looking for through Google or YouTube, try using scholar.google.ca. This takes a deeper look into professional white-papers and technical information. There are also a number of search engines that allow you to look at what is called the deep-web. The deep-web is not necessarily nefarious. The pages just don’t show up on using most search engines, such as Google, Bing or Yahoo. These only scrape the surface of the internet, looking for assigned meta-data. There are many, many sites that you just have to know about to find. Using a much more detailed search engine, such as deeperweb.com you can search for obscure pages or subjects that are not commonly found through other means. You can also try archive.org for books and other information.

Whatever passion or path, continue to learn. Educate yourself in everything, and you will find great satisfaction in gaining knowledge and experiences. Follow your dreams and enjoy life.

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Fibromyalgia awareness day – May 12

Picture in your mind that you are strapped down to a table in some mad scientist’s lab, not unlike Dr. Frankenstein’s dungeon lair. He has pulled metal rods from a tank of liquid nitrogen – freezing the vary air around them. He proceeds to hammer the frozen hunks of metal deep into your muscles. Finally, he connects heavy cables to the rods and throws a giant hinged power switch that connects lightning generators to your very bones. You see sparks start at the bottom of the rods, ebbing up to the top of each pair, lighting the entire room with burning blue-white light.

Only to add to your misery, there is an invisibility cloak around you. No one outside of it can see the rods, the sparks and the lightning, nor can they see the straps holding you down or hear the maniacal laughter bellowing forth from the mad doctor that is hidden within. No one can understand. No one can see your misery.

This is a story about Fibromyalgia. Yeah, it seems exaggerated, but all of the elements described above are real. Sufferers may not have literal metal rods protruding from their bones but that is about as close as the worst days can be described. What about average days? That varies from a dull ache in several locations to that sensation of whacking your funny-bone on the corner of a table.

Most of us know someone who has fibromyalgia, but we really can’t understand why they always seem to be in pain or claim that they can’t do something that seems so trivial. So, why is it that fibromyalgia is so hard to understand? Three reasons; (1) Very little is known about fibromyalgia, not even what the cause is. It just happens. (2) Simply put, no one can possibly wrap their heads around it because the condition makes very little sense. It defies all logic. (3) Pain is a relative sensation, and now all of us experience aches everyday.

Pain is Relative

If you see me smash my thumb with a hammer you will likely understand that I am in pain. You would likely also overlook proclamations that the nail either had questionable sexual relations with it’s own mother, or its parents were not married when born. In contrast, if I silently shook my hand, grabbed another nail and kept going, you would think it must not have hit hard. But you cannot possibly tell me what level of pain I feel.

If you are anywhere around the age of 30 or more and you have a persistent ache in your knee, you will likely conclude that you are just getting old. Therefore if someone else complains about their knees, you know from your experience that you just have to deal with it. But with fibromyalgia, it isn’t just an ache from age, it isn’t just a pain from overuse – and it can be severe.

What is Fibromyalgia?

While we still do not know why it happens, there is a physical issue within the muscles that cause two types of pain, fibromyalgia or chronic myofascial pain syndrome. Our muscles are made of many layers of individual muscle fibers. There is a membrane that wraps around each of these fibers called the myofascial membrane. This membrane is the same that extends the length of the fibers, forming together at the ends to create the tendons that connect muscle to bone.

If you overuse a muscle, any normal person may get a knot. That is a reaction of the myofascial membrane, hardening to protect the muscle fiber. Fibromyalgia is when this membrane hardens in specific locations and does not release, becoming a trigger point. This trigger point causes mild to severe pain at that location. If the trigger point traps a nerve, the nerve can interpret this as a phantom pain elsewhere, such as within a knee or finger joint(Chronic Myofascial Pain Syndrome).

Why is it Hard to Understand?

Every bit of conventional experience and wisdom that we have accumulated is contradicted. If you overuse a muscle you need to stretch or exercise that muscle to work out the issue. With fibromyalgia when you have overused a muscle and you experience pain, you have to stop using it. Continuing to exercise will worsen the condition – increasing the pain or the time experienced. Even worse, you may try to compensate for the trigger point bothering you the most. The consequences are that you over-rely on another muscle group, causing a new trigger point or series of trigger points to develop. For instance – you pick up a cane because your knees hurt so bad. Over time your forearm, tricep and shoulder develop trigger points because you shifted the work onto all of these muscles and the condition spreads.

There are also what are called flareups. Days or periods of time that the pain intensifies. So you may see someone out having a great time, shopping, walking, perhaps even playing basketball. But the next day they can’t make it to work. Well, that is just the way it is. Most often sufferers have such a long period of pain and inability that when they do have a normal day, they tend to make the most of it. Maybe too much of it. It is difficult to find fault with them for this when you consider the elation that is experienced when they have what you would call an average day.

Defying More Logic

It is not understood exactly what relationship sleep has with fibromyalgia, whether it is an effect or a cause, but most have difficulty sleeping, and their sleep schedule is way off. Even without any distractions, light, noise or other stimulation, sleep is very hard to come by, but essential to having less symptoms.

Another common symptom is that any change in weather = pain. Cold is really bad, rain is bad, humidity is bad, and the very worst thing in the world is when the wind starts to really kick up. If it is windy outside, they are in full Frankenstein’s lair mode.

Exhaustion. Sufferers have a finite amount of energy for the day, and just getting out of bed is very taxing. Each individual has a different time of the day that is best. Usually a 3 hour or shorter window where they might be able to walk enough to get a few groceries or participate in light activities. However, if they burn through their finite amount of energy, they are starting to borrow from tomorrow. But their body is a ruthless loan shark. The next day they have interest due, amounting to more than what they have to give. Continuing to push themselves, they borrow from the next day, compounding the problems.

Resources

If you have fibromyalgia, or you just want to understand it better, there are a few resources that I recommend. I found the best to be a book titled Fibromyalgia & Chronic Myofascial Pain Syndrome A Survival Manual – by Mary Ellen Copeland, M.S., M.A. and Devin Starlanyl, M.D. There are very detailed illustrations of all of the trigger points and their associated phantom pain locations.

There are also websites devoted to the understanding of fibromyalgia and to helping sufferers to cope. My favorite being originally geared toward men, but they welcome women as well – menwithfibro.com. There is also a Canadian page, fm-cfs.ca .

Reason for an Awareness Day

There are very few who know about or understand fibromyalgia, yet over 760,000 Canadians have been diagnosed, and an additional 50,000 worldwide are being added each week. Most of us can not understand when someone says they hurt or that they have an issue that doesn’t seem logical. We give advice like, you just need to exercise or loose weight, or can only imagine that the person is just lazy. But the truth is that no one wants to feel lazy. Everyone knows that being productive is the most satisfying, we all want to enjoy life, participate in activities. Our understanding of conditions that adversely affect us as individuals can never keep up with the new and under-diagnosed causes that develop every day in this world.

But there is hope. Revelations 21:3,4