Martha Beck shares her experience with fibromyalgia.
Hi, I am Martha Beck. I am a life coach. I am columnist for O, the Oprah magazine and I write self-help books.
And I am here today to talk to you about fibromyalgia which is a painful chronic pain condition that I have had for about 30 years.
The onset of my symptoms came after I was hit by a car while training for a marathon. So I was very active and really identified with being out and around all the time. After the accident doctors told me, “Just lie down until you feel better.”
12 years later, I still hadn’t really gotten up. The pain spread from the area where I was hit which was in the hip, to all parts of my body including my hands, my back, and my knees.
There came a point where I couldn’t sit or stand or walk or use my hands without really, really crippling pain.
Now if you have pain in your body and nobody has been able to diagnose it, you may have fibromyalgia.
I really want you to explore that possibility because now we have found that there are medical diagnostic criteria for this condition and it’s a real disorder and doctors are now much more able to treat it.
We are just getting new information from brain studies and from studies on the spinal cord that show, yeah, people with fibromyalgia have a different body makeup than people without fibromyalgia. So there’s medical help on the horizon.
Now even if you don’t get medical help try some of the tips that I learned to start easing my symptoms when I started to really approach them proactively about 15 years ago.
The first thing that I did was I started keeping a pain journal. Every day I would write in my journal what I had done and how much pain I was experiencing.
And because of that I realized that times of high stress were causing my body to tense up and experience a lot more pain.
So I started relieving or removing stressors from my life and as a result I had far fewer symptoms. Another thing you can do is adopt what I call turtle steps, which is to start low, go slow and start taking a step every day toward making your body stronger.
So I was told for 12 years not to exercise because I was being misdiagnosed by doctor after doctor.
The doctor who finally, bless his heart, went and got his medical school textbook and he said, “I think there’s one paragraph in this huge book that says you may have this disorder.” And he read the symptoms and I thought ‘that’s it’.
And then he said, “Okay, the recommendations for this are exercise, vacations and massage.” And I said, “Can I have a note?”
And I left the office and went straight to the gym and had an incredibly painful workout with incredibly weak atrophied muscles, but the next day the pain was no worse so I went back and did it again.
30 years after getting fibromyalgia, 15 years after being diagnosed with fibromyalgia I am now more active and healthy than most of my friends.
So do not give up hope, people, and search the internet for information. Knowledge is power. You can get better. I am here to tell you it can happen.
About Martha Beck:
Martha Beck, Ph.D., is a writer and life coach who specializes in helping people design satisfying and meaningful life experiences. She holds a bachelor's degree in East Asian Studies and master's and Ph.D. degrees in sociology, all from Harvard University. She has published academic books and articles on a variety of social science and business topics.
Her non-academic books include the New York Times bestsellers “Expecting Adam” and “Leaving the Saints,” as well as “Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live” and her newest book, “Steering by Starlight.” Dr. Beck has also been a contributing editor for many popular magazines, including Real Simple and Redbook, and is currently a columnist for O, the Oprah Magazine.