It was a very cold day in January when it happened. I was sitting at my desk at work, trying to warm up from walking between buildings on my company’s campus when the full onset kicked in. At first, I simply felt tingling on my arms, but within a matter of moments it felt like I had just been hit by a car. Pain overtook every inch of my skin and started working its way down deeper into my body. Every bone ached. Every joint stiffened up. The once comfortable office chair now felt like I was sitting on a bunch of spikes. My clothes felt like sandpaper.
I was experiencing my first full fibromyalgia flare up.
Fibromyalgia is a disease where the sufferer experiences chronic pain. The pain can be excruciating at times, like I found out on that cold January morning. But it can also be intermittent. It is a very rare day when a fibromyalgia sufferer doesn’t feel some sort of chronic pain. And many of them also suffer from other chronic illnesses, like chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis and numerous other issues.
Millions of people suffer from chronic illnesses like I do. And like me, I am absolutely certain that many tears have been shed over the years about why this is happening to them, why no one understands their pain, and worst of all, why no one can diagnose or properly treat them.
Since that January morning, I have learned a lot about why this has happened to me, and what I could do to help myself feel better. I am thankful for the resources out there and for the people I have reached out to for more information. But I still believe that there is one facet of support that is sorely lacking for indiciduals with chronic illnesses, and that is spiritual support. I don’t think it’s for lack of trying, there are plenty of spiritual leaders out there that are willing to do what they can to soothe the suffering of those dealing with issues like mine. However, they will never fully understand the pain. They will never fully understand the fatigue, the mental stress and the hundreds of other symptoms that people with chronic illness have to fight every day.
For those of us following pagan or alternative spiritual paths, there is even less information out there. And the information and tools that are out there don’t really help. In fact, many of those tools can cause more pain and suffering.
For example, there are times that even the the simplest energy work hurts. These are times when even the well wishes of others double the pain you feel. You know they mean well, but the healing energy they send feels like a sandstorm against and inside your body. They don’t understand that those of us with these types of illnesses have enough energy from nerves going haywire as it is. To send additional energy at that time is like adding fuel to the blazing fire that is a flare up.
Another example is the total body wellness model in spirituality. Many books, health gurus and even doctors talk about how an illness starts as negative energy in your aura. Left alone, this negativity goes deep into your chakras and causes disease (usually spelled out as ‘dis-ease’). While this view has some merit, most people with chronic illness will go through a period where they start to blame themselves for getting sick. This couldn’t be further from the truth. However, when you are in the middle of a flare up of fatigue or pain, you can’t think straight. That’s when the thought that you have done this to yourself grows to the point that your self worth diminishes, you start to take care of yourself less and less, and the disease gets worse. This horrible cycle continues until you can either find the courage to stop it or until the disease gets so out of control you end up disabled and bedridden.
I highly doubt I am the only pagan living with diseases like fibromyalgia. And I also don’t think that I am alone in using energy work, spells, meditation and journeying to help fight this disease. These things are just more tools in the arsenal, and if you are like me, you want as many tools as you can get.
In the coming weeks I want to explore this topic further. I have been using energy work on myself to alleviate the symptoms of my own chronic illness, and I believe that these tools can be used by others for the same benefit. And while I believe these tools won’t fully heal these illnesses, they can make life better for many people.
I will be putting out posts about this as often as I can. First however, I must put how I am doing some of these things into words to the point that they are understandable. When I first got the idea for this series of blog posts I must admit that so many ideas and thoughts were coming to me that it was hard to write everything down. I truly hope that these ideas will help to make others lives better. And even if it just helps one other person, I will be very happy.
For now, if you are fighting what feels like a loosing battle with any chronic illness, please remember that you are not alone. Recognize the fact that you are a powerful and strong person that deals with more on a daily basis than many people will ever realize. That fact means you are stronger than you give yourself credit for. We are in this together, and we can see this fight through.
Photo from Deviant Art