Alright, so I’ve done an awful lot of thinking on my usual topic in the last few weeks. But I’m going to reach way back and pull up a topic I haven’t discussed in a long time. I have it, my mother has it, and several other relatives and friends have it. It is often considered something that is “all in your head,” even though it is now considered a disability by the government (in the United States). So, what is it? I’m not talking about ADHD this time. I’m talking about Fibromyalgia.
So lets talk a little about Fibro. It mostly affects women, but can affect anyone, at any age. Sometimes it is triggered by some type of trauma. It causes tender points all over the body. It causes widespread pain with no apparent source. It can interfere with sleep, and gets worse when you are sleep-deprived. It can make your mind a little scattered, resulting in what is termed “Fibro-Fog”. It can be improved with exercise, but it makes exercise difficult. There are probably a lot of other things about it that I am forgetting, and it affects everyone to a different degree. In fact, it can affect one person at a different degree from one day to the next. It can be linked to migraines, and may very well be triggered by diet, if not weather.
But consider this. What if I have Fibromyalgia, then I find out that I also have ADHD? So what, you might say. But hear me out. Lets talk a little about ADHD. Attention isn’t only difficult to focus at times, but it is also difficult to break at times; a symptom referred to as hyper-focus. Imagine a child, sitting in church, wearing uncomfortable dress clothes, and he is constantly pulling at his collar or scratching at the tag in the back of his shirt. He can’t focus on the sermon, or anything else for that matter, because the level of his personal discomfort is too high. All he can think about is how much he would like to take off all of his clothes. He is probably dying to get home and do just that, and has no idea what anyone around him is saying or doing. It doesn’t help him to ignore it, or distract himself from it by paying attention to the pastor. Telling him to sit still isn’t going to do anyone an ounce of good. That is what having ADHD is like. For myself, I almost always have my hair in a ponytail, because I cannot stand to have it touching my face. If my hair is down, it usually distracts me, irritates me, and imposes itself into my every waking thought until I can get it tied back. (Don’t get me started on when I get it cut too short to tie back.)
So what does that have to do with Fibromyalgia? Alright, now instead of a little boy with too much starch in his shirt, imagine a middle-aged woman with constant body aches. No matter what she does, if she’s moving or sitting still, those pains are with her. If the barometer drops, so does she, so to speak. She may be in bed all day, unable to bear the thought of getting up and moving around. But what if that woman also had undiagnosed ADHD? What if she is hyper-focusing on the aches and pain without knowing it. What if she could receive treatment, namely medication, for her ADHD, and it would help her focus on something other than the pain? What if it helped her ignore it long enough to start getting a little more exercise? What if the resulting pain from increased activity didn’t keep her in bed the next day? What if treating her ADHD helps solve many of the problems she has with the Fibro?
I know I am not a doctor, or a psychiatrist, or in any way in a position to make such a claim as these two disorders being connected. But what if having one really does make the other one worse? What if having ADHD makes Fibromyalgia that much more unbearable? What if the ADHD is actually causing part of the fibro-fog? Confusion, poor memory, inability to focus, or think straight. All of these leading to depression, which can actually exacerbate Fibro. And all of these things snowballing, making life impossible to cope with one day, even though you may be alright the next day. Maybe because of something you ate or drank. Maybe a stimulant (caffeine) or depressant (alcohol).
As I further my education, hopefully in the very near future, I hope to focus on psychology. I will likely pose this question to my professors along the way, and hopefully get a chance to do a study on it. If in the meantime I have an opportunity to speak with an expert, such as the authors of the book I mentioned before*, I hope that I make the best of it.
In the meantime, I’ll be on here babbling away and repeating myself. As usual.
*Driven to Distraction by Edward M. Halloway, M.D., and John J. Ratey, M.D.