Fear in Fibromyalgia and How Ayurveda Can Help
It was quite a while after I’d healed from fibromyalgia that I happened upon something Louise Hay, one of the founders of the self-help movement, had said.
“Fibromyalgia is fear showing up as extreme tension due to stress.”
– Louise Hay
Well, I didn’t know about the fear factor in fibromyalgia at the time, but I was sure living it.
Fear was my middle name, and Anxiety, its partner.
I was in my late 40s when fibro came knocking on my door, but by that time, I’d amassed enough fear and anxiety to fill a stadium.
One of my earliest fears that I can remember was Santa Claus. Terrified of him. I mean TERRIFIED.
As in lock-myself-in-the-bathroom or hide-under-the-dining-room-table terrified (even though I somehow always suspected it was my uncle under that big white beard).
I was afraid of the water.
I would cry when my mother tried to wash my hair in the kitchen sink.
The day my Aunt Edna got me to put my head under water at the lake I was triumphant.
I was afraid to cross bridges. I would duck down onto the car floor when we drove across the river.
The list goes on and on.
I was probably afraid of my own shadow.
But you get the picture. I was anxious and fearful.
As I got older, the fears only grew bigger.
Fear of getting this disease and that disease.
Fear of the big C. I couldn’t even say the word.
I stopped buying women’s magazines because all of the health articles made me anxious.
Fear of losing my loved ones.
I once ran out of a parking garage in Florida with a particularly low ceiling, leaving my daughter and her friend behind to fend for themselves. I can still remember the puzzled look on their faces.
Movies with tunnels or caves made my heart race and my palms sweat.
Flying? Are you kidding me? My family pretended they didn’t know me when we were up in the sky. Well, my little compassionate daughter would pat my hand and tell me it would be alright.
Even my dreams seemed (and still are) filled with fear and anxiety.
I’m sheepishly revealing all of this to you for a reason. Read on.
When I read Louise’s quote, it was a lightbulb moment for me.
Fear can have a devastating effect on the body.
There’s the fear that we can identify and the fear that might be buried so deeply we don’t even recognize it’s there.
The Role of Fear in Fibromyalgia and How Ayurveda Can Help
At some tipping point (for me it was a spring day in 2002), I believe that the body can only hold so much stress without it becoming physically symptomatic.
I’m not a doctor – but I’m someone who can reflect back on my experience before, during, and after fibromyalgia. And I’ve listened to so many other similar stories.
And when an Ayurvedic practitioner was the first professional who could explain to me why I was bothered to tears by too much wind (“Your vata is off-the-charts-deranged”, he said), I was hooked.
Vata literally means “wind” or “that which blows”. Its elements are air and ether (space).
Everything that moves in the body is ruled by vata dosha.
Blood rushing through our veins, our racing thoughts, heart palpitations.
And guess what people experience when vata dosha is unbalanced in their body?
You guessed it. Fear and anxiety.
I can tell you that nearly every person I’ve worked with personally or communicated with about fibromyalgia has high levels of fear and anxiety. Many are “vata-types” – referring to our Ayurvedic constitution.
I can often sense this from the first email I receive, or the first phone conversation. Of course, it’s natural to be anxious when you’re dealing with such a frustrating chronic condition, but there is generally an underlying element of fear that seems almost out of control.
Most Ayurvedic practitioners, in fact, classify fibromyalgia as a Vata imbalance.
Vata also rules the nervous system, through which pain is experienced.
Vata-types generally feel pain more intensely than other constitutions and their pain seems to move around more (vata=air=movement) than pitta-type pain (hot) and kapha-type pain (dull).
Now, isn’t that interesting?
Some days I thought I was going crazy because the pain would shift from here to there for no apparent reason.
Oh, how I wished I’d known about Ayurveda back in the day. Or that my parents had known about it.
Ayurveda was a big part of my healing journey.
I began to understand my constitution and take steps to calm the fear and anxiety that plagued me.
I learned to meditate.
I began a yoga practice. And qigong.
I began paying more attention to my daily routine (so very important for our health) and the relationship my body has with Nature and the elements.
Am I completely anxiety and fear free? Of course not. But oh, my goodness. I am so much calmer.
And I sleep!
Many fibromyalgia sufferers complain about middle-of-the-night insomnia.
Guess what? Vata rules the hours of 2:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
And remember, it controls the nervous system.
So, if you wake up, in a cold anxiety-driven sweat, heart racing, at 3:00 a.m., think vata dosha.
My best prescription for middle-of-the-night or wee-hours-of-the-morning insomnia is to sit up in bed, close your eyes, and meditate. It works for me every time.
Almost inevitably, I fall back into a deliciously deep sleep.
If you don’t have a meditation practice (you should!), just do some calm, deep breathing.
Repeat a mantra like OM.
Or choose an affirmation like “My body is tired and ready for sleep.”
If you’re someone out there reading this and you have fibromyalgia, I encourage you to dive into learning more about Ayurveda. It may very well provide you with the key to better health and more Joy.
Feel free to reach out if you need a little help navigating this wondrous 5,000+-year-old system of health and longevity that so beautifully translates as The Knowledge of Life.
Nothing would make me happier to learn that someone else unlocked the mystery of fibromyalgia through Ayurveda. 🙂