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When someone says your fibromyalgia is all in your head

Madame on what to tell people who say an illness is imaginary.

Dear Ms. Meniscus,

Not that I don’t have sympathy for those with arthritis. Believe me I do. What bothers me is that I also have a rheumatic disease that’s considered an arthritis related condition, but people act like it’s nothing and all in my head. I have fibromyalgia, and when I tell people I have fibromyalgia they actually come out and say it’s all in my head. What can I say to such people who infer I am crazy and dreaming up being sick?

Marie in Missouri

Dear Marie:

Madame could provide you with a list of diseases that took medical researchers eons to identify, understand, and eventually treat. Fibromyalgia has been (and most likely is) one of those. We could pen a laundry list of "invisible" illnesses just as easily. Take, for example, headaches and stomach aches. We can't see either of them but we know they exist. We can't see a broken bone (most times) but we know how painful that is. Madame doesn't believe in the ridiculous rationale that people are deserving of explanations simply because they can't see  your suffering outright, and therefore have the audacity to conclude that you are crazy or looking for attention.

Despite what Madame may think, you might find yourself in a situation where you feel that you need to respond. Then and there you may offer up a version of their particular brand of absurdity.  "Oh, in that case Tabitha and Donald, I should summon my power to dream it away."  That ought to set them pondering for a moment or two. 

It is less valuable to think about smart retorts and infinitely more important to realize that nobody has the right to make a claim over what you do or don't feel. They have no business belittling your condition. These people are lacking in the most basic of human emotion, that of sympathy for another human being. Sympathizing means acknowledging the hardship of others. Sympathizing provides comfort and assurance to a suffering person. It is not necessary that we have the same problems or illness in order to share in the feelings of another person. When we acknowledge painful circumstances other than our own (be they physical, emotional or psychological) we communicate our understanding of the existence of that suffering . Expressing sympathy creates an affinity and connects us together, a breathing bond, if you will, in a world that sometimes feels disjointed and emotionally disconnected. 

Our compassion should and must go beyond our own interests and into the world at large, and our attention toward those who share these common bonds of decency. 

Stand up for yourself when you must, ignore all the rest.

Madame wishes you well.

--MMM

 

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