Emotions Impact Pain

I never understood the impact of emotions on pain until I studied for my hypnotherapy diploma back in 2013 and then took a pain management diploma last year.  I also didn’t realise how changeable pain is, it isn’t constant and it is controlled by our brain.

When people have a bad accident the emotional state of the patient is critical to recovery which is why medics often give high doses of medicines such as ketamine to relax the patient so that they don’t really know what is happening, reducing the chances of going into shock.

When I went for spinal surgery I was quite emotional knowing it was a 5 hour procedure with a high risk of paralysis or nerve damage, I was shaky and trying to be brave but my consultant and surgical team understood how I was feeling.  They gave me IV Ketamine as they were setting up my heart monitors and getting the operating table ready as I had to lay face down for my operation, I did not care what they were doing to me I laughed hysterically as the drug took effect then fell unconscious, meaning I was not stressed at all whilst they were putting me to sleep.

After surgery I began to notice that the more I fought (in my mind) not actually fighting anyone ­čśéwith the pain that came with developing fibromyalgia and recovering from surgery, the worse it got.

Fibromyalgia increases nervous system sensitivity as well as other other important roles it controls the messages that travel to and from our brain for pain management.  Have you noticed that when you’re sad, upset or in another ‘negative’ mood that pain feels worse, but if someone makes you laugh or you spot something that makes you smile inside the pain reduces, even if it’s a brief respite?  Have you noticed that when you wake up happy and the sun is shining that you wake up feeling less stiff and in less pain?  You might be saying to yourself ‘no’ but you do I assure you, it might not be for long but you will. 

I want you to try something for me, the next time you are feeling happy, are laughing, maybe you’re outside with your family having fun, just stop and do a mental scan of your body and compare it to when you have been in a ‘negative’ mood and I promise you your symptoms will feel much better, reduced, maybe give even forgotten about them!!

This does not mean it’s all in your head, pain is controlled through a complex system involving our nervous system which travels up to our brain through our spinal cord and how the pain is felt depends on the individual, emotions, past memories etc.  Some people can handle lots of pain.  Before my operation my twisting spine was very painful but I still went to work and the gym for 18 months and I had to have my painkillers increased to 20-25 a day until I begged the doctor to do something as none of them worked anymore and fentanyl was looking like the next option and no way was I quitting my job!! But now one little episode of pulling my back, a headache, banging my arm or whatever can quickly become so intense I can end up paralysed in pain or hysterical.

I had a very stressful weekend once dealing with some inappropriate behaviour of some I knew last year and the stress brought on a panic attack, something I’ve not had since I was 17.  I developed a migraine that was so painful I could not see, had to sit in the dark, my heart rate and blood pressure were off the chart.  No medication helped and the ambulance service rushed me to hospital for a potential brain scan.  I was horrified and embarrassed when we realised it was nothing more than a migraine.  Only the 3rd time I’ve ever had one and they had never been that painful, welcome to fibro.

Painkillers are a band aid for pain. Some are very effective but the brain gets used to them and more or stronger versions are needed, not a viable long term strategy for chronic pain.  My painful twisting spine was resolved with surgery but Fibromyalgia is in a league of its own as there is NO cure and not a pill that will keep the symptoms successfully under control long term.  

The nervous system is complex, feel free to read more about how it works here. I not only talk from being a qualified hypnotherapist and pain management therapist but someone who has Fibromyalgia.  I believe the messages/chemicals that are supposed to travel back from our brain to our nerves during pain do not work properly and no operation or pill is going to cure such a complex system.  Even if they did invent something to help at what cost would this be to our health.  All medications give side effects as they change our mind and bodies state.


I know some of you are desperate for a cure and hate having this condition and let me be honest I’d give a limb if I thought I could get rid of it but I can’t.  So I do the next best thing and accept it is part of me, fibro will never go away and me and my fibro (I’m thinking of giving it a pet name) have to coexist and get on.  Like you might have to with a naughty sibling or a demanding irritating boss at work.

Learn from your experiences; the most powerful skill you can learn is how to control pain, how to reduce the length of time a flare up lasts and how you react to both of these! 

My flare ups are rare and they don’t last longer than the same day they occur as I use my mind to help me get through it.  I can’t stop all flare ups as I want to live, I want to work, I want to go out with my family and I want to have holidays, but I can change how I feel about them.

My top tips for dealing with pain:-

  • Remember it will pass, pain changes and is not constant, it is like a volume control on a radio and you can change it in any direction you want.
  • Stay positive, if you are struggling then have a good cry and then do something to make you laugh.
  • Exercise helps and reduces pain long term whilst releasing endorphins like a natural anti depressant.
  • Stay away from fibromyalgia support pages that focus on negativity as this will NOT help you at all.  
  • Try yoga, not once but every day for just 5-10 minutes.  Have you ever met a miserable unhappy yoga teacher?  No of course not.  It’s relaxing and gives you focus and mental clarity.
  • Only temporarily increase painkillers then cut back asap.  Remember these are not the solution, they are a band aid.
  • Listen to music, meditate, undertake self hypnosis to lift your mood, clear your head, take you to your happy place ­čśŐ
  • This last one might sound crazy but I actually use my headspace app and focus my breathing through the area that hurts and it changes the pain.

One last thing do not sit and stew about the pain as this will feel increase the pain.  Talk to someone and if you haven’t got anyone you are more than welcome to talk to me ­čśü

Fatigue and fibromyalgia 

I have to be honest fatigue and anxiety are two of my most crippling symptoms at the moment.  I have had a busy weekend with a motorbike lesson Saturday morning, loading up the campervan for camping and unloading on return then I went out on my motorbike 3 miles to watch a stunt show for 2 hours.  Monday I felt great, Tuesday and Wednesday morning I have felt by far the worse I have ever felt in terms of fatigue.

I open my eyes and the stiffness and pain is extreme I feel it in every part of my body all over my skin, like I’m severely bruised, I cry lots more out of frustration I guess.  I struggle out of bed and it takes me between 90-120 minutes of waiting for my tramadoland the caffeine from my coffee to kick in.  I hate this feeling more than anything it’s horrible, getting into work is a massive struggle, today I have booked a days annual leave as I don’t even have the energy to get up.  I’ve been laid in bed for 3 hours now!!

Fatigue is a difficult one it’s all about pacing and you have to keep a diary of activities to learn how much you can do and when to rest to reduce fatigue flare ups, fatigue never kicks in straight away it takes my body 48-72 hours for it to kick in but when it does it floors me.  It’s a frustrating experience as I really had fun with my family this weekend and now I am paying the price.

Tips for controlling fatigue which I do not always follow hence why I am feeling ill today:-

  • Learn pacing; this means stretching out activities over a longer period.  I’ll give you an example I used to hoover the whole house in one go, now I have a lightweight rechargeable hoover and I do a room a night.  
  • Find easier ways to do things.  All my shopping is done online and delivered, any other essentials are fetched by my daughter and husband
  • Hire a cleaner or ask a family member or friend to help.  I am a proper clean freak so clutter and dirt stress me out so I pay my daughter a wage to clean.
  • Find ways to rest and this does not necessarily mean go to sleep, napping messes up your sleep health.  It means finding a way to relax which could be watching tv, reading a book, doing some crafts, sitting in the sun, etc etc
  • Meditate, get on the sofa and put on a YouTube and look up mindfulness meditation close your eyes, switch off your phone and follow the instructions.
  • If you are feeling down then have a good cry and get it out your system then move on, it’s my favourite way of getting all the frustration out!  Don’t let it ruin your day!
  • Stay positive, focus on what you have and what you can do not what you can’t.  I know this is hard but life is beautiful and when fatigue kicks in it’s overwhelming but we all have great things in our life even if it’s just the blue sky and sun today.
  • Keep telling yourself it will pass because it always does.  If needs be write it down ‘it will pass’ on an A4 sheet of paper and stick it on the wall to remind you.
  • Increase your painkillers to help you get through the flare up but remember to reduce back down or you could end up on a slippery slope of ever increasing pain meds.
  • Take a hot bath, not a shower and use magnesium flakes as they soak in your skin, at first you will itch and go redbut as your magnesium levels increase in your body this will stop.
  • Eat healthier than ever before, poor diet choices will increase fatigue.
  • Do not drink any alcohol as this will make you feel worse!!  The alcohol turns to sugar and is toxic to your liver it will only prolong the fatigue.
  • Get a massage it releases and removes toxins in the body and you will feel the benefit later on in the day.
  • Go and sit in the sun and top up your vitamin D levels naturally.
  • Remember your vitamins.
  • Talk to someone about how you feel, sharing your experience helps.  Why do you think I have my fibro page I need you more than you need me!!

Take a look at this site it’s got great tips and logs to help you plan living with fibro here 

Poor diet leads to increased Fibromyalgia symptoms

Don’t take my word for it, google it.  Even people without Fibromyalgia are affected by what they eat and drink so it’s only natural for us fellow fibromyalgia to feel the most severe symptoms:

  • Bloating
  • Headache
  • Stomach upsets
  • Increased/decreased digestion
  • Latheragy
  • Energy spikes, manis followed by depression
  • Insomnia
  • Brain fog
  • Weight increase
  • Itching

And the list can go on and on.

When you think back to our grandparents era there wasn’t the processed food we come to rely on now.  Everything was cooked fresh and most of the veg was homegrown.  Nowadays as our lives get more fast paced we rely more on ready made food, that takes no more effort than warming up in a device or ordering from a fast food joint.

Not only have I researched this subject to death at sites like this but I’ve also kept a food diary for 6 months and logged how I felt directly after eating and 20 minutes later and I was shocked when I reflected on the results each week.   Many foods were making me ill, feel worse and feel most of the symptoms above!!

It’s no secret that eating more natural food is much better for you and eating less sugar and salt will help you not only sustain good health but to feel better too. 

I like to focus on what I can eat rather than what I can’t.  Focus on the positives.  I’m not here to preach how you should live your life but if you want to change how you feel then you need to do something different!!

Take a look at this site here and do your own research.

Why do I rave about a good diet?  As the difference I feel since changing my diet is fantastic and I will never revert back to what I did eat before.

Start cooking fresh, over cook and freeze your own fresh TV dinners!!  Buy a hotspot and throw all your ingredients in and let the hot pot do the cooking.  Get your kids involved or your husband if you’re exhausted.  Cut down on takeaways to once a month.  Quit drinking alcohol or at least reduce your intake.  Look for sugar alternatives.  Bake yourself using healthier products like almond flour and honey etc.

You have a wealth of knowledge on the internet so why not use it?

Don’t be a people pleaser at the expense of your health

This was some great advice I had from my acting manager and colleague at work.

I had a little cry at work as I had stopped taking the ‘pill’ that I went on to help my endometriosis and like any Fibromyalgia sufferer, anything I put into my body has much more dramatic side effects.  I did not realise how much this tiny little pill had affected me until I agreed to stop taking it as my abdominal pain had reduced and I was suffering some side effects from its use.

I felt dreadful and very over emotional.  You see it’s not just the physical symptoms that are tough to deal with but the effects this condition has on our mental health in my opinion is much more detrimental.

My colleague commented on how I spent much of my day rushing around, spending time in back to back meetings with little breathing room and I had in fact either skipped meals (very rare) or had them at my desk and no break away from my work, this was on a more regular basis.  She pointed out that no one will thank me for working myself into being ill and it’s not something to put on my gravestone that I was a hard worker and that it is just a means to pay the mortgage, clearly a fibro flare was happening on a much regular basis. She was right, I knew it myself but I guess I needed to hear it from someone else. 

It is very difficult trying to strike a balance between working in a competitive environment and striving to do a ‘good’ job where you are expected to be seen as a rising star and also saying ‘no’ so as not to affect your health.  At work we are continually expected to do over and above our roles in order just to achieve a ‘good’ rating in our yearly review but this does often mean having to say ‘no’ to other things we may be expected to do.  My diary is always very full and leaves little room to do anything else, to take on extra work on top of my day job and keep my hours to within a manageable level is a daily challenge and one I quite frankly am exhausted from.

I would recommend having regular 121s with your manager and explaining a few things to set and agree expectations.  From April I will have a new manager and the first session I will be setting up with him is to talk over me, my health and agree expectations and set up much more regular 121s than the 3 a year the business requires.  So here are my tips:-

  • Explain what Fibromyalgia is, don’t drown your manager with symptoms but split the main areas into physical symptoms and psychological symptoms.  Here are my main ones below that affect me in and out of work
  1. Insomnia, fatigue caused from sleeping an average of 4 hours sleep, 6 for when I take a sleeping tablet once every 4/5 days.
  2. Muscle stiffness and pain in my back, hips, neck and shoulders, worse in a morning.
  3. Increased pain sensitivity and painful trigger points.
  4. Nerve pain all over my body including extreme sensitivities to food, light, sound and heat causing numbness, burning, pins and needles and dizziness.
  5. Cognitive problems such as short and long term memory loss, concentration issues brain fog, inability to multi-task 
  6. Anxiety, depression, confidence issues and increase in the ‘fight’ response due to nervous system responses to stimulus.
  7. IBS and digestive issues.
  • Explain what you are doing at work and at home to alleviate your symptoms, mine being:-
  1. Medication
  2. Non medicinal treatments such as massage, uv glasses, yoga and meditation 
  3. Hired a cleaner and learnt to pace my activities in and out of work.  Severely reduced activities outside of work to save my energy to be able to attend work.
  4. Plan in extra breaks at work, hydraulic desk and lighter tablet for travelling.  Moved to a local role with less travel and a less stressful environment.  
  5. Flex hours and work from home where necessary. Book leave if notice a fibro flare is starting.
  6. Do not be afraid to ask for help or say ‘no’, always put pacing and health management first no matter what.
  7. Work slower, keep notes. Don’t be afraid to ask people to clarify points and work expectations.
  • Agree expectations between you both.  What does your manager expect, need and want from you.  What does ‘good’ look like?  What do you expect, need and want from your line manager.
  • Very important is to agree the ‘reasonable adjustments’ that you need to enable you to remain healthy and achieve your goals.  For example if you struggle with travel, can the meeting be undertaken by video/phone conference.  Is there specialist equipment you need? If you struggle with your cognitive behaviour then you might want to refrain from group presentations or being singled out when being asked questions in a public forum.

I hope you have found the above useful and if you have any questions/concerns then please do ask.

How can you fix insomnia?

Ha if I knew that I’d be a millionaire!! Now here’s the thing; Fibromyalgia causes insomnia and insomnia is one of many drivers in increasing fibromyalgia symptoms. I once read an article about some controlled tests that were performed on ‘healthy’ volunteers; they were kept awake or continuously awoken over several days and then tested how they felt mentally and physically whilst also performing cognitive tests, all of the volunteers showed symptoms of fibromyalgia, even down to increased levels of pain. 
I go through periods of insomnia and I track my progress with a Fitbit. I actually only used to sleep 3-4 hours a day until I established healthier pre sleep activities and then I increased that average to 5-6 hours, I will go into that in more detail in a second. But then insomnia creeps back in and my average drops back down to 3-4 hours. Read more here 

You’re probably wondering what I did differently to help me sleep? These are what I can remember:-

  • Reduced caffeine intake to 1 cup a day (I’ve gone back to 2is this why I now cannot sleep?)
  • I quit drinking alcohol
  • I never eat within 3 hours of going to sleep
  • I have a warm bath with magnesium flakes every night before bed
  • I take a vitamin super supplement each night that includes melatonin, chamomile and 5htp amongst others
  • I undertake some form of exercise 4/5 times a week either yoga or my power plate, yes even when I feel rubbish, mind over matter
  • I practise meditation daily, especially at night (now this has most definitely slipped off my radar just before bed, I need to start doing it before bed again)
  • I wear UV glasses when it gets dark to cut out the blue light from the tv and my phone
  • I drink 2-3 litres of water a day but never 90 minutes before bed
  • My bedroom is kept cool at around 19 degrees maximum
  • My bedroom is completely dark with blackout curtains
  • I wear earplugs for complete quiet
  • I quit taking medication every night for insomnia
  • Reduced consumption of chemicals by using organic
  • Reduced consumption of non natural foods, do not underestimate the effects of a poor diet!!

Now around 3 weeks ago I started to feel ill like I had some kind of virus, it wasn’t a cold or flu (thankfully my immune system always fights these off plus I take a super supplements with 21 different vitamins in). Ever since I had this short lasting virus I have not slept for more than 2-4 hours a night and this has set off many fibromyalgia symptoms;

  • Headaches
  • Restless legs
  • Nerve pain
  • Muscle aches and stiffness (like having the flu coming on)
  • Mood swings
  • IBS
  • Irritability
  • Pins and needles or burning on my skin all over
  • Cognitive issues; memory and concentration issues
  • And one of the worst; fatigue which I feel like I’ve got a constant hangover, coming down with flu type feeling
  • Depression

All this just because I cannot sleep!!

It’s a vicious circle as sleep deprivation increases symptoms of fibromyalgia and fibromyalgia causes insomnia. Due to having a near miss in my car I even asked my doctor for a couple of sleeping tablets, but they did not work ­čśé, I have to laugh.

So what should I do, give in, quit, start feeling sorry for myself? No, that won’t solve anything. I will tackle this problem like I do every other problem, by being practical. The solution does NOT lie in regular meds again, it lies within me. I just need to figure this out. I’m going to cut down my caffeine to one a day at 6.30am, stop watching tv half hour before bed and do some meditation/mindfulness yoga and when I cannot sleep I am going to start getting up and meditating rather than tossing and turning in bed all night.

The hardest thing about having insomnia is not being able to sleep in my own bed as I keep my husband awake ­čśŽ

If you read this and can relate don’t give up, don’t resort to meds as that’s just a bandaid, use them sparingly and take a long look at your daily activities and lifestyle as the key to removing insomnia will be in there somewhere.

Learnt to love Fibromyalgia 

I feel like I’ve lost 3 years of my life to being ill; gave up my job and chosen career path, stopped my hobbies, quit lifting weights, lots of friends lost, nights out cancelled, holidays abroad cancelled, hypnotherapy business closed.

It is easy to read that and get depressed but what’s the point, seriously what’s the point?  I can’t change anything in the past, I can only shape the present.  I’m not even worrying about the future either, I really don’t care that much as I know the plans I make in the present will shape my future, anything I cannot control I’m not even thinking about.

Whilst my husband was in bed New Years Eve with flu I made a pact with my body, no more will I bow down to fibromyalgia, I will learn to love this condition and I will do the things I want to do (within reason) and whilst I was thinking this I realised that there has been some positives in the last 3 years that I would never have been through if I hadn’t have developed this condition; learning to say no to others, putting myself first, letting go off toxic people, moving into a better local job and no more travelling 3/4 days a week.   Practising mindfulness meditation and yoga.  Ditching all my regular medications, eating healthier, quitting regular alcohol drinking, reconnecting with lost friends.  Learning holistic therapies to use on myself.  Recruiting a masseuse for fortnightly treatments.  Finding my super fibromyalgia supplements from USA that have made me feel better than I’ve felt for years!


Our minds always focus on the negatives in a bad situation but if you look hard enough there’s always a positive.  

This year is going to be amazing and I’m going to keep it healthy and make sure I give back my love to my family and friends the support I’ve needed over the past 3 1/2 years since my back operation.

It’s took a year of changes to every aspect of my life to get me here but I have proved that I can learn to love Fibromyalgia ÔŁĄ´ŞĆ