How do I communicate with my sister that has fibromyalgia?

NamelessUser

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Nov 28, 2019
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1
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Diagnosis
10/2019
Country
UR
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MO
Hi, new member here.

My sister has been recently diagnosed, and although it was this October, she's been dealing with pain for at least 4 years. I've been trying to support her as best as I could, but I'm at the end of my rope.

We are roommates, and cohabitation has become difficult recently. She's had really passive-aggressive attitudes (such as taking all my clothes out of out wardrobe, using my clothes but then not lending me hers, etc.)

She's also had difficulties in her studies and uses me to vent. Aside from our conversations being extremely depressing, every time I try to give her advice on how she could deal with her studies better (like recording her classes) she proceeds to go on a 45-minute spiel on why that wouldn't work.

Some of the reasons are completely valid, for example some of the subjects dealing with programming and it being very difficult, or the concentration issues that stem from fibromyalgia, but others go a bit far, like none of her teachers knowing what they're talking about, or all of her classmates being annoying and entitled. I'm not saying that's impossible, it's just that the arguments change every time and when I point that out, she gets mad and refuses to talk to me. If I try to talk to her, she flat out ignores my existence (I should mention at this point that she's 20 and I'm 22, so it's not a child throwing a temper tantrum).

Other times she acts exasperated with me, like I'm stupid, or gets defensive when I ask her anything. At times that behavior gets so aggressive it leaves me with a lump in my throat.

The reason why I mention all of these situations is that I don't know how fibromyalgia comes into play into all of this. I've been to a therapist since May and they've encouraged me to speak out about the things that bother me. I can't do that with my sister because I'm scared she'll feel like I don't support her, which she's told me I do. If any of these behaviors are related to fibro, I'd do my best to take it in stride, but if not, how can I communicate with her that her attitude hurts my feelings?
 
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administrator

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Nov 22, 2019
Messages
4
Reason
DX FIBRO
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08/2012
Country
CA
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My sister has been recently diagnosed, and although it was this October, she's been dealing with pain for at least 4 years. I've been trying to support her as best as I could, but I'm at the end of my rope.
This is unfortunate for her but often how fibromyalgia diagnosis unfolds with most patients. It can take a long time to get diagnosed, leaving the patient having to deal with all that comes with fibromyalgia themselves, for many years. This can lead to levels of depression among many individuals. It sounds like, after four years, your sister may be exhibiting some of these feelings of helplessness, frustration, and a short temper.

She's also had difficulties in her studies and uses me to vent. Aside from our conversations being extremely depressing, every time I try to give her advice on how she could deal with her studies better (like recording her classes) she proceeds to go on a 45-minute spiel on why that wouldn't work.
Specifically what stood out to me, and you'll have to judge for yourself, but her feelings that the world is against her, or changes in her attitudes will only lead to negative ends (which isn't really the reality of most situations). This sounds like depressive behavior or a negative outlook. Unfortunately, you trying to point this out to her will likely only lead to more anger from her, when in fact, you're only trying to help.

This must be very difficult for you, as much as it is for her. Imagine living in a world where you have constant pain and your outlook is "whatever I try to do will only lead to more unhappiness".

Her shutting you out sounds like unhappiness (or perhaps, clinical depression) at play; it sounds like she may be very frustrated with life, which usually means being frustrated with oneself.

Being happy, despite ones circumstances, is the reality of any situation. When depressed, we often internalize or direct all interactions within ourselves in a negative way. This can often mean very hard-coded thoughts and 45-minute spiels on why any effort will only lead to more negative outcomes.

When not depressed it's usually easy to see how some small positive changes can lead to more positive outcomes.

Studies have shown that depression is linked to 20% of patients that have fibromyalgia. To put that in perspective, generally depression only occurs in less than 7% of the general population.
Your sister, with a diagnosis of fibromyalgia and in her early 20's, is in a very high risk demographic.

I'm not a doctor, but simply based on experience and life experience this may be something to keep in mind when dealing with her.

I myself have dealt with depression and thanks to some hard work on my own I was able to overcome similar feelings and thoughts that your sister has on my own. There's some amazing reading. Of course there's drugs too, but those only help you get above water, what really works is changing the way you think.

What helps almost anyone with similar feelings and thoughts is Cognitive behavioral therapy (known as CBT).

There's a few great books I've read and it's amazing how 1-2 weeks of reading and 3-4 weeks of effort can be a life changing experience.
 
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Leigh Blyth

Member
Joined
Feb 4, 2018
Messages
15
Reason
DX FIBRO
Diagnosis
01/1978
Country
UK
State
UK
I acted exactly like you describe your sister. My behaviour worsened until I finally started healing. It was really hard for those around me so I feel for your situation. Wanting to help but not being able to. Being treated like !**t. But she needs you. She's in a LOT of pain. physical pain. mental pain.

I had been in pain for years. My list of pain goes back to being very young.

Some with a 'diagnosis' none with a cure - just "try some painkillers" and live with the pain. "fibromyalgia" is a fancy word for otherwise we don't know widespread pain. Depression struck. I hated myself, the world, everything.

I wanted someone to notice. To really see how much pain I was in.

But there's really nothing to "see" on tests and I doubted myself. I felt the pain. And it was all real but I stopped believing it. I thought it was a fault with "me" not my body.

I have recovered by working with some key muscles - learning to use my body correctly. Starting with my Pelvic floor "Base" of the body and rectus abdominis muscles - my central "Line". find your Base-Line muscles. pictures easier than words.

1. Ask your sister to think back to when the pain started. Get an outline of a body and get her to start marking where the pain is. See how much pain she is in. Make a list over some time, so you can both see what it's like. I got very good at living with a lot of pain, realizing that was a part of healing - noticing it and working through it.

2. "venting" is a release of stress and tension, it is a good thing for your sister but terrible for you. She needs to realize that -and be able to say sorry when she's feeling calmer. It's the pain. It's hard to keep control, it's not you. Another outlet would be good. I used to scream into coats.

3. Don't give advice - it won't help! She's thought of everything you are going to say already hence the many different explanations, the brain doesn't stop when you are in pain.

4. Do give support. Hot drinks, hot water bottles .. whatever little things make life easier for her. She'll probably want to rage a bit more when you're doing the 'right thing' to help her - more release of stress.

Working with the 5 main muscles of movement - Pelvic floor, rectus abdominis, trapezius, rectus femoris and gluteus maximus - has changed my life.

I have connected with my body and learned to work towards balance and alignment releasing all the pain and tensions that were on my body, the stored trauma, the injuries and pains that just built up and up. The cause of all my pain.

I believe this is the key to healing for so many.
 
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toyoran

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Dec 5, 2019
Messages
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Friend
Diagnosis
01/2019
Country
US
If you can't handle each other maybe having a separate room could be an option?
 

administrator

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Joined
Nov 22, 2019
Messages
4
Reason
DX FIBRO
Diagnosis
08/2012
Country
CA
State
ON
If you can't handle each other maybe having a separate room could be an option?
That's an option too, but sounds like the thread-starter (TS) is trying to manage the relationship in a more positive manner versus isolating her sister further. But if all else fails, maybe it's important she do whatever she needs to do to preserve her own mental well-being.
 
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