Filled with helpful examples and the voices of patients who have found freedom
from fibromyalgia through Dr. Selfridge’s program, this book will put you on
the path to lasting healing.
What the reviewers said:
"Physician Selfridge and self-help author Peterson are former fibromyalgia
(FMS) patients who credit their recovery to a program based on the work of
Dr. John Sarno (The MindBody Prescription). The authors believe 'rogue' brain
chemicals are the culprits behind the all-over body pain of FMS. Since there
are no pills to combat these chemicals, the authors have developed a five-week,
self-directed recovery program based upon mind-body principles. The book is
divided into three parts: 'Understanding Fibromyalgia,' 'Tools To Battle Fibromyalgia,'
and 'The Five-Week Plan To Battle Fibromyalgia.' The structured program the
authors have developed focuses on meditation, journal writing, and self-talk
aimed at creating a psychological awareness of the emotions, thoughts, and
feelings that produce pain in the body. The chapter on meditation is too brief,
but the authors suggest additional resources to supplement their information.
The writing style is positive and easy to understand, the charts and worksheets
are helpful, and the information is based upon sound principles of behavioral
change. A 'Notes' section serves as the book's references; a list of resources
suggests books, web sites and Internet groups; and a list of tools for initiating
the five-week program is provided. Recommended for all consumer collections."
—Lisa McCormick, Library Journal. Health Sciences Lib.,
Jewish Hosp., Cincinnati Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
what our readers said
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An excerpt from Freedom From Fibromyalgia:
Jean: I don't need a doctor, doctors invent illnesses
that don't exist.
Berenger: Perhaps they do...but after they invent them, they cure them.
MISUNDERSTOOD, MISDIAGNOSED MISERY
Come travel with us through the depths and over the peaks of one of the most
mystifying sets of symptoms known to modern medicine: those of fibromyalgia.
This disease is also among the most painful—whole-body pain without letup, without
a pause. The authors are all too familiar with this pain, though we've been
free of it for over two years. Each of us suffered with fibromyalgia over what
seemed to be the longest, most tedious decades of our lives. Nancy has given
birth to two delightful daughters and has had surgeries and has broken bones,
yet her pain from fibromyalgia was worse. Frank has been divorced twice, but
the stress and turmoil of those family wars was no match for fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia now rides on the backs of at least four million Americans, about
2 percent of our population. Many know what it's called; many are still undiagnosed,
or diagnosed incorrectly with every malady from arthritis to tendonitis. The
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)
repeats figures counted by the conservative American College of Rheumatology:
three million to six million cases in the United States. Overall, 3.4 percent
of women struggle with the illness, including about 7 percent of women between
sixty and seventy-nine years old. Men are not immune; maybe they're just more
reticent to come forward to have their symptoms diagnosed.
Fibromyalgia knows no racial boundaries. It also knows no geographic boundaries.
Two percent of the world gets up every morning unrested and sore and goes to
bed very early every evening still exhausted, still sore.
After a few years with fibromyalgia, the tears may stop flowing while the
pain pounds on. On some days, in self-defense, the mind spreads a confusing
balm over the brain that makes it seem as if the pain is subsiding. But it also
seems to slow down thinking. Though doctors don't yet have a name for this common
experience, fibromyalgia sufferers call it "fibro fog." When fibro fog comes
on, the senses seem powered by a nearly dead battery. Our tongues feel thick
and stiff, unruly; our eyes seem veiled in gauze. Coordination lapses. We drop
things. We stumble, sometimes seeming to look like drunks. Our brains don't
even feel as if they're connected to themselves. Words get lost. Memory skids.
Thoughts seem to slow down and seize up.
Many of us welcome this fibro fog because it seems the only respite available
from our near-constant pain—quicker than the lidocaine and methadone some doctors
have prescribed, more relaxing than the spinal blocks others have tried. Yet
when researchers try to find out exactly what causes the fog or how it works,
they've found it elusive. Neuropsychiatric testing often turns up nothing abnormal
or a vague increase in distractibility.
Nobody has ever directly died of fibromyalgia. But neither has anybody really
lived with it. It takes over every life it enters. It may grudgingly retreat,
but not far, when attacked with the best painkillers known to modern science.
A common scene at a local fibromyalgia support group is the youngish fibromyalgia
sufferer dragging her shiny steel hospital-issue intravenous sup-port. Day and
night, it drips the soothing painkiller lidocaine into her veins.
Fibromyalgia can make people desperate. Probably the most controversial were
the reported euthanasia patients of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, Michigan's "Dr. Death,"
who were fibromyalgia sufferers seeking relief from constant pain. We should
at least thank Dr. Kevorkian for believing that their pain was real; so many
of his peers pirouette away, not sensing that a soul could be so exhausted,
it feels it can't live another night with fibromyalgia. But we wrote this book
to give fibromyalgia sufferers hope so that you'll choose life. We hope its
message will inspire and support those of you who feel like you've been trapped
in hell for years.
Fibromyalgia does strike some youngsters. Dr. Selfridge had it in her teens.
But the average age of onset is in middle age. It mostly hits people who've
led full lives, compulsively working at a career, having a family, and joining
the PTA, often delaying the fun things for later. But once fibromyalgia hits,
there is no later. The pain traps you in the moment, and as it digs deeper,
the future can become too painful to contemplate.
Family and friends of fibromyalgia victims often go through another kind
of hell. They watch the pain, helpless to make it go away, even helpless to
distract the sufferer long enough to enjoy a bit of life. They hear conflicting
stories from doctors, read conflicting stories in the popular press; they become
conflicted, sensing the pain their loved one bears while once-trusted authorities
declare that the pain isn't real, that the illness is all in the head. The fibromyalgia
victim is often blamed and isolated, and sometimes divorced or abandoned. Alienated
by prejudices, misinformation, and conflicting opinions by half-informed family
members, doctors, social workers, and insurance claim adjusters, fibromyalgia
sufferers find themselves shunted onto islands of isolation with only other
fibromyalgia sufferers for company—and believe us, we're not often good company.
When you add up these sufferers and include their immediate families, at
least 6 percent of the world's population live greatly diminished lives because
of fibromyalgia—ten million to twenty million people in the United States alone,
five hundred million throughout the world. In northern England, 11.2 percent
of adults suffer with chronic widespread pain like that of fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia saps an estimated $24 billion from the U.S. economy every year
in lost wages. Up to another $4 billion is wasted on unsuccessful conventional
treatments; additional millions are spent on herbs, massages, acupuncture, audiotapes,
and underground medications. When Franklynn heard that there was no cure for
fibromyalgia, he headed for the health food and vitamin department of a large
supermarket with only one question: Should he start at the A end of the shelf
or at the Z end? He grabbed a bottle of arginine. Within the year, he'd worked
his way down to E, echinacea. That seemed to bring some relief, and he stuck
with it for a while, increasing the number of pills over time. But after a few
months the pain returned in full force.
Fibromyalgia is so tricky to diagnose that the typical sufferer spends over
five frustrating and demoralizing years shuffling from doctor to doctor, from
specialty to specialty Then, once diagnosed, there's usually another stretch
of years as doctors and quasi-doctors experiment with a variety of uncertain
Dolores, a thirty-eight-year-old mother of two, a fine artist from Tennessee,
had a throat infection, fever, extreme tiredness, and severe pains in her hips,
knees, and ankles. Her family doctor, who found nothing, sent her to an infectious-disease
specialist. Finding nothing, he sent her to a rheumatologist, and she ultimately
saw a neurosurgeon, who recommended a spinal operation. A good friend's sister,
a nurse, told her she'd be crazy to go through such a delicate operation when
none of the doctors was sure what was wrong. But Delores was taking antidepressants,
prescription painkillers, and a few pills she could neither name nor tell you
just what they helped with. After three years of running through a maze of white
coats and enormous bills, she was feeling desperate.
The sister recommended that Delores first visit Nancy Selfridge, a family
practitioner outside Madison, Wisconsin. Dr. Selfridge had just recently brought
herself almost complete recovery from decades of fibromyalgia pain through a
plan she'd devised after reading Dr. John E. Sarno's insights into back pain
in his book The Mindbody Prescription. She taught Delores her program—and
in two weeks Dolores could use her knees, hips, and ankles without grimacing.
She was able to quit one medication after another with her doctor's support.
Some think fibromyalgia is a new disorder. In truth, it's a constellation
of symptoms that has been known since before the start of the twentieth century.
Many in the media think fibromyalgia is what doctors call a status diagnosis,
as trendy as getting your nose fixed or your tummy tucked. In truth, from 10
to 30 percent of all fibromyalgia sufferers are forced to survive on meager
Social Security disability payments even though most of them are well-educated,
intelligent, goal-oriented overachievers. Those virtues may in fact be their
downfall, the prime mover or complicator that eventually triggers fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia is physical. It's not "all in your mind," despite what many
doctors have told sufferers. It affects portions of the nervous system, including
the centers that oversee our involuntary reactions such as heartbeat and breathing.
It may start there, in what's known as the autonomic system—but many researchers
now believe that it starts somewhere else and heads there. While affecting the
autonomic portions of our nervous system, it sends physical signals all over
the body, triggering pain and other symptoms.
The pain is involuntary—and it is real. It can be measured. Some of the biochemical
changes it creates in the body and brain have been documented in lab experiments
and reported in medical journals. One measurable physiological effect of fibromyalgia
is that the body's most painful muscles and tissues receive less oxygen than
If only doctors could manipulate this reckless set of biochemicals, we might
be able to cure fibromyalgia. Many researchers are pursuing this approach. What
complicates the search for a cure is that there are at least a hundred unique
biochemical messengers, or neuropeptides, that facilitate communication between
brain and body. They all can create physical effects, including pain. Almost
all of the hundred were discovered in our bodies only within the past ten years.
So researchers have a long road ahead.
Part of a self-assessment chart found in Freedom From Fibromyalgia:
Assessment of Life Before Fibromyalgia
Answer on a scale of 0-10 (10 = most, highest, best)
- My overall satisfaction with the last significant job I had before fibromyalgia
- My assessment of how well equipped I was to perform that job before
fibromyalgia set in:
- My assessment of how well I actually did perform that job before
fibromyalgia set in:
- How satisfying was the salary from that job?
- My expectations of advancement at that job were:
- How important was it for me to fulfill family obligations before fibromyalgia
- How do I rate the degree to which I did fulfill family obligations before
fibromyalgia set in?
- The amount of pleasure I expected from my family before fibromyalgia
- The amount of actual pleasure I derived from my family before fibromyalgia
- The degree of pain I expected from my family (0 = most pain) before
fibromyalgia set in:
- The degree of pain actually received from my family (0 = most pain)
before fibromyalgia set in:
- The amount of fun I expected to have on my/our last vacation before
fibromyalgia set in:
- The amount of fun I actually had on my./our last vacation before
fibromyalgia set in:
- The degree of satisfaction I expected on my/our last vacation before
fibromyalgia set in:
(continued in book...)