Hello, I'm new here and grateful to find this forum. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia / Chronic Fatigue Disorder about 6 years ago. I have other health issues, but no need to dump out the whole basket. Until recently, I have been fortunate to be able to manage pain very well using Zanaflex for sleep, Tramadol as needed, gentle yoga and meditation. My worst episodes were usually caused by becoming ill, especially if there was an infection.
The reason I joined this is to find out if anyone else has experienced "empathic pain." I made up this term because I don't know what else to call it. For many years, I have experienced pain, usually in the lower part my body (1st and 2nd chakra areas) when observing someone experiencing pain, seeing an injury, or hearing someone, usually someone I care about, explain pain they have had or are having. In the last year or so, it has become more and more intense, and more and more frequent. Now, almost anyone telling me about their pain or injury, or observing someone in pain or who has been injured, causes pain to sear up and down in the mddle of my body, and sometimes down my legs. It isn't like my normal Fibro pain, which usually starts in my hands and spreads from there. However, this empathic pain causes the Fibro pain to start or intensify if it is already occuring.
I explained this to my rheumatologist the other day and she said there are recent neurological studies that indicate that Fibro sufferers are sensitive to "noxious stimulae" that others are not affected by, and do not even though they exist. I did some research online and found several studies about "mirror neurons" that I am still trying to understand. However, what I am getting from them is that the brain is pretty amazing, and we react to others pain in a mirror area of where our brain processes our own pain experience. I'm thinking that since I have Fibro, which is definitely some kind of screwed-up central nervous system problem, perhaps this mirror pain becomes real pain for me. I know one other Fibro sufferer who experiences pain when someone she cares about has pain, but she feels it in relatively the same area of the body as the sufferer. But she is much younger and hasn't had Fibro as long. I used to have similar pain, but now it's just in the middle and down the legs.
Coincidentally, for the last two years, I have been studying and practicing Mahayana Buddhism, meditating frequently, and attended teachings for 6 days by the Dalai Lama. One of the results is that, because the focus is on loving kindness and compassion for all sentient beings, I am in a nearly constant state of attunement with everyone. So now, it isn't just people I love, it's everyone who is suffering or who has suffered that can cause me to react with empathic pain. Not only is this causing me more and more pain, but it interferes with what I love to do the most - be a companion volunteer for Hospice. I usually can sort of "put up a shield," basically remind myself that a patient is in pain and I have to block those thoughts while I am there. But it doesn't always work. And I am dating a man who is in a wheelchair due to injury, and often just looking at him sometimes can start the pain, which really dampens any romantic feelings!
Ok - long, I know. But thoughts, anyone?