Messages From the Body: Fibromyalgia

Aug 10, 2019

I met Tarek 3 years ago. He was 44 and the father of two. Tarek was the Chief Financial Officer for a global power company based in the UAE, a company he has proven himself with for 17 years. This was his first job out of school. He started as an engineer with an entry-level position that left him grimy and in need of a hot shower to a suited, leather back chair CFO. He felt safe and secure in his employ. Management supported him especially when he fell seriously ill.

Tarek woke on a Tuesday morning 4 years ago, unable to get out of bed, suffering a brain fog that left him unable to sequence anything including whether to put his socks on before or after his shoes. All his major muscles ached as if recovering from a major sports event like the marathons he used to run. His medical team initiated CT and MRI scans and the full battery of blood tests. Nothing showed up negative meaning there were no diagnoses given. He called in sick; a call in that lasted for 6 months while he commiserated with his wife and continued to seek medical opinions from experts around the world.

A year later, a diagnosis was arrived at by a complementary medical clinic in Seattle. Tarek well remembers the words “you have fibromyalgia” ringing in his ears. He’d never heard of this before. The doctor explained that this condition affects more than 5 million people in the USA and only about 10% of those are men.

His good doctor said: “It is a chronic disease, often with full-body pain thought to be caused by overactive nerves firing in the body. There is no cure.”

All my clients with fibromyalgia complain of the extreme and often sudden onset of pain but they equally complain of the brain fog, inability to think clearly, sequence (dates, events and time) and remember (early childhood as well as yesterday). They frequently say something to the effect: “I thought my life was over.”

Tarek’s wife asked the medical team about the factors that can cause this condition and remembers being told infection, trauma, family history and other auto-immune diseases.

Please remember these as we unpack Tarek’s case.

The medical team, when pressed with further questioning, could not or did not elaborate on which infections were linked and mentioned trauma only in the realm of physical trauma. Tarek had no family history of fibromyalgia and no other diagnosed autoimmune disease. So, for Tarek and his family, the questions about why and how fibromyalgia could be possible were never answered. This is common.

I saw Tarek for the first time after he was having breakthrough pain even after taking large doses of medication to relieve nerve pain. He complained of feeling high levels of anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, bouts of rage and a rash inside his mouth. He had been referred to me by a friend of his and a client of mine. He came to me as a last resort. He was deeply frustrated and resigned to a life he felt wasn’t worth living.

With each client, I take a comprehensive physical, emotional and spiritual health history. This intake process often consumes the entire initial 90-minute session. This element of the process is the highlight of the work I do. I just love knowing people this deeply.

What I learned about Tarek will be shared with you after you read what I believe the body is telling him by presenting him with the gift of fibromyalgia. A gift, that once opened and appreciated, can be healed with a newfound awareness.

In a client’s process, my job is to interpret the messages from the body and communicate those to the client as soon as I have earned their trust.

So, Tarek has fibromyalgia. What might the body be trying to communicate?

Some of what fibromyalgia comes to tell us include:

“I am exhausted beyond words”:

You feel you are pushing beyond your limits. You’re very successful and yet feel you still haven’t proved your worth or merit to those you work with or live with. You’re draining all your inner support; routinely driving yourself beyond reason to the point of chronic exhaustion.

“Will it (or I) ever be enough”:

There’s a de-linking between your material evidence of success and your feelings of feeling successful. You have a low sense of accomplishment even when you actually know you’re quite accomplished. You have scores of awards and accolades and a family who think you’re amazing but it’s just not sufficient. They just feel this way because they love you. You know that you can be very inflexible and even suffer from inertia. There are other ways to do things and yet you just can’t muster the flexibility to consider them. You’re sometimes dismissive of other people’s good ideas because there’s an inner voice saying you know best. You can’t trust these other people or other ways. You feel the burden of needing to take control and hear the script “when will it ever be enough” rattle around in your mind. And, that makes you angry. Why me; why do I have to carry all this all the time.

“I have to carry it all”:

Because you feel you have to carry it all, you hunker down. You resist new experiences and refuse to move on in life. Not with work. No, there you are the man on the move and successful and in charge and “on it”. You feel separate or separated, often deep sense of ultimately being alone. You may be having some uncomfortable memories coming back. Or complain that you can’t remember anything that happened at home before the age of 12. When prodded, you remember that one (or both) of your parents (or other significant mentors) were perfectionists. They told you how to approach life and yet there was a disconnect with what they were preaching and what they were often doing. You knew this. It’s also possible that you had to rescue your family. There may have been an event (an illness, divorce or death) that left you literally feeling alone, in charge, deferred to. You may have felt that no one was watching. No one was paying attention. So you are hyper-alert, hypervigilant for without you “on watch” bad stuff happens. You’re angry because you actually know “what went down” in your family. You had to carry it, bury it, never speak of it. People don’t carry their load dammit so I will…I have to carry it all.

And then, when Tarek is met with a medical diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, the body feels compelled to shout out the compounded meaning which can sound like this:

Whatever I do; it’s never enough. I’m never enough. I have to think everything, do everything, manage everything if anything is ever to get done right. I can never rest. If I’m not alert and paying attention, something bad will happen and it will be my fault. These secrets I keep are like a virus infecting a weakened body-mind. I am a victim of this invasion. I curse those who have cursed me.

And then it tightens and stiffens up into a ball of:

No matter what I do, it will never suffice. So, why try? Why even try?

Back to Tarek…

As mentioned, Tarek is the father of two children. He comes from a family of two reasonably healthy parents and one younger sister. He remembers very little of his childhood before the age of 12 and admits that he is angry that his sister has a full deck of memories of early family life. He remembers a lot of back-room arguing between his parents and never remembers any resolve. When asked about dinnertime, he pauses and is sad. He remembers many tense, conversation-less, dinners.

His father was a businessman and the family moved many times within one large country. He remembers or thinks he remembers that his father was fired several times and that this was why the family moved suddenly. There was also a time when he was 14 when his mother and father lived apart for 2 years. He and his sister were left to live with the grandparents at this time. He doesn’t remember his father ever visiting or making a phone call. He received letters from his dad always talking about the importance of working hard in school, making top grades, being honest and kind. The letters warmed him but when he was made to read them out loud to his mother she was disgusted and sometimes took the letters from him mid-reading. He remembers nothing of his early relationship with his sister. It’s as if “she didn’t exist” he says in session.

His father remains aloof and demanding. His mother is kind but emotionally frail and cried a lot. He remembers only one event prior to the age of 12. He is at the beach, a filthy beach he adds. He and his sister are swimming. He remembers having to “save” her from the waves and pulling her out and onto the sand, while her mother had left to go he knows not where. His sister was crying from fear. He remembers sitting there with her and then just getting up and walking away. He can’t remember how he got home; what happened with his mother and who brought his sister home.

Years later, Tarek is receiving awards at work, interviewed on the radio and in a few publications as a “rags to riches” story. He is, by all accounts, at the top of his work game. He is an annual marathon runner, fit and healthy.

When I asked Tarek what was going on in his life 4 years ago (when he pegs the initial fibromyalgia symptoms as having started) he struggles.

I ask permission to guide him into a brief medication to encourage remembering. He agrees. After this, he tells me that his father died 5 years ago from a sudden heart attack. He had not been well, had not heeded Tarek’s advice to see a specialist and “ate life he wanted to die”. Tarek sounded angry in his telling. His sister was physically there for the memorial services but seemed emotionally “checked out” and argumentative. Tarek felt like he had to make all the arrangements and curate the service as neither his mother or sister we of “any use at all”.

He also shares that his wife has had 4 miscarriages in he can’t remember how many years. They don’t talk about it. He was appointed to head a merger that was exceptionally difficult and incurred legal battles he was asked to lead his company in winning. His son was engaged to a woman who was instantly killed in a road accident by a driver on their handphone. And, with prodding Tarek can’t remember anything eventful in his daughter’s life.

I repeat back to him the list of events he has shared and asks him how he feels when he hears me ready them all back at once. There is silence and then he is overcome with emotion.

You can imagine the next two sessions with Tarek as, together, we unpack his un-wellness. We start with his physical state 4 years ago. He was under enormous pressure at work. He was asked to lead a fight he actually didn’t believe in and knew his company carried some significant culpability and yet he could say nothing. These secrets I keep are like a virus infecting a weakened body-mind. I am a victim of this invasion. I curse those who have cursed me.

His wife was sad and coping with the miscarriages; she seemed angry and aloof. He connected his wife’s emotions to his mother’s anger and distance as a child and wondered what must have happened to his mother to leave her feeling so vulnerable and weak. Tarek later found out that when his parents lived apart and he and his sister we left to live with their grandparents, his mother had kicked his father out because of his string of infidelities.

His parents never divorced. When Tarek’s father returned, he can’t remember any affection between them Tarek remembers his father coming down heavily on him over these years when his parents reunited. While Tarek thinks he did well in school and excelled at sports, he felt like his father's arm-chair coached him to always be more and do more. Will it (or I) ever be enough. These secrets I keep…

The sudden death of Linna, his son’s fiancé, was a shock to everyone. Tarek stepped up, even in the middle of everything on his shoulders at work. He supported Linna’s family with the details of claiming the body, preparing for the service, and even assisted with the legal battle the family waged against the driver. At this point Tarek is so exhausted in the session, we break with a guided meditation as he lies down. He reaches an alpha brain wave activity almost immediately. His pulse drops to 53. I am exhausted beyond words. I have to carry it all.

I ask Tarek to identify with any feelings he is feeling in the present moment. He responds affirmatively to the following 8 in a list of 12:

✓ Whatever I do, it’s never enough

✓ Full of shame and guilt

✓ Have to carry it all

✓ Uncomfortable with anger

✓ Trapped even though I love being married and a dad

✓ Full of hate and rage and have no idea where all this comes from

✓ Hypercritical and controlling

✓ Fear of failure even though I’m successful

Please see how similar these emotions are to those felt by sufferers of arthritis which is an auto-immunie disease. (Link to the blog: Arthritis)

I saw Tarek for a few months only.

Remember what Tarek said when we first met:

He complained of feeling high levels of anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, bouts of rage and a rash inside his mouth. He was deeply frustrated and resigned to a life he felt wasn’t worth living.

As an important side note, many of these physical and emotional symptoms were a result of the medication that has clearly labelled side effects including rashes in the mouth, anxiety, insomnia, unusual changes in mood and the increased risk of suicidal thoughts. He had shared these concerns with several doctors and not one queried the medication as a possible issue. Tarek thought he was losing his mind, making a mountain out of a molehill and needed to buck up!

We began the work on releasing the past emotions that were stored at a cellular level (trauma) that continued to guide the present.

Remember the Kite Analogy and the reality that "Nothing comes from nothing; nothing ever could" (Link to the Blog: The Kite)

We also deeply engaged on the process of releasing the constant need to be perfect and in control. Tarek created lists of what he was actually responsible for. He also created “to don’t lists” of all that he was not responsible for. We personalised a meditation that Tarek did to imagine placing everything he thought could or should be done by others in a box. He imagined handing that box back to those responsible and then another identical box he imagined giving up to the heavens. He also kept a journal of his thoughts when he felt anxious or depressed.

Tarek continues to do these visualisations. He self-scores his need to be perfect and in control between 4-6 usually instead of 20 on a scale of 10! He has left his job gracefully and now sits on 2 boards of start-up energy companies and is the CEO of his own green technology play.

He is happily married. He and his wife sought skilled counselling to heal the wounds of miscarriages and the space placed between them. They have together learned new skills for communication and verbal intimacy. He has given up his marathon shoes for pilates and kite surfing. His children are doing well in life and Tarek feels close to them. He admits to a greater effort with his daughter to make up for all his lost time when she was navigating her 14th year.

Ah, his fibromyalgia you ask….

He does still suffer with symptoms. He is medication free and has been for more than a year. He says that when he feels the brain fog or pain begins, he tries to catch it at the level 2.

In order to do so, he asks himself the following questions:

  • What am I doing
  • What am I thinking
  • Who am I with and
  • Where am I physically

If nothing resonates at that level, he then asks:

  • How am I living
  • How am I loving
  • How am I working
  • How am I being of service

Once Tarek makes it through these two “un-packings” of his present reality, he almost always knows what he can add to his “to do” and “to don’t” lists! And the pain or fog or anxiety or sadness begins to dissipate.

You know I love it when a client’s physical, emotional and spiritual energies (thoughts, and actions) are laser-focused on healing. They heal!

Love to you Tarek!




I am here if you need to talk.

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