Strategies to take back your life by Andy Abril, M.D and Barbara K. Bruce. PH.D., L.P.
Disclosure: I received this product for free in return for providing my honest and unbiased review. I received no other compensation. All opinions expressed are truthful and 100% my own.
There are many overlapping issues between Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS and with diagnosis being so sketchy here in the UK, many people are not sure whether they have Fibro, ME/CFS or both. I was hoping this book would provide clarification for those unsure and I wanted to see how much of the advice would be applicable for people who have both ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia.
What I loved about this book:
- It’s well presented, clear and easy to read. However, the downside of it being well spaced out and containing lots of images, is that it’s fairly big and can get heavy to hold when energy is low.
- In part 1 it gives a wonderfully clear explanation of what Fibromyalgia is and isn’t. There is a really good chapter on myths and fact, as well as a clear explanation of Fibromyalgia as a central sensitization disorder. The ‘how do I know if I have Fibromyalgia?’ chapter gives a good explanation of how it is diagnosed, both now and historically, as well as symptoms to look out for. Although I’m not sure that diagnosis would follow the same procedures in the UK, I felt that this section of the book would leave you with a clear idea of whether you have Fibromyalgia or not.
- The overall sense of this book is empathic and validating. It’s so encouraging to find that there are people in the medical profession who really do get it!
- There was a good discussion of the medications that can be used to treat Fibromyalgia along with a clear message that the best strategies combine medication with a more integrative approach.
- There was a good explanation of integrative medicine and how complementary treatments can help by tuning down the nervous system and consequently calming the pain messages. There was a good explanation of the different kinds of meditation that can help and the benefits of moving meditations like Yoga, Tai chi, Qigong and Pilates. It also discussed how helpful treatments like massage, acupuncture, hypnotherapy and supplements could be.
- In part 3 (managing symptoms) there were several good chapters including one on goal setting, one on getting regular physical activity and one on stress management.
- The part on living with Fibromyalgia (part 4) was generally really helpful. There was a useful discussion of partnering with your doctor (although not all of it would apply to the UK health care system). The chapter on family and support offered good advice for talking to your family and building a support team but I had a problem when it repeated ‘accept every invitation’ and suggested ‘go out every Saturday night for date night’. Is that even reasonable when you don’t have a chronic illness?
- There was a really good chapter on making an action plan that pulled all of the advice from the book together. It included planning for a bad day and a template for a daily planner with an example of one filled out.
- The additional resources included well-illustrated stretching exercises.
What I didn’t love about this book
- Sometimes the encouraging messages of the book seemed to be beyond realistic considering the community I connect with. However, that maybe because most of the people I connect with who have Fibromyalgia are likely to have a combination of ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia, which complicates the picture somewhat. For example, there was a really good explanation of energy management in the ‘balance your time and energy’ chapter, but examples of pacing weren’t very helpful because of the very high levels of functioning they assumed. I laughed out loud at the suggestion that you ‘accept every invitation but only stay for 30 minutes’, although I understand the encouragement to not give up on a social life
- The book claims CBT to be the most effective way to manage Fibromyalgia. As a holistic life coach, I can’t argue with how helpful it can be to become skilled at managing your thoughts, feelings and behaviours in order to take control over your happiness and well-being. However, I found the examples in this book a little over simplistic, and there was a general sense that the book was saying you need to get CBT from us, where it could have been sharing more self-help tools. It’s great to get professional help if you can afford it, and definitely important if you’re struggling with anxiety and depression but I also believe that there are a lot of ways that you can learn skills to help you manage your thoughts, feelings and behaviour if you don’t have easy access CBT (or holistic life coaching 😉).
My overall impression of this book is that is would be well-worth buying if you have Fibromyalgia without the complications of ME/CFS. It’s not only a great resource for working on improving your own health and well-being but it would also be helpful for those close to you to read and get a better understanding of your needs. A lot of the management advice could also be applicable even if you do have ME/CFS as well, with a couple of key exceptions:
- I’ve always thought that the biggest difference in managing ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia is in the importance placed on exercise. If you have Fibromyalgia without ME/CFS, exercise can be a really important aspect of managing the illness. While exertion free movement is important in the management of ME/CFS, it’s really important to get away from the idea of pushing that the word exercise carries with it, to avoid post exertional malaise.
- The whole pushing yourself to be sociable thing is extremely unrealistic if you have ME/CFS too.
Whether or not you have Fibromyalgia alone or Fibromyalgia with ME/CFS, prepare yourself for quite a frustrating read if you are starting from a point of low functionality. But if you stay open to the general messages, there’s still a great deal of value to be found.
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