Tuesday, May 25, 2010
My mother signed us up for swimming lessons, and I even was on a swim team for one season, but I was never very good at the crawl or the butterfly, and mostly did the breast stroke or the back stroke when I swam laps as an adult.
Despite this level of activity, I was always of the "last picked for the team" crowd, partly because I was myopic and refused to wear my glasses so I couldn't tell how far away a ball was. I was also painfully shy after sixth grade, mortified if anyone looked at me. I longed to be invisible. Yet, somehow in college, when I was 17-18, I ended up being recruited by my P.E. major roommate Natalie to be on our co-ed volleyball and softball teams because, I was told, they needed one more person to be able to sign up the team. Again, I was always the weakest link, but some of the guys took pity on me and actually helped me develop a few skills at throwing and catching the ball, even if I would occasionally just lob it in some random uncontrolled direction. Although they purported not to care, I knew my teammates were terribly competitive and I was alternately ashamed and resentful that I didn't measure up, but also thrilled in a puppy-like way that they included me, the dork, in their group. It was a mixed experience, to say the least.
Once I finished college, my main form of exercise consisted of not having a car: I walked, biked, hauled stuff, and generally tramped all over town for hours everywhere I lived, whether it was in the U.S. or Europe. I also started having the symptoms of fibromyalgia (fatigue, pain) but didn't know why or what it was. I was fit, but I hurt all over and all of the time. Because nobody could tell me why, I just lived with it. I would finally get a diagnosis at age 32 and start doing things like yoga and stretching to help manage the pain.
Walking and biking were my primary ways of keeping fit in graduate school because I no longer hung out with people who played organized sports, the whole world was not yet "going to the gym" and my stab at running proved to me that I would never stick with something I found boring. I had been told by the doctor when I had my first of many childhood sprains that I had "weak ankles" and he told my mother not to let me dance (curse him forever!!!). In my twenties, I did join some friends at the pool from time to time. They were dedicated swimmers; I was not, but I was used to being less competent at sports than most people I knew.
I took two P.E. classes in college: British Isles Folkdancing (loved loved loved it! why didn't I continue?) and the very first weight training class offered for women. Actually the women's section was filled, but they let me and a dorm mate into the men's class. The instructor was a woman, a track coach I believe, and I could tell the guys were not willing to grant her any authority as we gathered on the first day. She didn't say anything, just whipped off ten pullups to the back of the neck with some kind of reverse grip that were clearly of the kind that only Wonder Woman could do, and I saw all the guys visibly adopt a submissive posture. She had proven that she was as tough or tougher than all of them. My supercute friend had lots of guys "helping her" with her weights, but I was happy enough to be ignored. My goal for the class? to be able to do ONE regular pull-up. I never achieved my goal, but I did develop some actual muscle definition and a new relationship to my body. It was very satisfying.
After two years of walking and biking around Minneapolis I finally got a car, and my level of activity dropped precipitously. Walking around the lakes didn't quite replace it. But I also started taking an Afro-Caribbean dance class taught by an amazing teacher, who gave us a 45 minute workout before we even started dancing combinations. It took about a year of taking class from him, first only on Saturdays, then on Tues/Thurs/Sat, to finally overcome the body shame and shyness, get the level of confidence and fitness to finally feel as if I could use my body to express myself. It was a revelation that I could actually be good at something that involved moving my body through space. I owe that dance teacher so much. I stopped taking his class when I was five months pregnant, and then he moved away.
After I was 40, and had a small child, I looked to dance agin for the exercise and pleasure that gym classes never gave me. Until a few years ago, I danced either in ballroom classes or socially at least 2-5 times a week. I was in great shape and it helped me manage my fibromyalgia. But when I had my episodes with rotator cuff impingement and frozen shoulder, I stopped dancing and playing the piano. It hurt too much to raise my hands or my arms above my waist. This coincided, not at all coincidentally, with menopause. Hormanal changes and loss of activity have meant that I rapidly gained weight, putting on close to twenty-five pounds in two years. So I'm both out of shape and
I had to give away my wardrobe. I feel sluggish and weak. My fibromyalgia symptoms are worse. I need to get back in shape, not just because I'd like to lose a few pounds but because my future health as an elderly lady will be better if I get fit again. So, despite my fondness for the YWCA, we have signed up at the new LA Fitness about a block from where I live, and I have plunked down the money to have the services of a personal trainer once a week for six months. I know I will not get back into shape unless someone stands over me and counts those repetitions, and I know that if I don't get back into shape, my health and morale will not improve.
The manager put us through our paces in the intake, and my thighs are feeling it, but I feel so excited to have made this commitment, and I want to return to feeling strong and fit again. Then I had an evaluation session where we took measurements and tested what my limits were with a variety of strength exercises: "Pitiful" (that would be my term, not the trainer's).
Sunday, May 23, 2010
So over the last few days, I packed rolling bookshelves and large plastic boxes on dollies with books, the files I did not recycle, and the assorted stuff one has in an office. I found about a million paper clips and pennies. I have no idea how many books I have, but I do know that I recycled the equivalent of two four-drawer file cabinets and ten file boxes worth of paper. About half of the furniture will go to the ReUse Center. I probably kept enough paper files to fill one of the file cabinets and four boxes. The act of sorting and tossing all these files into the huge recycling bin was a kind of "this is your life" in fast-motion: here were the articles I had painstakingly sought and copied in libraries, the drafts of talks, the student papers that had never been picked up, the class material that I had never managed to file. So much is now digitized or available online that it is no longer necessary to keep all of this. yet, so much is still not available online that I did keep what seemed useful or important. And I couldn't bring myself to toss out the files for all my graduate classes--for sentimental value.
I experienced a rush of contradictory feelings while I was sorting through this paper trail of my professional life: pleasure at finding useful and interesting things I'd forgotten I had, disappointment at the projects that never made it past the research phase, a mix of tenderness and exasperation at my previous selves as they appear in the notes in the margins or scrawled labels. I resisted the temptation to read every file as I opened it: keep or toss? I can read it after I unpack and refile, reshelve, reorganize all these things in the new space.
This video is a fairly accurate representation of the process, but I went on to clear my bookshelves and box everything up.
Starting tomorrow and through Wednesday, the movers will roll these things across the street to the building where we will be for the next eighteen months. My temporary office has a window (yay) but is painted a hideous shade of sickly blue. I am slightly panicky about this because color affects my mood in a big way, butI will see how it looks once all the furniture is in, and art is on the walls. I figure I can live with it if I decorate. I'm quite happy to be located in a suite of offices that share a common space that we can furnish as a lounge, and that my suite-mates are all my favorite colleagues (our administrative assistant was very savvy about allocating the space!). We have already agreed to share a couch, table, some chairs, a microwave, coffee-maker, etc. I can imagine a very congenial atmosphere. I will no longer have an office next door to the person who has been the most unpleasant to me over the last two decades, and will no longer have to close the door to keep out the noise of busy hallway traffic.
The packing itself was a physical challenge for my fibromyalgia, and I'm dealing with a huge flare-up, but it will pass. This process feels good. I had been meaning to do a kind of clean-up like this for years, and the moved forced it to happen.
Julie Morgenstern, whose organizing ideas are the best I've read, talks about her process for getting rid of stuff and changing your life! SHED your stuff, change your life.
S-Separate the Treasures: what could I not imagine living without?
H-Heave the rest: purge, recycle, get rid of it.
E-Embrace your Identity From Within (wall of panic: who am I without all my stuff?)
D-Drive yourself forward: move toward the new life. by trying something entirely new.
Friday, May 21, 2010
Here's what the Wikipedia entry says about his take on "truth" in writing:
In the short story "Good Form", the narrator makes a distinction between "story truth" and "happening truth." O'Brien feels that the idea of creating a story that is technically false yet truthfully portrays war, as opposed to just stating the facts and creating no emotion in the reader, is the correct way to clear his conscience and tell the story of thousands of soldiers. Critics often cite this distinction when commenting on O'Brien's artistic aims in The Things They Carried and, in general, all of his fiction about Vietnam, claiming that O'Brien feels that the realities of the Vietnam War are best explored in fictional form rather than the presentation of precise facts. O'Brien's fluid and elliptical negotiation of truth in this context finds echoes in works labeled as 'non-fiction novels.'
In this video, he reads about being a father at an older age, in the form of a letter to his young son. He says some amazing things about being a writer and being a parent.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Posted using ShareThis
Click on this link to see a terrific slide show/essay on the influence of the Fritz Lang film Metropolis on later cinema and popular culture. Links to clips from each film make this post from Salon a portal to visual adventure.
The film will be screened again this June at the Landmark cinemas, with footage long thought lost
(via Cristina Lopez)
Thursday, May 13, 2010
The office move will require me to get rid of a huge pile of paper, and I am confronting the difference between bibliophilia and being a hoarder. I have sold or given away hundreds of books I no longer need, and I've been thinking a lot lately about getting rid of more unnecessary things, some of which I am experiencing as clutter rather than necessities, souvenir, decorations or a wardrobe.
I want to lighten my load, as I also try to lighten my carbon footprint. Juliet Schorr's work on sustainability and the huge impact of "the social death of things"--how that is connected to the despoiling of the planet and the impoverishment of peoples around the world--is behind at least some of my decision to become more mindful of how I consume and my relationship to things.
Today's post on the blog has inspired me to think about what I have and what I need. She and her husband packed up and moved to another country, shed a lot of stuff, and haven't replaced a lot of it.
Here's her list of "100 Things I Live Without" (inspired by the 100 things I own list that is apparently going around, although I haven't seen it). I thought I'd post her list (without her comments which you can read at her post) with my own comments, just as a way of thinking about "stuff" and my relationship to it. The idea is not to be judgemental about what kind of stuff we do and dont' have, but just to think about it.
1. Television – don't own because we watch TV over the computer, and last year I recycled a trunk-load of old, no-longer-needed electronic gear.
2. DVD player – see above: don't own because we watch movies on the computer.
3. Stereo system – still own a small CD player that I can plug my iPod into because the computer speakers are not good enough for listening without earphones.
4. Remote control – for the TV and DVD functions on the computer.
5. Entertainment center or TV stand – the computer is on a filing cabinet that holds my building association files (I'm the treasurer).
6. Sofa – my mother's old sofa is my primary work station (lying down) and also our guest bed--guests sleep in my bed and I sleep on the sofas which is extremely comfortable!
7. Ottoman – currently holding junk. do we need it? I like to put my feet up, but the fact that is not being used for that function should tell me something.
8. End table – Yes, to hold the reading lamp and the pile of books in the reading queue. No, I can't read them all on an iPad, a Kindle, or my laptop: I'm a literature professor.
9. Bookshelves--not room to keep all my books at my office, and books are not a luxury for me, see above.
10. Magazine rack – no magazine rack, but too many magazines. Not willing to give them up yet, although I have in the past. I find them inspirational and clip things for idea files.
11. Dining room table – really, we hardly every use ours to eat, but it has become a crafting table for sewing, costume-making---and clutter catching. But we do have guests often enough that I'm not willing to give it up.
12. Dining chairs – we do entertain a few times a year, and want our guests to be able to sit at the dining room table!
13. Buffet or sideboards – our flat has built-in buffet with drawers stores in which I keep wrapping paper, table linens, tools, and misc stuff. Probably could get rid of just about all of it, but not the tools, all of which I use from time to time. Also holds some pictures, bottles of booze, and a few pretty things.
14. Lamps – our old apartment does not have overhead lighting in most rooms. should I change that? I might have to get the whole place rewired to do so. Inertia currently winning this one, but I don't like our lighting in most rooms.
15. Area rug – I love haing my mother's carpet in our living room, but do I need the area rugs in my bedroom? The wooden floors really need to be refinished, but I am saving that money for kid's college fund.
16. Clock – I like having a kitchen clock for cooking, and a bedroom clock for getting ready for work. I use clocks in other devices when there is electricity.
17. Throw pillows – not optional for a short person with back problems: without them, I can't sit comfortably.
18. Wall art – art from my mother, a few photos, a few creative projects, I actually wish I had a little more art in my bedroom.
19. Frames – I prefer frameless mounting for most things.
20. Photo albums – pre-digital photos are in albums that are in a box under the bed.
21. Candles or candleholders – I don't use the candle-holders often, but I do use them, and I love scented candles in the bathroom and bedroom.
22. Bed – I've done the futon on the floor thing; NOT good for someone like me with fibromyalgia..
23. Dresser – part of the antique set I got with the bed and necessary for all the items that don't fit in the closet, although THIS COULD CHANGE after the purge! but I like my set: it's maple and by a early American design firm whose name I can't remember, and that is driving me crazy.
24. Nightstand – for reading lamp, meds, glass of water, that candle, glasses, pile of books.
25. Hamper – laundry basket in closet
26. Scale – I could get rid of this item; I never use it. I go by fit. Do I fit my pants, yes or no?
27. Desk – do not have one of these at home for me. My daughter has one, but it's more a stuff holder than a work surface. I work on my laptop on a chair, or lying down on the couch (see couch).
28. Office chair – the child does use her office chair with her desk when she works at her desk
29. Stapler – only need one at work.
30. File cabinet – one for me, one for my building association. Each has eliminated need to store files on bookshelves.
31. Calendar – none on the wall, but one online and one in purse. Can't do without jotting down things because I must schedule a lot with students. But it is now the smallest I can get away with.
32. Printer stand-part of child's desk set-up: used primarily for crafting. I print at work.
33. Desktop computer – is the art machine for child as well as TV, DVD player, movie screen.
34. Monitor – ditto (iMac)
35. Fax machine – Nope
36. Highlighter – OK, we have boxes of pens, markers, colored pencils, etc, because the child is an artist. I only use one at work
37. Glue – ditto, but we hardly use it.
38. Pencil sharpener – artists need good pencil sharpeners!
39. Ruler – ditto.
40. Dictionary – a prized possession. online dictionaries are good for looking up specific words, but flipping through the pages of a dictionary is a joy.
41. Phone book – I keep mine in the car.
42. Coffee maker – drip carafe
43. Butter dish – nope, but I like to put butter in a little special dish when I serve it.
44. Gravy boat – don't make gravy
45. Sugar bowl – one for guests, but I keep it stored because I never use it.
46. Salt and pepper shakers – salt crock and pepper mill are for cooking.
47. Rolling pin – nope, but I do have a pasta roller from my mom that is a decorative item.
48. Wine or champagne glasses – I like stemmed wine glasses in addition to regular tumblers.
49. Apron – Yes, for cooking, washing and crafts, because I'm a slob in the kitchen and have already ruined enough clothes.
50. Tablecloth – I could get rid of the ones in my drawer because I prefer place mats when I entertain. Table clothes get stained and I always end up catching them in my knees when I sit down.
51. Cookie jar – no, but we do have a cookie tin, an old one I like.
52. Serving platter – yes, because when you cook for more than two you need to put the food on something.
53. Blender – blender wand is for smoothies, soups.
54. Mixer – hand held mixer for choc chip cookes, but not a good one. Should give it away, because child prefers hand mixing her cookies.
55. Food processor – nope
56. Crock pot – YES, and this has become one of my favorite cooking items for large pots of beans, stews, and next on the list: orange marmelade!
57. Coffee grinder – I hate pre-ground coffee. Not as fresh.
58. Cappuccino or espresso maker – that's what cafes are for.
59. Ice cream maker – that's what ice-cream and gelato stores are for.
60. Fondue set – Loren has one at his house.
61. Watch – no longer wear one; can get rid of the old ones cluttering up a drawer.
62. Sneakers –for walking around the lake, the gym. Bad footwear is bad for your feet.
63. Jeans – I only own a few pair of pants, and jeans are my staple.
64. Sweatshirt – souvenir SF hot tub sweatshirt that is 40 years old
65. Hat – sorry, can't live in MN in winter without hats.
66. Belt – for certain outfits I do need a belt.
67. Fan – a lot cheaper than running AC window units--can't survive MN summer without one.
68. Air conditioner – one window unit for living room, see above.
69. Humidifier – nope.
70. Treadmill – gym
71. Exercise bike – gym
72. Hand weights – yes, but haven't used them for years STOPLOOKINGATME
73. Video game system – nope
74. Board games –gathering dust. Anyone want a vintage classic monopoly set with all the pieces?
75. Deck of cards – don't use it, do I still have one?
76. Video camera – part of camera, wish I had a flipcam, actually.
77. CDs – still have too many of these, in spite of iPod library, because they stand for the huge collection of vinyl I gave away years ago (*sniff*)
78. Hairdryer – we have one, but should get rid of it.
79. Shades or blinds – must have, for me, I HATE being on display at night, and we have neighbors who can see right into our bedrooms.
80. Holiday décor – a very few seasonal items. Finally bought a mini-tree because I enjoyed making new ones by hand.
81. Grill-no outdoor grill, but I do love my little Coleman grill for making grilled sausages, grill cheese sandwiches, and some other grilled veggies.
82. Patio furniture: no patio
83. Sprinklers--one for the building for the condo associatioin
87. Weed whacker-nope
88. Shovel-MN necessity, for building. I do snow shoveling.
89. Spade-just bought one because I intend to plant!
90. Hoe-building has one.
91. Hand saw--I have a metal hacksaw, and I have used it often enough to keep it.
92. Ladder--building owns one.
93. Pry bar-nope
96. Staple gun-no
97. Nails- a few leftover
98. Screws--for the AC screen.
99. Drill--yes, and it comes in handy.
100. Paint brushes--for the building: we just had to paint over graffiti and needed a paint roller, tray.
What is not on this list?
I still own and use a car, probably far more than I need to, but it's not optional for me, given that my fibromyalgia has made bike-riding too painful, and we need to go to Northfield rather often, no public transpo that far. But I could take the bus to work and to many other places if I did not experience pain carrying groceries, computer bag, etc, for long times.
I could add that I do own a camera, a laptop, an iPod, and a micrwave, and that i use all of these times on an almost daily basis. Do I actually need them? Yes, the laptop is a essential work device that I must bring into the classroom because my classes are now hybrid classes (using a lot of online material for lecture, discussion) and there are no computers in classrooms (unlike the university where I just gave guest lectures where the rooms have computers built-in), and the camera and iPod were purchased for work purposes as well. I could get along without any of them, but it would make my work life a lot harder. I'd have to check out a lap top each time I taught; and would not be able to do any work outside the office or home, and I work on the road all the time.
As for most of the stuff that is cluttering up my house, I am going to probably get rid of quite a lot of it this year: clothing, dishes, magazines, books. But I'm not yet ready to embrace the minimalism of "just moved in" or the Japanese style yet.
Monday, May 10, 2010
I absolutely adore her rendition of "Where or When,"
Here she performs a Kris Kristofferson song in 1973.
Here's a great interview with Lena Horne on the Rosie O'Donnell show when she was 80:
I had never seen this until today. My tears are flowing. Lena Horne navigated a complicated and often lonely path in her career through the racism of our society, and was a fierce advocate of the dignity and rights of all people.
The Auteurs blog has an excellent link-heavy appreciation of Lena Horne's film career.
Sunday, May 09, 2010
1979, Dolly Parton's "Coat of Many Colors" is a song my daughter and I used to sing along to, but as covered by Maria Muldaur and her daughter Jenni.
I can't find a video of "Mama You Sweet" by Lucinda Williams, but it's a hypnotic song about the intense connection she had with her mother.
from her album West (2007)
I love you Mama you sweet
I love you Mama you sweet
I love you Mama you sweet
I love you Mama you sweet
I love you Mama you sweet
With an ocean in my spirit
And cracks on my lips
And scars in my heart
And this burden on my hips
Ocean becomes heavy and tries
To push its way out
Through these ancient eyes
And the memories in my mouth
Ocean becomes tears
That ebb and flow
Over the lines in my face
And the pain in my soul
And pain hits a wall
And doesn't know which way to go
And ocean says I'm crying now
And tells pain to follow
And pain courses through
Every vein, every limb
Trying to find a way out
Between the secrets in my skin
And secrets hold on
Until they finally give in
And they meet up with ocean
And tears again
And tears hand me a shovel
Saying break beneath the crust
That binds earthly skin
And buries all the trust
Somehow trust was caught
Between the cracks on my lips
And the scars in my heart
And this burden on my hips
I love you Mama you sweet...
Saturday, May 08, 2010
I used to think that if I just bought the right book about organizing things, that it would help me get rid of the clutter in my life. I have several of these books now! And, to some extent, over the past few years, I have made progress in combating my tendency toward inertia, because the clutter bothers me. So, now that I have taught my last class, and have a few days before I have to start grading, I'm thinking about SPRING CLEANING. I want to sort, purge, recycle, give away, clean up, de-clutter, minimize! After I get off the couch.
(Munro Leaf wrote the book in 1932, and Robert Larson's illustrations captivated me as a child. I was sure that corks grew on trees in bunches).
Thursday, May 06, 2010
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
Monday, May 03, 2010
If you can get space, you can watch the ceremony at the other end of the lake. It's always the same theme: the creatures of the earth and the may tree are driven underground or imprisoned by the anti-natural forces of greed or injustice. The the four elements--the giant puppets--emerge and call for the sun to return. The sun travels across the lake, pulled by canoes with conch shells and drums sounding.
We wait, we wait, and every year, the sun returns.
The giant tree of life is resurrected, and we sing. This year, I was close enough to catch glimpses, but too short (as always) to see everything. That's OK, because I've seen it so many times now.
I have some fun video clips but I need to upload them to YouTube.
Sunday, May 02, 2010
In the last few years, Chinese dragon-style creatures (not always dragons) have been central, and this year's tiger was gorgeous.
There were several roosters, some pulling golden chariots, others just roaming around, in the sun section.
There are always "giant puppets", tall figures like these well-dressed skeleton women of Mexican Days of the Dead (catrinas). The colors were gorgeous, and the weather (slightly cloudy and not too hot) was perfect for watching them pass by.
This year, the "Aztec dancers" were given pride of place, and the colors of their feathered headdresses were repeated in the costumes and creatures.
The children who ride in the wagons grow up to be stilt-walkers.
Owls accompanied the section where dark creatures marched, and this one was one a long pole.
The themes of life and death sometimes are merged in one figure, as in this butterfly skeleton.
Before they (politely) ditched me.
Every year, there are workshops for neighbors to creat the theme, costumes, and floats for the parade, around the central idea of the return of spring. This year's theme was Uproar! for the year of the tiger, and for need to keep vigilant.
Every one can be a part of the parade, and I love when people decorate their babies.
Saturday, May 01, 2010
Counting down to May 12, National Fibromyalgia Day. What is the current state of research and knowledge about fibromyalgia?
May 12 is National Fibromyalgia Awareness Day, as sponsored by the National Fibromyalgia Association. The NFA is a non-profit founded in 1997 by people with fibromyalgia who were concerned with the lag in education and attention to the needs of people with fibromyalgia (affecting from 2-5% of U.S. population, during working years, more female than male).
Over the next 12 days, I'm going to post about my experience with fibromyalgia, and about resources, research and changes in our understanding of fibromyalgia.
While this video is long, it is the best resource I have found about the science behind new understandings of fibromyalgia. Chief of Pain Management at Stanford, Dr. Sean Mackey, explains recent discoveries in research into pain, new ideas about central nervous system disease, and how they are related to fibromyalgia. The theory is that there is a disorder or disregulation in the Central Nervous System (CNS) that alters the perception and experience of pain. While the video is long, it's also extremely clear, thorough, and compassionate. It extends and connects what I have been learning over the years. If you know someone with fibromyalgia, you should watch this.
I've made some notes from the video.
Fibromyalgia (FM) is widespread pain, and hyper-sensitivity to pain. It is bow believed to have a wide variety of causes: some hereditary component with specific genetic mutations that may pre-dispose us, probably affecting a specific enzyme; environmental factors such as physical trauma, virus, emotional trauma, anything that can cause"an insult to the person" and seems to kick off the response and feedback cycle that alters the body, specifically the Central Nervous System (CNS) and transmitters called glutamate and Substance P.
What is pain? According to the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), pain is not just a stimulus-response mechanism; it is an experience.
Pain: An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.Pain works by excitation and inhibition. If you have either too much of one or too little of the other, you have pain. If you have too much information coming into the brain, it leads to the experience of pain. Some fMRI imaging seems to back up this idea.
"Each person owns their own pain"
Nociception=the chemical signals that occur when we have injury or trauma. But a group of people who receive the same stimuli will not report the same pain scores. There is a component that is not measured by the stimulus itself.
There are some medications that treat the pain "insult" or causes, but this still leaves lots of people suffering from pain. Pain is now being understood as a disease in and of its own right that causes changes to the nervous system, that stay there after the original injury or insult is gone and the tissue has healed.
Stimulus-- burn, injury--affects nociceptors (pain receptor cells) which act as transducers by converting one form of energy such as heat or pressure, into another form of energy-- action potential--that then transmits a signal along nerve pathways.
There is fast pain and slow pain. The A-delta fibers are fast-conducting and provoke a withdrawal response. The C-delta fibers send a signal more slowly, and are what last longer and hurt more, as a way of getting us to pay attention and take care of the pain.
Nerve signals reach the thalamus which acts a relay station and sends the pain signals to two major areas of the brain. The outer area of the brain is where we perceive the sensory aspects of the pain: intensity, duration, etc. The other section of the brain is the limbic forebrain, part of our reptile brain, where we experience the emotional part of pain, the experience of pain. We are actually more wired for this emotional aspect of pain.
The system that sends inhibitory signals back down from the brain seems to be what gets screwed up in fibromyalgia. Same part of the brain that processes negative emotions resonates with the experience of pain. Negative emotions are linked to discomfort physiologically, and scientist are documenting actual visible changes in the brain among people with FM.
Neuroplasticity is the concept that the brain continues to change and adapt. Research using fMRI is exploring the enhanced sensitivy to pain in the brain, or pain amplification, that seems to be characterize fibromyalgia. Unlike other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome, with FM, it is not tissue damage or inflamation that causes the pain, but rather an abnormal processing of pain signals. This is why taking aspirin or other pain medications don't help relieve the pain for FM.
SLEEP: he talks about the sleep connection: "Alpha-wave intrusion," which interferes with the deep sleep cycle, is something I have. Again, research is documenting the correlation of sleep cycles and pain responses.
MOOD DISORDERS: actually occur at a lower rate among people with FM.
Oooh! oooh! he talks about the hippocampus!! you have to treat both the pain and the depression, in people where both FM and depression are present, for there to be improvement in each. Education and awareness, validation, lead to significant improvement.
FM needs to be diagnosed and treated with a holistic, integrated approach, using tools from a wide variety of systems and traditions. There exists now a mucher wider array of medications that can help than there were only 10 years ago.
I was originally given a low dose of elavil (a tri-cyclic antidepressant) which helped with the sleep and pain, but left me stupid and unable to work. I have tried Celexa, but the side effects were also unacceptable. Now I take Cymbalta, and the side effects are manageable. The medication gets me to a functional level with my pain; the pain does not disappear, but it is tolerable.
I do not take any opioids, although others I know do, because the docs are wary of the baggage and there are real, negative side-effects as well. Long term use of opioids can themselves over-stimulate the CNS and cause more pain instead of less.
Some anti-seizure meds have newly been approved from FM, but I haven't tried them either.
"Patient education" (ie: taking us seriously and helping us understand what is going on with our bodies and how to manage our symptoms) is key in providing relief.
Mild (MILD) aerobic exercise, helps, but it is important to not overdo it. Fibromyalgia patients do not get the "runners' high" from endorphins that healthy people get. We feel crappy after exercise. Or, rather, we feel crappier. But gentle stretching, breathing, and mild aerobic exercise do have overall positive effects if properly paced.
He talks about the other direction of pain signals: "Descending Noxious Inhibitory Control" (DNIC) means that when you cause pain in one part of the body, (stomp on the foot) you feel less pain in another (your shoulder). Or at least this is the case with healthier people. but FM people just feel more pain, in both parts. So they think there is something out of whack with the inhibitory (descending) signals, from the brain and spinal cord, back out.
Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) can help, with practice and guidance from skilled practitioners because it helps with awareness and changing habits.
McKay and and his colleague J. Younger study the therapeutic use of low doses of naltrexone (LDN), an opioid blocker, for FM. In a low dose it has an impact on microglial cells (clean-up cells that can get overactive in autoimmune disease states). Naltrexone shuts down narcotic receptors, and is used to treat alcohol and opioid addiction at a dose of 50 mgs. But at a lower dose, it blocks a specific receptors on the microglia, preventing the release of cytokines. So in a pilot study, at a dose of 4.5 mgs/day (10 times less than the regular dose), 7/10 of patients in the pilot trial vastly improved pain states and symptom relief. If it works, it will be very affordable. A larger trial is now underway. Note: the fact that this is a generic drug (meaning it will be cheap) means there is almost no drug company funding for research on it, unless it comes from non-profits or donors.
Apparently, LDN can have a therapeutic affect in a wide number of diseases, but its use is still awaiting FDA approval for many of those.
Mark J. Pellegrino, MD, summarizes much of this same information about pain amplification, but with less detail about the overall picture, in this report "Fibromyalgia: Ultimately a Disease of Amplified Pain".