Toronto support group offers help to people suffering from fibromyalgia
A local Toronto support group is helping people with fibromyalgia find useful advice and a stable support system among others with a chronic pain condition some believe doesn’t exist.
The Downtown Toronto Fibro Support Group organized a meeting on Feb. 8 to address fibromyalgia or chronic musculoskeletal pain. It also holds recurring meetings on the third Saturday of every month.
“What I’ve noticed with my condition is that a lot of different conditions coexist with it,” said Irene Au, the meeting coordinator. “It started with depression, anxiety attacks, led to insomnia, and then fibromyalgia.”
Some consider it as an illness that only exists in a person’s mind, because the pain is not usually accompanied by an injury, and is a point of contention between insurance providers of Long Term Disability and personal injury lawyers.
“So it’s this vicious cycle of suffering and explaining people about the same. So a lot of people I’ve spoken to, they say fibro does not exist,” Au said.
This meeting consisted of a group of 10 people from different walks of life who are living and suffering from this chronic illness, a condition some say doesn’t exist.
“The Group aims at discussing fibromyalgia at a personal level and the participants support and help each other in coping with this,” said Jana Saracevic, a Fibro Community Builder.
Saracevic has been suffering from fibromyalgia for the past 15 years and has found different ways to manage the pain.
“I find my way. What I’m realizing is that the doctors’ job really is to eliminate any other issues that might be going on,” she said. “They’re not trained to deal with fibro chronic pain. It’s more about they’re looking at blood tests.
“But really, it’s up to us to kind of talk about what works at home and can use personalized strategies to calm down the pain,” Saracevic said.
The group provides members with a chance to learn from each other and discuss the problems they face every day.
Au and others often don’t share their opinions and problems with family and friends, preferring to seek help from others with similar health issues, as they can understand and relate.
“I am glad that the World Health Organization has now acknowledged fibromyalgia a chronic pain on its own,” she said.
“As of 2022, [WHO] will be collecting stats from doctors, anyone who’s diagnosed with fibro, what their issues are, and they’re hoping to gather information and get the research so there will be more funding for research,” Au said.
Having a sense of recognition and acceptance becomes imperative for sufferers as they can openly discuss their illness without fear of judgement .
Apart from sharing the personal lived experiences, the group also explored natural ways of relieving pains.
“For me, doing restorative yoga and exercise really helped,” said Arjuna Kumar, a business student at George Brown College, “Having an Epsom salt bath relaxes my muscles and makes me stress-free.”
A natural approach to learning to live with this illness can help them to have more control over their condition.
“My main agenda and approach are to support fibromyalgia warriors and help them to discover the methods to manage their symptoms in a friendly setting,” Saracevic said.
The group unanimously decided to have 20 minutes of yoga and therapy classes at the end of each session to enhance unity among them.
“We all are equal. We all suffer from a disability. We will fight it together and will lead a stress-free life,” Saracevic said.