Fibromyalgia: Change the Story, Release the Pain

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American anthropologist and author Carlos Castaneda once said, “If you don’t have a story, you don’t have to live up to it. So get rid of your story.”

For Nadia Morin, that story was one of pain and suffering – a connection with her diagnosis of fibromyalgia, a label that was handed to her back in the 90s, until she realized her pattern and how deeply attached she was to her story, and consciously decided to change her life.

“In 1995 I realized I was in such physical pain I could no longer go out,” Morin, a Sudbury resident who now teaches yoga and pilates, recalls. “I slept in a lazy boy recliner for two years. It was the first time I’d heard of fibromyalgia and I connected with it. I had all the symptoms. It was a label that was given to me and the more I fed into that label, the more I became it.”

She witnessed her life and career as a corporate girl who was always going hard and fast, always striving to do more, working 70 hours a week, spiral downwards to the point where one morning she awoke, after five years of living with “traumatic pain,” realizing she couldn’t make it up the stairs from her bedroom to the main floor.

“The crying started that one morning,” Morin says. “I opened my eyes and the pain still wasn’t gone. It took everything for me to get out of bed and then I realized I was in such pain that morning that I couldn’t even go up the stairs.

“You take pills and you hope it will go away and you can’t stop crying at night thinking “I can’t believe this is where I’m at,” but in the morning you wake up and the pain’s not gone. Mentally and physically I was drained. I was in pain all the time and in my job I pushed myself all the time.”

Until one day someone encouraged her to try a yoga class. With much resistance to the idea of engaging in yoga with the pain she felt, she tried a class that was being offered in her workplace.

“I found myself crying on the yoga mat,” Morin remembers. “I cried because I’d done the class and I felt okay. It was almost an instant connection with my body and I saw results almost immediately.”

She continued the classes, progressively feeling better, even on days when she had pain in her body, but “it was a different pattern of pain,” Morin says. “That’s when I realized my pattern.

“You see, as soon as I felt a bit worse, it seemed I’d go back to the same place again. It was a cycle for me. When I had pain I would think to myself “Here we go again.” I was always associating with the negative cycle. You don’t realize how attached you are to your story. Someone asks you “How are you doing?” and you tell your story, and you feed that story and you love it when something goes wrong because it reinforces what you believe in anyway.”

For Morin, that meant reinforcing long-held subconscious beliefs from her past and her childhood. As a youngster she coped with childhood obesity and anxiety at a very young age. At the age of 18 she was seeing a psychologist, experiencing symptoms of physical aches, “mental anxiety reflected in self esteem and negativity and judgment – always being hard on myself.”

The yoga helped her reconnect with her body by guiding her to a point of stillness in her thoughts.

“I don’t know if fibromyalgia found me or if I found fibromyalgia, but even if I didn’t have a pain in my behind, fibro said I did. We manifest what we think about. As opposed to associating with my pain, I started shifting my thought pattern. Every time I caught myself thinking negative thoughts, like when I’d feel a pain and think “Here we go again, now I’ll have pain all day…” I’d say to myself, “This time is going to be different.” Just by telling myself it’s going to be different I was changing my story.”

She had lost 100 pounds – 100 pounds that had been weighing her down emotionally and physically. At one point she says she tipped the scale at 300 pounds.

“I stopped weighing myself at 280 pounds,” Morin says. “When I had the guts to get back on the scale I was 180 pounds.

“There’s no hiding a weight problem. There was a reason I was 150 pounds overweight. It was my body protecting itself, but how can that not be exhausting? When I think about it, carrying 300 pounds is a lot of weight and I can see now why my legs were sore.”

“Losing 100 pounds saved my life,” she says. “I just decided I wanted (the weight) off. Everything works if you want it to work. For me it was a combination of many things including yoga, exercise, sleeping well, nutrition and hydration.”

Yoga was a path to healing for her, as was meditation and pilates. It allowed her to get in tune with who she really was.

“You have a choice,” Morin says. “Decide you’re going to be that person, or not.

“What attracted me to yoga was finding the stillness of the mind.”

While one’s yoga or meditation is not a quick fix, it can help one tune into their body, to be in present moment time, “focusing on what is relevant, which allows us to be completely where we are now.”

“I found meditation really hard at first,” Morin admits. “I got a taste of the distances between my thoughts and it didn’t take me long to realize it was a much better state than the other.”

In 2008, after several years of engaging in yoga classes, she had a vision to create a yoga studio. She returned home to Sudbury, leaving a 10-year stint in the corporate world in Ottawa and started her life anew.    She pursued a pilates teacher certification course and now teaches yoga, pilates and yogalates through her business For a Better Tomorrow.

By Sari Huhtala, Publisher, Alive+Fit Magazine