I’ve had a slight case of social anxiety for the last 5 or 6 years. I’d managed to deal with it for the most part, although every once in a while a situation would jump out at me. The last couple of years have been a little harder, I have to force myself through certain situations, but lately I can’t even force myself. There’s a connection between Fibromyalgia and increased sensitivity to light, sounds, smells, and even people. All of that increases generalized anxiety disorder.
Just the idea of going out with a group of friends or going to the movies makes me anxious because I know what’s coming. I know that the lobby will be filled with people, it will be noisy, there will be bright lights and I won’t be able to relax. Going to the movies or going to the mall used to be a fun activity, something to look forward to, but now it’s something I fear. I don’t know what it is about Fibromyalgia that seems to heighten all our senses. We know there’s something that seems to make our nerves over-fire and I guess this is just part of it. It’s not just the sense of touch that is extreme, but all our senses. Noises are louder, voices harder to understand and make out. I can’t stand background noise. God forbid someone try to have a conversation with me when there’s another conversation going on behind us. I can’t focus when there’s more than one thing to focus on. Everything is a distraction.
It all takes away so much energy and leaves me just wanting to crawl in bed. People have no idea how much energy they take from us, or how much energy our surroundings extract from us. Even my husband doesn’t seem to understand it. He wants us to go out more, but it takes so much more energy. It takes energy just to be around him sometimes. The more people I’m around the more energy I have to give up, the more spoons I use. I want to spend time with friends but I have to choose wisely what activities I join them on, and even which friends I will spend time with, as some friends take more energy than others.
I know I’m having a good day when I can write something like this with the tv on in the background, or drive with talk radio (I like talk radio). Most times I can’t do two things at once, I can’t handle the distraction. I can’t focus. I figure I’m doing good most days if I can actually watch a tv show or movie (at home) that requires more attention than say an episode of The Bachelor or America’s Next Top Model. Those are the type of shows I used to watch as background while I worked or did something meaningful. Now I have to pause or mute even those shows to have a conversation with my husband. I find I also can’t catch up on a show as easily if I miss a few minutes. Even sitting in front of the show, at times I’ll find myself rewinding and watching a scene over again because I didn’t get it the first time.
My eyes are more sensitive to light. Sunglasses are no longer an option but they are mandatory. I know that the light sensitivity is also (and probably primarily) an issue with my TMJ. When my TMJ symptoms are worse the light sensitivity is worse. I keep a pair of sunglasses in every vehicle I’m likely to ride in or drive, as well as a pair in my purse (just in case). I even wear them when it’s cloudy out.
Smells. OMG, the smells. I was at the Drs office yesterday and a woman walked into the lobby in front of me. She had on some very strong perfume and I could smell her from 10ft away. I finally had to just stop and let her walk on so that I wouldn’t be walking too close to her. Of course then, we both ended up waiting for the same elevator. I decided I needed to visit the ladies in room, in hopes of ending up on a different elevator, only to end up in the same Drs office. I love Bath & Body Works products, but I find I’m wearing them less and less because I can’t handle the scents anymore.
Do you find that you are extra sensitive to your surroundings now? What things seem to set you off? Are you worse when you are in a flare?