Politics Flare My Fibromyalgia Symptoms

BY CHRISTINE LYNCH

This evening, I watched my first televised political ad for a gubernatorial candidate. Listening to it made me sad. Regardless of your political affiliation, I’m guessing that you, like me, found at least some of the last election season distasteful. It affected me in such a negative way that I’m dreading going through the process again. The stress of it all was so intense for so long that it really did worsen my fibromyalgia symptoms. During that time, my IBSworsened and my muscle spasms occurred more frequently.

Understand that I’m not a political person. Although my parents raised me with a strong sense of civic duty that prompted me to exercise my freedom to vote once I became of age, I’ve considered myself “apolitical” for most of my life. It was not uncommon for me to be completely clueless until a week or so before any election. During that last week, I’d give myself a cram course on the propositions on the ballot and learn all I could about the candidates. Before going to the polls, I felt confident I’d made the best choices with the information available to me. But on a daily basis, political issues were not an important part of my life.

The last election was different. I had strong beliefs about what I wanted long before the campaigns began. Those beliefs weren’t going to change, regardless of who said what about whom. Perhaps that added to my annoyance about how much campaigning targeted me each day. With campaigning beginning at least half a year before the election, however, it couldn’t be avoided. I couldn’t turn on a computer, read a newspaper, or watch a TV show without hearing some mudslinging or name-calling. The more time went by, the uglier it became. And I resented it. Over the many decades that I’ve battled fibromyalgia, I’ve learned that positivity is necessary for my survival. The months before the last election definitely weren’t positive!

Adding to the unpleasantness was that one of my dear friends held opposite political views. We decided early on that we would agree to disagree and just not discuss politics to preserve our friendship. That was a huge challenge, and it was stressful. How could you avoid a topic that was in your face every hour of every day? Happily, our common bond of fibromyalgia managed to hold us together.

Throughout those months, my goal in life was avoidance. My family banned the nightly news from our home. I stopped reading newspapers and listened only to music on the car radio. But I still managed to hear reports of immature behavior by people vying for decision-making power that would affect my life. I could feel hatred and see signs of divisiveness in places I’d never seen it before. I was actually embarrassed for our country. Rather than the proud American I’d always been, I seriously considered moving to Costa Rica.

My relief was palpable when the election was over. By that time, I didn’t much care about the results. All I wanted was release from the knot in my stomach and the tension in my body. Some days, I’m not entirely sure they’re gone.

And now it’s beginning again.

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