Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Burnt out on Sympathy

I had a bad night last night—again.  And my fibro is worse again, after a couple days of much improvement.   I don't know why.  I wish I did!


I am reading (rereading) Opening Up by James W. Pennebaker, PhD.  It is a book about the importance of opening up, sharing talking, disclosing.  Those who talk and write about their problems are supposedly healthier according to a whole slew of studies than those who don't, unless the people have a role-with the punches personality.  Apparently, according to this book, there are three major ways to divide personalities for the purpose of this discussion:


  1. roll-with-the punches
  2. inhibited/nondiscloser
  3. uninhibited/discloser


Pennebaker says a large portion, 30-50% (and he gives studies) of the personality is genetic and another large portion is environmental (the old nature-nurture issue).   People are born with a tendency toward one of those personality types and either strengthen or weaken that association as they grow.


  • Type 1 is generally unaffected by stress or "trauma" (or only mildly affected)
  • Type 2 tends to act as speak as if everything is fine but have major health consequences as a result of trauma or stress
  • Type 3 tends toward talking a lot about stress and trauma but having less health affects.


The general conclusion seems to be that talking and writing about stress and trauma helps the mind AND BODY heal.


However, there is a limit to how much "complaining" we can do.  He writes in the book that the social pressure of our society is toward inhibition and nondisclosure—no one likes a "complainer."   But studies have shown (and I have read this else where as well), that complainers tend to live longer and compliant quiet people die sooner of breast cancer, heart disease etc.


Unfortunately, you just can't keep complaining to the same people because they get burnt out!!!!  That's why I created The Unbearable Darkness of Being—as a place to complain without repercussions.


I think I am a strange mixture of types 2 and 3—I am very uninhibited in some ways and very inhibited in others.   Asthma, fibromyalgia and insomnia are all stress-related diseases, diseases that are exacerbated by stress.  I tend to take things hard and be more stressed by them than most people.   I need to find ways to ameliorate stress, but on the other hand, I can't spend the whole day sitting cross-legged saying "om" or doing T'ai chi or running or relaxing, and if complaining helps, I am going to wear out all my friends.  


The problem is that the problems don't go away.  Long after everyone is tired of hearing about it, I'm still in pain, I still have trouble walking, I still can't sleep (and it drives me nuts.)   I guess that's why they have groups for those afflictions—people who suffer the same problems.  You can keep talking to them about it because they keep suffering too and know what long term ongoing chronic pain is like.

I am certain of nothing but the Heart's affections and the truth of the Imagination- John Keats

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