Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The patterns and rhythms of life

All around me I see the patterns and rhythms of life.  I see clouds morph into a familiar form and then dissipate into thin air.  The sea ebbs and flows sending rhythmic waves onto the sand leaving an imprint that remains until the next wave leaves its footprint.  The stars in the sky form a brilliant kaleidoscope that is an ever changing organized landscape.  The moon marches diligently from east to west waxing and waning.  Birds sing their own specific song from dawn to dusk as they invisibly cordon off their territory and search for a mate.  The seasonal rhythms are evident in my tomato plants.  These plants are aware of the declining lighthours and as their leaves brown and wither the plants urgently produce their fruits.  Our circadian rhythm is a function of daylight hours.  The increasing and decreasing seasonal daylight fluctuations trigger our seasonal activity levels.  As daylight diminishes in autumn we are aware of the need to prepare for winter.  There are so many patterns and rhythms of life around us.  Some are predictable and stable while others are unpredictable and dynamic.  If you are aware these patterns and rhythms exist they begin to emerge from what initially appears to be random and disorganized.   We instinctively search for patterns and rhythms, because this is one way we make sense of our world.  Patterns and rhythms provide context and meaning.

So what happens when those patterns and rhythms go awry and become unpredictable?  Fibromyalgia is an example of patterns and rhythms that have seemed to become random and disorganized.  No wonder people struggle to understand this illness when so much of its character is so unpredicatable.  Fibromyalgia's symptoms differ from person to person and the associated pain migrates randomly and undisciplined throughout the body and yet patterns and rhythms do emerge.  People with fibromyalgia have identified that changes in barometric pressure and environmental temperature extremes all cause a "flair" in symptoms.  Which symptoms "flair" can be quite unpredictable.  Disorganization challenges life to develop new patterns and rhythms and some of these are not particularly beneficial.  A good example of a disrupted pattern and rhythm is the body's circadian rhythm.  This natural body rhythm is critical for homeostasis and effects body processes and organs.  As I mentioned earlier the body's circadian rhythm is based on the 24-hour clock and is linked to the daylight/darkness cycle including the rhythms of seasonal light hour changes.  This disrupted rhythm that is so critical to survival attempts to establish a new rhythm; one which is a pathological replacement.  The 24 hour predictable circadian rhythm is replaced with what could be called a "bad habit" that seems to be established by pain and a development of alpha EEG anomaly.  The danger in reinforcing any "bad habit" is that it becomes the new normal.  So the new normal for people with fibromyalgia is a relatively unpredictable sleep pattern that results in unrefreshed sleep, and an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease and cancer.  I would like to add that this type of "bad habit" is not the type that can be changed at will.  The problem with any "bad habit" is the longer that new pattern and rhythm is established as the new normal, the more difficult it is to return that rhythm back into a functional one.  This is evident even at a cellular level.  People with atrial fibrillation have heart cells that disrupt the normal flow of electrical impulses.  Even after an ablation procedure to eliminate the "bad wiring", remaining cells may still want to behave in a dysfunctional way unless they are retrained.  I have noticed that my GI disturbance had become a chronic problem due to an established pattern of spasticity.  When I limited the spasticity with the help of medications (Reglan and Donnatol)  and reinforced normal GI function, my abdominal pain was reduced; I had disrupted the dysfunctional pattern and rhythm and replaced it with a more functional one.

I am currently working on reestablishing a normal sleep cycle.  This isn't an effort for wimps!  My circadian rhythm is pretty messed up right now so I have my work cut out for me.  I am very much like other fibromyalgia sufferers in that regard.  My hypothesis is if sleep quality is improved then pain will most likely improve or it will be somewhat easier to tolerate the pain or both.  I am into week two of my effort.  Week one was impacted by me driving Sid to San Diego for treatment of an  episode of afib, me going for a sleep study, stopping Lunesta, and my 88 year old mother becoming ill after eating a spoiled pulled pork sandwich at a county fair in 90 degree heat.  My life is usually less chaotic and more organized and predictable.  The culmination of shorter sleep hours, pushing my wake time earlier, and a fair amount of stress took its toll and last night I crashed and slept for 11 hours (interrupted sleep).  I didn't get out of bed until 10:00 am . . . so much for earlier wake times and my cirdadian rhythm!  Today was a "crash and burn" day with GI upset, lack of any vital energy, increased pain, and general malaise.  Those days are my most difficult and I start feeling discouraged.  When I have a day like this one it is most difficult to keep a positive energy flow going.  But tomorrow will be another day and I will have another opportunity to work on my circadian rhythm.  I am hoping we all get some sleep tonight and your day tomorrow is filled with hope, comraderie and at least a little positive energy.  Goodnight and blessings to us all!

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