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Fibromyalgia patients find support

by: Jim Clark Loretta Inman conducts The Gresham Area Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain/Fatigue Support Group.

Those afflicted with a chronic condition often feel disconnected from the life they once knew and those around them.

Simple day-to-day tasks are suddenly overwhelming, while accepting new limitations can be stressful for both patient and family members.

Compounding matters, when there is no outward sign of illness, is the difficulty for others to understand how you feel.

'When you look normal, people expect that normalcy,' said Loretta Inman, a consulting hypnotist and Reiki practitioner with the Gresham Wellness Center. 'We don't look sick, we aren't in a wheelchair. We don't look broken. But we have issues that aren't visibly obvious.'

Inman is referring to an illness called fibromyalgia, an auto-immune disorder characterized by widespread muscle pain, fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. A patient herself, Inman has lived with the condition for more than 30 years and conducts support groups for others to ease the isolation brought on by the disorder.

According to the Frida Center for Fibromyalgia in Portland, the disorder affects as many as 10 million Americans and typically, more women than men. It's a difficult diagnosis for doctors because symptoms often mirror lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome and multiple sclerosis. While there is no cure for fibromyalgia, researchers have learned that dietary changes, exercise and rest play a large part in controlling the disorder's debilitating effects.

But Inman has found that in addition to clinical treatments, those suffering from fibromyalgia benefit greatly from being around others who can relate to the difficulties.

'Everybody's story is so different,' Inman said. 'Support groups build community. You find friends who understand when you say you're tired or feel like crap.'

Fibromyalgia patients are sometimes prone to depression or anxiety as they begin to realize life is forever altered. Inman said the foundation of a group support is to shore up self-confidence that life is still good, just in a different way.

'You recreate yourself,' Inman said. 'You're still strong and wonderful and there are so many pieces left that are still good. Community is huge. You need to laugh, cry and be what you need to be. The support groups are just places where you can come and say, 'I hurt' and someone understands.'

Things to know

• The Gresham Area Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain/Fatigue Support Group meets from 6:30-8:30 p.m. the second Friday of each month at the Gresham Wellness Center, 33 S.E. 223rd Ave., Suite 206.

• A less formal group gathers at 1 p.m. every other Thursday at Park Place Coffee and Crepes, 1288 S.E. 182nd Ave., Gresham.

• For more information on both groups, call Loretta Inman, a consulting hypnotist and Reiki practitioner, at 503-522-7303.