It's pretty bad when the things you do for entertainment stress you out, but that's often the case for those of us with fibromyalgia (FMS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS or ME/CFS). Here's a recent quote from a comment left here by Valetudinarian:
"I find I can no longer watch stressful movies or read grisly books (violent or
slasher films and Patricia Cromwell-like books)."
I've noticed exactly the same thing -- the tension they build, which is release for most people, triggers my FMS symptoms. I had a hard time getting through the opening scene of Casino Royale, with James Bond chasing a bad guy at high speeds along the skeletal frame of a skyscraper under construction. I'm sure it didn't help that I was watching it on a huge screen, either. First, I got really anxious, then I started to get dizzy and nauseous. I know from experience what comes next -- sharp abdominal pain.
Fortunately, I recognized what was going on before the pain kicked in. I wanted to get through the movie, so I paused it for a moment, took a few deep breaths, and consciously relaxed my tense muscles. I then made a concerted effort to stay detached from the action, and think about what kind of wires and things they probably used to get those shots. It helped, and I've used that detachment since then when I've felt myself tense up like that. I works well for me, I'm happy to say!
Still, I wouldn't want to make this kind of entertainment too-regular a thing. Once or twice a month is probably plenty for me.
So why is it that these things effect us so profoundly? I have a couple of ideas:
First, they're intended to get the heart pumping and the adrenaline surging -- that's what makes them such a great release. Most of us with FMS or ME/CFS, however, have problems with our stress system. We're often deficient in cortisol, the hormone that helps your body through stressful events, and we're also likely to have HPA axis dysfunction, adding to the harmful effects of stress on our bodies.
Second, and less scientific, is my belief that we tend to have more empathy than the average person. When someone in a book, movie or TV show gets hurt, I can imagine all too well what it feels like. In the brain, "pain" and "emotion" are intrinsically linked, in a way science is just beginning to understand. To me, it seems possible that by empathizing with a character's pain, I'm pulling up my own emotional response to pain. I makes the experience too "real" to me.
Do violent or action-packed books/movies/TV shows bother you this way? Do you avoid them, or have you developed coping mechanisms? What genres do you consider "safe" for entertainment? Leave your comments below!
Learn more or join the conversation!
- Stress-Fighting Supplements: DHEA & Theanine
- Fibromyalgia Symptoms List
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Symptoms List
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