Episode 08: What is Fibromyalgia Coaching?

What is Fibromyalgia Coaching?

The Fastest, Easiest Way to Climb the Fibro Mountain Successfully

  • I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2007. Between 2007 and 2009, I did not get better; in fact, I got worse.
  • In those two years, there were lots of things my doctor was suggesting that I do, and I wasn’t very good about doing them. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I actually didn’t know how.
  • The turning point for getting better was hiring a health coach: a person to talk to, to strategize with, and come with new solutions.
  • If you were going to climb Mount Everest, your first steps would probably be researching: HOW does a person climb Mount Everest? You would probably also start looking for somebody that had already done it, so that you could learn from them.
  • A Fibromyalgia Coach is going to help you climb that fibromyalgia mountain, helping you get the very best results possible in the shortest amount of time possible.

Do you always do exactly what your doctor tells you to? Or do you sometimes think, “You have NO clue what it’s like to live in a fibromyalgia body? Do you realize what you’re asking me?” Or do you just forget because you have brain fog? There are so many reasons why you might not be doing the things your doctor is telling you to do. A Certified Fibromyalgia Coach has been there, done that, and is trained specifically in fibromyalgia treatment and management strategies. Learn how that direct, personal experience can help you bridge the gap and feel better faster.

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You’re listening to the Fibromyalgia Podcast, Episode 8.

Welcome to the Fibromyalgia Podcast!

I’m your Coach, Tami Stackelhouse. This week we are going to be talking a little bit about what a Fibromyalgia Coach is and how one can help you feel better faster. This is probably one of the number one questions that I get when I tell people about my books and about the work I do. They say “Fibromyalgia Coach? I didn’t know that was a thing.” I thought it would be good to start these foundational episodes with an idea of what it is I do and what a Fibromyalgia Coach is.

[01:27]  First and foremost, let me take you back in your life for a second and think all of the times that your doctor has given you things to do and you have had trouble implementing them. This could look like going to the physical therapist and being told to do certain exercises. 

How good are you at following through on those things? Has your doctor ever told you to change some lifestyle habits, like what you eat or exercising? Have you ever had a doctor try to have you change your sleep habits? Have you been told you shouldn’t push so hard or reduce your stress or eat healthier? Have you ever been told that? And how good are you at following through all that?

[02:27]  Do you always do exactly what your doctor tells you to? Or do you sometimes think, “You have NO clue what it’s like to live in a fibromyalgia body? Do you realize what you’re asking me?” Or do you just forget because you have brain fog? There are so many reasons why you might not be doing the things your doctor is telling you to do.

[02:47]  In Episode 6, we talked about this a lot: what your role is as a patient in your own health care. A huge part of it is keeping track of information and properly reporting things to your doctor. But part of your job is also to actually follow through and do those things, so that your doctor can test and see—are these things going to make a difference? Is it going to help you feel better? When you can’t follow through and do them, that short cuts the doctor’s ability to help you feel better.

[03:24]  Let me tell you a little story from my life, from my background. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2007. I had been married for about six months. You guys probably ALL heard my story in Episode 3, so I won’t rehash the whole thing, but a key part of my story is the fact that I was diagnosed in 2007. Between 2007 and 2009, I did not get better; in fact, I got worse. I ended up filing for Social Security Disability and so many things.

[03:57]  Now, in those two years, there were lots of things my doctor was suggesting that I do, and I wasn’t very good about doing them. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I actually didn’t know how. I needed somebody to come alongside me and help me figure out how I was going to do the things she wanted me to do.

[04:20]  I have nothing against eating healthier, for instance. I just didn’t have enough energy to go to the grocery store AND go grocery shopping, AND do the other things I had to do, AND clean up after I ate. There’s just was not enough. I just didn’t have enough energy. Living in a fibro body, I just had no idea how to make that work.

[04:46]  I was pushing myself so hard to do all of the things that I felt I needed to do, which made me crash. [My doctor] wanted me to have better sleep habits but I’ve always naturally been a night owl. This idea of going to bed at 9:00 or 10:00 at night… my body literally does not know how to do that! I felt like everything she was telling me to do—I understood why I needed to do it; I understood the value of it—but I just didn’t know how to make it work for me, in my life. And because of that, I didn’t really do most of the things she suggested that I do.

[05:27]  Fast forward two years, I got to a point where I could visualize my life going in a downward spiral, and I [asked my doctor], “Something has to change. There is something I have to do differently. I don’t know how to do anything differently myself. I’m a little bit lost, so what ideas do you have for me?”

[05:49]  Her suggestion was working with a health coach. The health coach that she connected me with was not trained in fibromyalgia. [The coach] understood a little bit about it because, of course, she worked at my doctor’s office. But she didn’t understand it the way someone living with fibromyalgia does. However, she was still really good at helping me figure things out.

[06:15]  I would be able to meet with my coach and say “Okay, my doctor wants me to try going gluten-free. How the heck am I going to do this?” And we would talk through how that would happen.Or, “She wants me to go to bed earlier, but I’m such a night owl. How do I make that happen?” And we would talk through how to make that happen. I would go to her and say, “You know, I keep pushing myself and then I crash. I know I need to break this push and crash cycle, but I just don’t know how. I’m stuck on this merry-go-round. How do I get off?” We would brainstorm about that and come up with strategies that would break that cycle.

[06:59]  That, for me, was the turning point for getting better—having that person to talk to, to strategize with, and come with new solutions.

[07:12] Let’s talk a little bit about coaches for a minute. I think that word, “coach”, a lot of people misunderstand. I have a lot of colleagues who don’t even use that term anymore, we talk about being mentors, or we talk about educating, or we just simply talk about helping you. In fact, you’ll notice in most of what I talk about, I talk about helping you feel better. I mean, that’s all we really do.

[07:36] But because my book—you can see over my shoulder there (for those of you watching the video), my second book The Fibromyalgia Coachthat is the title I used for myself; I thought it would helpful for you to know what that is and where that comes from.

[07:53] You probably know from sports and other areas of your life, what that word “coach” means.Let’s just take two examples that you have probably run across at some point or another in your life:

1)   One is a football coach. I think everybody has seen a football coach.

2)   Another one might be a speech coach or debate coach. Maybe you had a debate team in high school, and there was a coach for the debate team.

[08:22] Now, those coaches—their whole job was to take you as a player, or as a debater, or as a speaker, and help you bring out the very, very best of you. Their whole job is to help you be the very best version of yourself, and quite often work together with a team. Like a football coach, or if you have a speech team, the coach is also talking about teamwork and helping you visualize how you fit into a team of players who are working together towards a common goal. So, really, just to be super simple, a coach is someone who helps you be the very best version of yourself and helps you get the very best results possible out of your efforts. I think we can agree on that.

[09:22]  Let’s take that another step further… Some people have also heard of life coaches or business coaches or health coaches. It’s exactly the same thing, it’s just a different area of expertise, right? 

So, our football coach, of course, isn’t going to tell you how to be a better debater; and our debate coach isn’t going to tell you how to be a better quarterback. They stick to their particular areas of expertise. Same thing with a life coach, a health coach, a business coach, a singing or a speaking coach. They are sticking to their areas of expertise to help you be the best that you can possibly be in that particular area.

[10:13]  I hired a book coach to help me write my books because I wanted to write the very best book possible. I wanted to make sure, first of all… to make sure I got it done! I didn’t want to be one of those people who had been writing a book for most of their lives and had never actually published it. I wanted to finish my book and get it out there. I know from experience that coaches help you do that the fastest, easiest, best way possible. So, I hired a book coach.

[10:40]  I’ve hired business coaches to help my business be the very best that it could be, and to help me be the very best business person I could possibly be. I’ve hired health coaches to help me have my health be the very best it can be and be as healthy as possible.

[11:04]  There are so many different kinds of coaches out there and that word that comes in front of “coach”, most often, is really just telling you what that particular person’s area of expertise is. You might have a weight loss coach—that would be somebody who helps you lose weight the very best way possible, the easiest way possible. You might have somebody who is a personal trainer. Now, they don’t use the word “coach,” but they do the exact same thing. They help you train in the fastest, easiest, most efficient way possible for you to get the best results possible.

[11:45] That’s all a coach is.

For me, when I think about coaching, I think about a coach or mentor being the person who is the tour guide, or mountain hiking guide. I’ve shared this on other podcasts, on other people’s podcasts, so I want to be sure and share it here on this one. I think of a coach as a guide, right? If you are going to go out and climb Mount Everest—now I know almost every single person listening to a fibromyalgia podcast is NOT climbing Mount Everest!—but let’s use that idea to illustrate the point.

[12:30]  If you were going to climb Mount Everest, your first steps would probably be researching: HOW does a person climb Mount Everest? You would probably also start looking for somebody that had already done it, so that you could learn from them. It’s one thing to read a book and study the mountain from miles away. It’s another thing to talk to somebody who has literally been there and done that.

[13:05]  You’re going to find somebody who has ALREADY climbed Mount Everest successfully. You’re not going to interview the guy that fell off and almost died, right? Maybe you can learn what not to do from him, but you can’t learn how to do it right from somebody who hasn’t done it. And, you are also probably going to want to hire somebody to help guide you up the mountain. 

You’re going to want somebody who is going to show you the easiest way, the safest way, the most efficient way, the way that will be the nicest to you because Mount Everest isn’t very nice. We want to find somebody who can guide you and literally show you, “This is the way you climb the mountain.”

[13:52]  That is exactly what a coach is.

So, as a Fibromyalgia Coach, I’m just going to expand on this one step further. A Fibromyalgia Coach is someone who helps you be the very best version of yourself, get the very best results possible in your life, in their area of expertise, which is fibromyalgia. Somebody who is a Fibromyalgia Coach is going to help you climb that fibromyalgia mountain. We have been there, done that. We understand what it’s like living with a fibromyalgia body. We are going to be able to tell you literally where to step on that mountain to climb to the top the fastest, easiest way possible. We’re going to be able to show from our own lives the things that we did to feel better or the things our other clients have done to feel better.

[14:53]  After coaching people for ten years, I promise you there is nothing I haven’t heard in a client call. There is nothing that you’re dealing with that I have not heard before. If it falls in the fibromyalgia world, of course, because that’s my area of expertise. 

I promise you we can get you there faster and easier, because we’ve been there, we’ve done that. We’ve studied all these studies. We’ve studied the treatment options. We’ve studied the medications. We can look at what you’re doing and give you suggestions on what, maybe, you’ve missed. We can give you an idea on things that might work and help you choose between treatment options for the things, in our experience, that are going to give you the most bang for your buck—that are going to help you the fastest, easiest way.

[15:43]  Now, you have probably gone out there and tried to climb the fibromyalgia mountain on your own. Or maybe you talked to with doctors, which would be similar to Googling, “How do you climb Mount Everest?” But, [you weren’t] actually talking to somebody who has climbed the mountain, because most doctors don’t actually have fibromyalgia, and they don’t know what it’s like to live in a fibro body.

[16:05]  Of course, there are some who have. In Episode 5, I interviewed Dr. Ginevra Liptan. She obviously knows; she has fibromyalgia. 

Working with a coach—working with somebody who understands what you’re going through—again, just simply means we’re going to be able to show you the fastest, easiest, most simple, most effective ways to get to where you want to go as quickly as possible.

Hopefully, that helps you understand a little bit what I mean when I say, “I’m a Fibromyalgia Coach” and when my coaches I have trained talk about being Fibromyalgia Coaches or Advisors.

[16:48]  The one thing I want you to take away from this is if you are looking for a quick way to feel better, if you have tried everything and you’re stumped, or if you’re newly diagnosed and you just don’t have time to mess with this. You can’t afford to go on disability or lose your job or not be the mom you want to be. Maybe you’re a single mom and you’re like, “I can’t afford not to take care of my kids.” If you are looking for the fastest, easiest, best way to get better: hire a coach. I don’t care if you hire me. I don’t care if you hire one of my people. I don’t care if you go find somebody else, somewhere else.

 

[17:32]  I’m going to give you some criteria for what to look for if you are hiring a coach… but find one! It doesn’t matter if it’s fibromyalgia, or you’re writing a book, or you’re building a business, or you want to do a TED Talk, or whatever it is. The fastest, easiest way to do any of that is to hire a coach.

When you’re looking for a coach, we’re looking for a mentor, we’re looking for that mountain guide to help you climb Mount Everest, here are some things to look for:

[18:05]  1) You want to be looking at their training. You want to look at what experience they have. What knowledge do they have? This training and experience comes in two parts:

The first part is, of course, the head knowledge. What have they studied? What training programs have they gone through? Who are they training with? Are they being trained by a pharmaceutical company? Are they being trained by a nutrition company? Are they being trained by somebody who’s independent? Are they trained in generic health coaching or life coaching? Are they being trained specifically in fibromyalgia or writing a book or whatever the thing is that you want to hire a coach for? You want to look at their head knowledge: what have they literally been taught? What knowledge is in their head?

[19:04]  The second piece of their training is their personal experience. Have they climbed the mountain before? Have they written a book? Have they lost the weight? Have they had fibromyalgia and gotten better? Whatever it is that you are wanting to do, you want to make sure that the person who is coaching you has walked that path. It’s very difficult to coach someone in something you haven’t gone through personally. Now, there are always exceptions to the rules. There are some people who are absolutely amazing who haven’t gone through that particular thing themselves. But, in general—as a general rule—as you’re out there looking for experts to help you feel better, look for somebody who has been here, done that. So, learn their story.

[20:01]  2) The other thing to look for is: are they actually helping people to do the thing that you want to do?

I’ll just use personal training as an example here. If you are someone who wants to run a marathon, you’re going to want to hire somebody who teaches people to run marathons, not somebody who is just a “Couch to 5K” coach, because those are different kinds of running. If you’re someone who has fibromyalgia and you want to lose weight, talk to somebody who knows how to lose weight and has fibromyalgia. It’s totally possible There are people out there that do this. If you have fibromyalgia and you want to be a professional athlete, hire somebody with fibromyalgia who can teach you to be a professional athlete. Again, there are people out there who do this! I know them; I can introduce you. So, look at what their actual, practical, real-life experience is.

[21:09]  3) Another thing you want to look for is individualized options. Now, this isn’t true for all things. For instance, if you’re losing weight, losing weight is pretty universal. But especially when it comes to something like fibromyalgia, how fibro shows up for each of us is very different—what our symptoms are, how we respond to things. It can be a challenge if somebody is offering a one-size-fits-all program, where everybody is trained in exactly the same way. To really get what you need for your illness… Again, some things this isn’t much of an issue. For instance, if you’re writing a book, writing a book is writing a book. That doesn’t matter as much.

[22:01]  But when it comes to fibromyalgia, you really do want to be looking at someone who has an individualized approach and isn’t just giving you cookie cutter responses. You know, like walking everybody through the exact same thing at the exact same time. We all respond differently. We all respond with different responses. Like one person might have a reaction when somebody else doesn’t.  But we also respond differently in terms of how long it takes us to get through a certain thing. Fibro bodies are very particular, in case you hadn’t noticed, and so we’ve got to be super careful about that.

[22:36]  4) Another thing you want to look for is what kinds of certifications, endorsements, testimonials… what kind of results are they actually producing? Look and see what kinds of testimonials they have from their patients. Anybody can say they can help you. Anybody can say they climbed that mountain. But if they aren’t showing you that they can help other people do that, that’s a very different skill—you doing it yourself versus helping somebody else do it. It’s very important that you’re looking to see that proof that they can actually get you the results that you’re looking for.

[23:21]  Certifications are a great thing to look for. All that a certification means is that the person has gone through a particular training. Usually, there is some kind of a test. I can say with my program, that they go through a certain amount of training. Then, there’s a big final exam they have to do that proves their head knowledge. Then, I also do a final interview with the graduates of my program. They have to talk to me, and we do a little bit of role-playing and coaching scenarios, where I’m checking for a little bit more of the intangibles—like what their people skills are, what their problem-solving skills are. Somebody isn’t going to graduate from my program unless I know they can do the work.

[24:12]  Looking for certifications can be a good designation that they know what they’re talking about. The thing about coaching is that, honestly, there is no regulation out there. Anybody could call themselves a Fibromyalgia Coach. Those of you listening to my podcast, you could just decide to start calling yourself a Fibromyalgia Coach, because I’m teaching you everything I know on this podcast. But, without a certification that shows that you actually took a course, and proved that you understand your knowledge, that you can do what you say you can do, it can be a little bit more challenging. 

I would always look for somebody who has some type of formal certification or training, or proof in other ways, like through client testimonials and client success stories, where you can actually see that they are providing what works for you.

[25:09]  5) Another thing I would look for when you are looking for a coach—and, again, this applies to any kind of coach for any kind of problem—I would look to see what kind of connections that coach has, in regards to the problem you are trying to solve. For instance, if you are writing a book you would want to find a book coach that has connections to publishers and agents—really connected to the industry.

[25:38]  If you are looking for a Fibromyalgia Coach, you are going to want coaches who are connected to the fibro community. People who know and can give you referrals to providers, who can guide you into which treatments, where—just using physical therapy as an example, some physical therapists are amazing with fibromyalgia and some of them will actually make you feel worse. So what you are looking for is a coach who can guide you in that, and tell you this is the person that you want to see for that. You are looking for someone with a lot of connections in that community regarding the problem you are trying to solve.

[26:19]  6) Another thing that I think is so, so important is, if you are considering hiring a coach, ask the question: “What coaches are you working with?” What I’m about to say may be a little bit controversial in the coaching world, but I believe it so strongly. I would never hire a coach that is not also working with a coach. The thing about coaching is that it helps you be the best version of yourself possible. If somebody is not working on becoming the best version of themselves possible, then is that really a person I want to work with?

[27:03]  Number One: They are sort of saying they don’t really believe in the value of coaching. If somebody doesn’t believe in the value of coaching, why are you paying them money to coach you? It just doesn’t make sense. It would be like hiring a mentor that doesn’t have a mentor. You want somebody who believes that this is good. It would be like hiring somebody to get you in shape who doesn’t work out themselves. Or somebody to help you write a book who hasn’t written one at all. You want somebody who is also working with a coach. Just ask them, “What coaches are you working with?”

[27:45]  Any kind of coach helps! I don’t have a Fibromyalgia Coach. I literally wrote the book on that, so I do not have a Fibromyalgia Coach. But, I have a business coach, and I have a book coach. I’ve hired health coaches. I’ve hired personal trainers. I’ve hired mindset coaches, money coaches. Obviously, I very much believe in the power of coaching. I want to be the very best version of myself possible. I am literally willing to invest my time, energy, and money in becoming that. You are looking for a coach that does the same thing—that believes in becoming the best version of themselves, and is willing to invest their time, energy, and money into doing that.

[28:35]  Alright! I gave you a bunch of information there. I hope it gives you information that you can take out and help you find someone to help you achieve the results that you want the quickest, fastest, easiest, most efficient way possible. Whether you are writing a book, or getting better from fibromyalgia, or climbing Mt. Everest, writing a book, giving a TED Talk. Whatever it is, I hope that you will use this idea of looking for a tour guide, looking for a guide to help you get there faster, easier, more efficiently, and with the best results.

[29:17]  If you decide you want to talk to somebody about possibly becoming a Fibromyalgia Coach or working with a Fibromyalgia Coach  just go to FibromyalgiaPodcast.com, where you can message me about becoming a coach. I will tell you that all of my coaches have personal, direct knowledge of fibromyalgia. The only person who has graduated from my program to date, who doesn’t have fibromyalgia herself, has a teenage daughter who has fibromyalgia, and her goal is to help juveniles and parents of juveniles, so she is a great resource for the people who are perfect for her.

[30:07]  I’ve got coaches who help people who are in recovery, who have a pain condition and have to manage pain in different ways. I’ve got people who help you through FMLA [Episode 14] and workplace accommodations [Episode 15]. I have people who work with those who are young and in their 20s and going to college, wishing they could go out and play with their friends, but they’ve got fibromyalgia and can’t. I’ve got people who help you with sleep, help you with coaching. I have a coach who is Jewish who helps her Jewish clients know how to manage fasting holidays, when you have fibromyalgia and have to take medication with food. All of these kinds of things.

There are so many different kinds of coaches out there, no matter what it is that you are looking for—and, I promise you, we can find you someone that can mentor you through the challenges that you are personally having.

[31:11]  Whether it is with fibromyalgia or anything else, please work with a coach. It is the fastest, easiest, best way to get wherever you are going.

[31:19] Stay tuned for upcoming episodes! In Episode 9, we are going to be talking about my favorite topic—which is all of the things you can do for yourself to help you feel better. We are going to be talking about and expanding on the information I gave you in Episode 2 about your body not being the enemy. I know sometimes that’s a bit of a challenge to think through, but we’ll be talking about that. We’ll be talking about what self-care means, what it is, and what it isn’t. Unless you’ve heard my stuff before, you might be surprised at what I think self-care actually is. It is not about massages. It’s not about taking naps. It’s about something even more basic than that.

[32:08]  Our 10th Episode is our special “Ask the Coach” episode, which is like our “Dear Tami” episode. Like “Dear Abby,” I’m going to be answering questions sent in by you, the listener. If you haven’t yet, please go to FibromyalgiaPodcast.com and click on Contact. You’ll see the Ask the Coach option and send me your questions.I’ve had a bunch of super interesting questions come in, and I can’t wait to talk about them!

[32:40]  And remember, with this podcast you never, ever have to stress about taking notes or worry about fibro fog. The full transcript and show notes will always be out there at FibromyalgiaPodcast.com.

[33:06]  One of the things that I will be including is an article I wrote a few years ago, “8 Tips for Choosing a Fibromyalgia Health Coach”.  I also have a lot of information in both of my books about how to find a coach and what it takes to be a coach. If you are interested in grabbing copies of Take Back Your Life or The Fibromyalgia Coach, again, just go to FibromyalgiaPodcast.com and you’ll see Books in the menu. You can request both books at totally no charge to you.

With that, I am going to wrap up this episode. If there are any questions you have or anything I can help you with, I hope you will reach out to me. I love getting your questions! It’s actually my favorite part of the job. I love helping people by answering their questions.

I will see you back here for another episode in just another week. Bye guys!

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