A Comic to Anyone Who Doesn’t Understand Fibromyalgia

One of the most frustrating aspects of fibromyalgia is how little it is understood by others — and how difficult it can be for patients to describe the challenges they’re dealing with. To help more people understand, the University of Dundee in Scotland is trying a new approach: creating a comic to tell the “story” of fibromyalgia.

The comic, called “Fibromyalgia and Us,” was published last week and is a collaboration between the University of Dundee’s Scottish Centre for Comics Studies, Ink Pot Studios (based in Dundee Comics Creative Space), Christopher Murray of Comics Studies and Divya Jindal-Snape of the School of Education and Social Work.

cover of fibromyalgia and us, two women standing, a man standing, and a woman in a wheelchair

Jindal-Snape, who has fibromyalgia herself, told The Mighty that she got the idea for the comic after a pain clinic psychologist told her more needed to be done to make health professionals aware of fibromyalgia. Knowing full well the lack of awareness around fibromyalgia, Jindal-Snape said was lying in bed with a fibro flare when she started to think of creating a comic about it.

She said she chose to create a comic due to its ability to visually convey a story.

“It is more engaging and powerful than a standard leaflet which contains information about fibromyalgia — of course they are important too, but usually read by those directly affected by it,” she said. “I wanted to create something that would be attractive to others, too.”

Creating the comic was a collaborative process — Jindal-Snape interviewed people with fibromyalgia, as well as their family members and health professionals, and she and Murray converted the answers into scripts. The scripts were then sent to artists, who produced thumbnails to be approved by those who had contributed their stories. Once everyone was happy, artists produced the final version. Jindal-Snape did research and created a medical factsheet for the end of the comic.

The comic includes six sections: “Living and Working With Fibromyalgia,” “The Mask,” “Misdiagnosed,” “Taking Control of Fibromyalgia,” “What Is Fibromyalgia? A Doctor’s Perspective,” and “Advice From a Physiotherapist.”

From “Living and Working With Fibromyalgia”:

fibromyalgia and us comic: conversation between a doctor and patient with the doctor saying you have fibromyalgia and prescribing antidepressants and the patient asking what fibro is and is it all in her head


drawing of a woman saying what does it feel like? and drawings of her, one for each day of the week, getting progressively more tired and then saying yes, i can feel it in my bones

From “The Mask”:

drawing of a woman saying when she was diagnosed it was a shock and a relief and she didnt know much about fibro. she's afraid people will think it's all in her mind. the diagnosis didnt change anything since she lived with it so long. she doesn't feel like she can continue working as she had been.

drawings of woman looking in mirror, at a party, holding a mask. she says she feels old, her family was supportive but some didn't understand. she says she rarely talks about it and few people know she has it. she knows what she has to do in the background to keep up the facade of being ok. she needs to rest a lot even though she works and looks fit and active.

From “Misdiagnosed”

drawings of child in doctor's office. doctor says she's probably having growing pains, good bye. she says doctors were not my favorite people.

drawings of girl sleeping on beach. mom asks where she has fallen asleep this time. a boy says she's over here asleep again. she says she'd fall asleep all the time and felt like she was missing her childhood

The team also plans to create comics on heart disease, organ donation and disability rights. Jindal-Snape she hopes “Fibromyalgia and Us” helps people with fibromyalgia be heard, and helps others understand the ongoing life transitions of those who have fibromyalgia, as well as its impact on their loved ones.

“The take home message is that it is a real health condition which can be disabling. It takes a long time to diagnose and can sometimes be misdiagnosed. Different people are affected differently,” said Jindal-Snape. “A strong support network makes it easier to live with fibromyalgia.”

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