We recently had the pleasure of chatting with Michael Hastings, a former West Wing actor. Michael suffers from fibromyalgia, and was kind enough to share some of his experiences and stories with us. This is second part of a three-part series.
Q: How did you get into acting? How have you dealt with fibromyalgia while on set?
A: I was a school teacher for approximately 10 years and had to go on early retirement at age 35 because of FM. I actually had taken a pharmaceutical drug which accelerated the FM symptoms all over my body. Before taking the pharmaceutical drug, I was experiencing FM only in my feet. After a number of years of not being able to work, I finally was able to find some supplements that improved my health (www.endfatigue.com).
I decided to try and find some part-time work, so I moved to Los Angeles and did “background” work in the studios through central casting in Burbank. Eventually I joined the Screen Actors Guild and was picture picked for the small role as the Navy Captain on the hit show, “The West Wing” at Warner Brothers Studios. Working on the sets in Hollywood was very difficult, since there are often early morning calls. Sometimes I had to wake up at 4am in the middle of winter to be on a set at 6am. This was not appealing even to someone who was healthy! It was very difficult, but I stuck it out.
Over the past 4 ½ years I have been in grad school, but am planning on doing some work in the studios during the summer. My church, Bel Air Presbyterian Church, has a support group for actors which meet every two weeks at the church. It is called, “Beacon” and it is a place where actors, scriptwriters, and film makers can network. They are connected with “Sony Affirm”
The Beacon website is: http://www.belairpres.org/default.aspx?page=500267
Q: What has helped you cope with FM? What hobbies do you have that help distract from the pain?
A: I have had some good success with natural products, so the supplements have definitely helped. As for exercise, I swim and do some hiking. One of my favorite places to hike is at Paramount Ranch, which is on the backside of the Malibu Mountains. This is the location where they filmed “Dr. Quin – Medicine Woman.”
I also have found being proactive and not passive has helped as well. Last year I went to the opening of Bastyr University in San Diego. This is a school dedicated to training students to become N.Ds (not M.Ds), so that they can heal the body with natural means. I am interested in their N.D. program.
It’s important to talk about how you feel from time to time, but it’s better to use your words to pull you in the right direction mentally, emotionally, etc. In the introduction of my film, there is a discussion with my co-host, Cindy Lewis, and with Hollywood Celebrity, Tom Dreesen (http://tomdreesen.com/) about positive thinking and positive affirmations. I will go more into this in the film with examples of affirmations to say on a daily basis.
Other things that have helped me cope are my weekly home group through my church. We get together weekly to share what is going on in our lives, study a little bit from the Bible, and then pray over our needs. Knowing that there is a group of people that care and know about what you are going through is very comforting. It would be very difficult to go through FM alone (and I know many do), so I encourage them to be a part of a group in real life as well as on – line. The groups don’t necessarily all have to be FM related. In fact, I encourage being a part of a group that is not, so you are not thinking about your FM issues all the time.
Q: What daily routines have you adjusted because of FM?
A: Learn to not hurry or worry, and do one thing at a time. Learn not to make any big decisions in the morning, since there can be poor circulation in the brain at that time. Since circulation can be poor in the morning hours, I do recommend walking or some type of light exercise or yoga to get the blood flow going. I also recommend drinking Braggs Raw – Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar in the mornings and evenings to help with circulation and to help clean out the arteries. I put just a dash of the Apple Cider Vinegar in an empty glass with a dash of water and drink it quickly. It tastes nasty, but it is one of the most inexpensive ways of improving your circulation on a daily basis.
I also have learned to accept that some days I am not going to be able to keep up with my schedule or other peoples’ schedules and I just need to rest and “lighten up”. I also found that going to the acupuncturist, chiropractor, and massage therapist from time to time helps as well. I feel my best when I go to the acupuncturist on a weekly basis.
Q: How has FM affected your relationships and social life?
A: My health is much, much better than it was in the 1990s. I lost a lot of friends in the 90s due to the illness. I actually had a friend who raged at me one time saying, “I am so sick and tired of you being sick!” I wasn’t sure how to respond, but I can assure you that they did disappear and I never heard from them again! Within the past decade, I have found many things that have improved my health and my friendships are no longer in jeopardy like they were in the 1990s. I will be sharing the things that have helped in my medical video, and some of them are on my website at: www.captainhastings.com