FMS: Chronic but Curable - Christine Kane

Here’s a quiz:

1. Do you automatically say, “Yes” to an invitation even though you are exhausted and are dying to go home and sleep?

2. Do you get uneasy when you stay at home and do nothing but read and hang out with your cat?

3. If you are out at a business meeting/conference/trade show (or some equivalent) do you keep going and going just because the “group” keeps going and going?

4. Are you nagged by thoughts of not belonging, or not being included, or wishing you were in some elusive in-crowd?

If you’ve answered “yes” to these questions, most likely you suffer from a disease I call FMS: Fear of Missing Something.

FMS is not deadly, but it can be pervasive and challenging to heal. It usually strikes those who have a perpetual fear of not being enough. Women are more susceptible to it than men. The patient seems to think if she goes along with just one more thing, or if she is included enough times, that the gaping black hole inside of her will magically fill up. She then finds herself addicted to the word “Yes” because the black hole never fills.

To date, FMS is not curable by doctors. There are no prescription drugs that spammers can push or that the pharmaceutical companies can create annoying commercials about.

Only the willing patient can cure FMS. This takes commitment and determination.

When you find you are under a sudden attack of FMS, the procedure is simple but difficult. There are three steps…

1. Sit down.

2. Sit still.

3. Shut up.

Once this procedure is followed, the chance of recovery increases a hundred-fold.

Next, breathe deeply, and ask yourself the following questions:

1. Do I really want to do _____________? (Name the activity.)

2. In an ideal world, what would I really like to do right now?

3. Do I even LIKE these people I’m telling myself to hang out with?

4. What am I hoping to get out of this?

5. What am I afraid will happen if I say NO?

Question #5 points to one of the core issues of the patient with FMS. The inability to say the word NO. Before an attack of FMS strikes and the symptoms become acute, the patient may benefit from standing in front of a mirror and mouthing the word “NO” over and over again until it becomes an easier response than, “Well that’d be LOVELY! Bless your heart for including me! I’ve always loved NASCAR!”

Say it with me now…


“No, thank you.”


“Not so much on the NASCAR. But I’d love to rent When Harry Met Sally and make popcorn!”

I was diagnosed with FMS by me. My symptoms surfaced only in certain situations. For instance, in the acoustic music world, there’s an annual conference called “Folk Alliance.” Many people call it “Folk Annoyance,” and they complain bitterly before they get onto a plane and go every year. This activity alone indicates a mild strain of FMS, though it’s understandable because everyone in the “biz” is there, and all the artists feel compelled to go. I can tell you from experience that I’ve never heard an artist say anything like, “Woohoo! Folk Alliance! Can’t WAIT!”

The problem is not so much the attending of the conference, but in what everyone does to themselves once they are there. Many of the musicians perform in dozens and dozens of guerilla showcases til 4am in tiny cramped hotel rooms, hoping that someone will see them and book them. Getting bookings, getting anything — just getting — seems to be the motivating factor. The exhibit hall is filled with artists running around handing people their CDs and bios hoping to network and get more gigs, get more stuff, get more recognition fill that big black hole. (I have joked about what I call the “Folk Alliance Hello” which mostly occurs in the hotel elevators — a glance at you, a glance at your name tag, and then when it registers that you can’t offer a gig, a record deal or anything else worth getting, a glance away.)

My first Folk Alliance made me aware of my predisposition for FMS. I was virtually unknown. I took one look at the exhibit hall, and felt my whole being sucked in by the desperation-mojo, which was a miasma that filled every ounce of atmosphere. I wanted to run around throwing my CD’s at everyone yelling, “Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!” So, I breathed. And I silently made the decision to be still, and to allow people to come to me, to be totally and completely present to each person, and to be as open and friendly as I could be, but not to push. I also only performed in five showcases (a ridiculously small amount compared to most) and I was selective about which ones I performed. Whenever I got overwhelmed or felt that I was pushing myself to belong, or to get something, I got still, and I went up to my hotel room and read my Carl Hiassen book.

Here’s what happened from being in a state of allowing at that one conference: I had two amazing meals with old friends and we laughed a lot, I was offered maybe three or four performance dates, and when I was standing in that exhibit hall being open and present, I met a representative from an independent distribution company. She had heard of me, and liked my CD. We eventually signed a contract, which ultimately landed me on the national Border’s Books & Music Listening Posts on my last two CDs, and has made my company tens of thousands of dollars. Not huge. But what I love about it was that it came about organically. And easily. I didn’t have to push myself to be in uncomfortable situations. Several years later, I was chosen to do one of the coveted Main Stage showcases at Folk Alliance, which opened up even more doors.

I’m not saying that any of this was easy. My FMS voices shouted at me during that entire three-day conference and at many other conferences after that. They thought I was nuts.

Since that time, I’d say I’m 90% cured of FMS. I use Life Coach Cheryl Richardson’s guideline that I mentioned in my blog on Creating Order — If it’s not an Absolute Yes, then it’s a No. (Yep, that’s scary sometimes.) I also check in with myself to see if I’m doing something out of fear. What is the motivating force here? That’s always the question. If it’s EVER out of a feeling of not being enough or a fear of someone “not liking me,” then the answer is “No.” “Nooooooo.”

It can feel almost impossible to take the first steps to healing FMS at first. These patterns can be hard to shift. Once you do though, there are side effects — none of which have to be whispered in a deep shady pharmaceutical commercial voices… “Sudden dizziness, inability to control your bowels, loss of memory, homicidal tendencies, and spontaneous vomiting.”

These side effects are much better: A sense of calmness and assuredness. Attracting more and more things that fill your heart. More opportunities which are better suited to your value system. Being able to say no without over-explaining or getting emotional. Clarity. And a deep knowing that you are always in the right place at the right time.

Give it time though. It took years to develop a full-blown case of FMS. It may take time to heal. Allow yourself a few more bad NASCAR nights. Eventually, you’ll get the hang of it!

  • FOMS Suffer-er

    I actually call it FOMS pronoounced foms – rolls off the tongue a little easier than FMS.
    FOMS | Fear Of Missing Something.

  • Tori

    I thought this was going to be about Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS). Also chronic and sometimes curable.

  • Shaquetta

    What is FMS?

    • Heather

      um…It explains it in the article just above these comments. That’s what the whole article is about.

      “If you’ve answered “yes” to these questions, most likely you suffer from a disease I call FMS: Fear of Missing Something.”

  • Beth DeSombre

    Oh my; this is the post I needed right now. Yes, I know you wrote it years ago . . . but after being drawn in by your Be My Record Label posts I’ve been inspired to go back and read the archives here.

    And I’ve just signed up for my first regional Folk Alliance conference (NERFA) and am dreading it. I’m on the treadmill right now of trying to get onto showcases — and I’m NOT a night person, so under the best of circumstances gigs that last until 11 are hard for me; playing at 3 a.m. is going to completely undo me. And I’ve heard stories about what those hallways and elevators are like. So I think I’m going to make myself a copy of this post and make myself read it every week between now and then (and perhaps laminate it and take it with me to the conference itself . . .)

  • iletitgo

    This post is so right on. I found a book called “The Highly Sensitive Person” by Elaine Aron (PhD) in the last year. I read it and it was so validating to my life. It helped me to learn about what you are discussing in this post Christine. A few years ago I would have answered yes to all those questions. Now, I don’t think I could give an absolute yes to any of them. It’s as David (meer kitty) states it–being aware of my own energy levels and how the ‘group’ or conference atmosphere influences that. I presented at a national conference (for the very first time) last Nov, but I took time to leave when I knew I was in rapid decline and needed to be alone and recuperate. It was great to do that, and know of my own personal growth to be able to take care of myself in such a loving way.

  • christine

    RAINES! It’s so great to hear from you! Please do get in touch when you’re here. My office number is on the site. You can leave a cell phone number or something! Hi back to Sal and Naomi!

  • Raines Cohen

    As the Festiquette seminar at Stone Soup puts it, “resist FOMO!” (Fear Of Missing Out). as my calendar indicates I have trouble doing. Hi, Christine! Naomi and Sal say hi. I’ll be in Asheville next month, will get in touch!

  • David (meer kitty2)

    Of course, all of this “stay in the question” stuff feeds right into our MBTI P-J continuum being very far to the P side. The Js of the world not only have the answer to our question, they can’t understand why we don’t just make a decision and move on. They secretly yearn for the still and grounded nature that we Ps have found – better known as Pness envy.

    An online version of the type indicator survey, known as the Keirsey Temperment Sorter and other information can be found here:

    My favorite book on being an introvert in an extrovert world is The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney

  • David (meer kitty2)

    Since the MBTI is a continuum scale, it is possible to be just on the E or I side of the middle. The usual warnings also exist about MBTI not being absolute or a box that you label yourself with. We all use all of the types from time to time to compensate. I speak in public, I facilitate groups, I do all kinds of extroverted activities. I just know that I expend great amounts of energy doing those activities and need quiet time to recover.

    But that’s all just technical glopp for the lesson to be mindfull. Our society seems to be driven to find the solution, when what we really need to do is stay in unknowing, and stay in the question. It can be uncomfortable to stay in unknowing at first. The simple question “What is there in this for me to learn?” can open many avenues unseen and unexpected.

    I have not done the enneagram yet. I have not been in a place and time where it was available to me.

    What are you doing posting to the blog at 2AM ??

  • christine

    Hi David, (meer kitty2)

    Thanks for the response! What you wrote about is kind of the core of the whole thing… knowing yourself and what works for you. I’m an Extrovert in the Myers-Briggs (though an ENFP is considered to be the most introverted of the extroverts…whatever THAT means). I assumed that I should always be ‘out there.’ It wasn’t until the last few years that I accepted that I have lots and lots of introverted qualities (and a mentor of mine told me I was shy…no one has EVER said that to me) that I started letting myself revel in what I call “conscious social ineptitude.” It’s been so freeing. Have you ever tested yourself on the enneagram…?

  • David Jackson

    I finally had to come to the harsh realization that my being an Introvert forced me to pay very close attention to my energy levels, and to say noooo at times when “the gang” wanted to go out and play. This is not Introvert as in shy, but Introvert as in Myers-Briggs Type Indicator – or where your energy comes from. I have yielded to FMS and found myself in situations where I was out with a group and ran out of energy – the zombie stare into space with drool coming out the side of my mouth …
    It was far more embarrasing to be running on empty than to have “missed something”. Paying attention to my energy levels has allowed me to understand that I run out of emotional energy and get cranky. So instead of being cranky, I have found my voice to say that I am wiped out and need to recharge … time for the book, jammies, and teddy bear.

    David (meeer kitty 2)