12 Things Only Someone with Chronic Pain Would Understand
Living with chronic pain can make your daily life unbearable sometimes. It touches virtually every part of life, from eating, to relationships, to personal hygiene, and even sleeping. Most of us here at the office have lived with chronic pain at some point or another in our lives. If you also live with pain as your constant companion, you can probably relate to these 12 things very well.
1. You never know how you’ll feel the next morning
When you live with chronic pain, most days are bad but some days can actually be worse. On average, mornings are the worst part of their day. This may be due to dehydration which causes joints to be stiff in the morning. But the feeling of pain upon waking up first thing in the morning should not be experienced by anyone.
2. Others don’t seem to understand what “chronic” means
Loved ones often tell us things like “Hope you feel better” or “Get well soon.” They don’t understand we don’t get well soon. Maybe never. We might feel better some days, but the pain is always there. I know they mean well. Instead I would like them to say, ‘I’m sorry that you are not feeling well, hope the pain calms down soon.’”
3. “Have you tried ___?”
Again, people mean well and want to help. In fact, it’s human nature to want to problem solve rather than empathize. However, we often seek professional help with our pain conditions and already do a TON of research ourselves. We also know our bodies best. If we’re sharing frustrations, it’s usually because we want empathy more than strategy.
4. Some days are easier than others
I’ve been dealing with varying levels of pain every single day for the last 10 years. Some days are a lot easier. Other days, however, I wish I never got out of bed. Despite years of chronic pain, we never seem to get used to it.
5. You sometimes laugh when asked questions like, “Do you have any pain today?”
For those who suffer from chronic pain, you know that going to the doctor is a fairly regular experience. Whenever you go, they’ll ask if you have any pain and if you can describe the pain verbally or on a form. I know the doctor isn’t asking out of malice or a lack of understanding, but I can never avoid laughing at this question.
6. Doctors without pain don’t always understand
Healthcare providers do some of the most difficult jobs in the world. That said, not all healthcare professionals are good at diagnosing the situation and recommending treatment. Especially when there are many misunderstandings about pain. Some of the more common misunderstandings are that younger people can’t have chronic pain, and strong medications will always lead to addiction.
7. Managing pain is more than pills
Skin patches, diet, natural supplements, exercise, meditation, yoga and self-care are all part of the chronic pain toolbox. We often try a lot before moving on to medication, unless we know medication is the only cure for the type of pain we’re in. So we don’t need to hear you tell us “You need to get off those meds, they are bad for you!”
8. The relief you feel when painkillers start working
Pain affects so much of our lives, including how we interact with others. When relief starts to kick in, it helps to eliminate so many symptoms related to pain. Most of the time, we even become productive! We are so excited to be ourselves again instead of someone struggling to survive the day.
9. Waiting for medication brings both pain and anxiety
Whether due to clerical errors, insurance requirements, or stigma, waiting for that next prescription to help reduce our pain is challenging. It’s not about feeling high, but about relief. For chronic pain patients, medication makes it possible for us to participate fully in life.
10. Medication doesn’t completely remove pain
Pain is a constant companion. It’s always with us, even when we’re on medication. But without the medication, I may not be half as strong as I am. It definitely reduces the pain but doesn’t eliminate it completely. The way I see it, medication is just one piece of my overall pain management plan.
11. Pain changes everything. Everything.
Regardless how vibrant and expressive our life was, chronic pain has the power to eliminate all memory of that past life and dull everything around us. It changes how we use our time and energy, what jobs (if any) we’re able to do, and every single relationship we have. Pain affects everything.
12. Support is what we really need. Not advice, recommendations or a cure.
For the longest time, I didn’t know anyone else dealing with chronic pain. Everyone around me (friends, family and coworkers) would always give me advice based on their minimal researching efforts. “Have you tried yoga?” “I heard eliminating gluten helps” or “Did you ever consider this herb _____?” Nobody ever considered that I am already working with experts that know our bodies and our illnesses, and that we do research every single day. No one gave me the real support I needed: asking if I needed help with something, telling me a joke, or calling just to ask how my day was. Then I joined a support group with other chronic pain patients. It changed so much for me. I began to have an outlet that understood the struggles I go through every day. If I needed to vent about stigma or brainstorm how to communicate my pain to my healthcare team, I had people there. It completely changed how I’m able to process the feelings around my pain.
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