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What you should know about living with chronic pain
I’ve been living with chronic pain in one way or another for the majority of my life. Over the years I have had a lot of people misunderstand my situation. If they can’t comprehend my pain, then they probably can’t comprehend yours either. These are just some of the things I wish people understood about living with chronic pain.
- Don’t try to stop me from doing things because you think it will cause me pain. I know what I’m capable of and sometimes I’m just plain stubborn. You may think you’re being empathetic but you come off as sympathetic. I don’t want sympathy, I want you to remember I’m still a person who is capable of doing things. Even if I do cause more pain to myself by doing something, that’s my own fault and I can take responsibility for my own actions.
- Just because I’m in a good mood does not mean I’m not in pain. It might mean I’m having a better pain day. It might not. When you live with chronic pain, you kinda get used to it. At least to some extent. It’s hard not to smile at good news or laugh at a hilarious joke. I don’t think I’m capable of being miserable all the time and honestly, I don’t want to be.
- Conversly, just because I’m in a bad mood doesn’t mean I’m in pain. Sometimes I’m just pissed off about something so don’t just brush it off as pain. I’ve had people assume I was arguing a point or bringing up negative issues only because I was in pain and taking it out on people. This always led to me not being taken seriously. Which isn’t helpful in a workplace, especially when I am trying to raise real issues that could impact my work. “Oh ignore her, she’s just hurting a bit today”. Uh huh. My “negativity” could be legitimate and maybe you should take it seriously if I’m telling you that you f*cked up or this workload makes no sense.
- Buuuuuuuuut…If I’m in a bad mood, I’m probably in pain. Let me explain that though. Contrary to point three, I don’t mean the same kind of bad mood. I mean if I’m easily irritated, snapping at the cat for getting under my feet, moving slowly, being huffy, etc. That kind of stuff. There’s a difference between angry and paingry. If there is absolutely zero context for my pissiness, it’s probably the pain. I’ll probably apologize at some point.
- Just because you can’t see the pain doesn’t make it any less real. I’ve gotten pretty good with my poker face. People seem to think chronic pain means I should have a scowl 24/7 and be dragging a foot behind me. Don’t you dare tell me that I look fine if I mention my pain. A lot of people with chronic pain have a “grin and bear it” kind of mentality because it’s easier to be around people that way. No one wants to be a downer (well, some people do). I don’t want people thinking I’m a weak little whiner either (which people with chronic pain aren’t but I’m always told I’m fragile and I HATE it). So yeah, I’m sure I look totally fine to most people. Take my body for a test ride sometime, see what you think then.
- Using cannabis to manage my pain doesn’t make me a stoner. Having to state cannabis as one of my medications sometimes brings looks of “uh huh, sure” from healthcare professionals, especially as a younger person. Most of the stuff I use is high CBD and low to mid THC so I’m almost never high. It’s the only thing that works and I didn’t even try it until I had a prescription. Don’t assume I just loooove weed because I have tattoos, piercings and an unnatural hair colour. That’s a whole other issue of stereotyping.
- In conjunction with that, being younger doesn’t mean I don’t have pain. I’ve had chronic nerve pain since I was 12 and restless legs syndrome my whole life. No one seems to care when kids have pain like that. I got a lot of “oh you’ll be fine, kids bounce back”. I was 23 when I got hit by a car. Somehow that’s still young enough for people to think I would grow out of the suddenly body wide pain I was in. Chronic pain means it’s ongoing pain, it’s not about to disappear after a good nights rest regardless of age. I’m not sure why pain and illnesses are only attributed to the elderly but I’m kinda sick of people thinking I must be faking or exaggerating my pain. It’s been 6 years since that car hit me and nope, still finding new pain everyday. You know how people say “I feel like I’ve been run over” if they’re sore? Why doesn’t that connection occur to people when they know I’ve been HIT BY A CAR?
- Having someone do everything for me doesn’t make me happy or smug. I probably feel guilty about it and making me stay in bed or on the couch is probably doing more harm than good anyway. I still need to move to help keep my pain in check. When I do accept help, it’s because I really need it. Or because my husband is practically pushing me onto the couch and racing ahead of me to get whatever it is done.
What do you wish people knew about living with chronic pain? Let me know in the comments below.
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