Dealing with chronic pain is something that’s difficult to write about because sometimes words can’t describe what you’re feeling – not just the pain itself, but also the hopelessness, the loneliness, the frustration, the feelings of loss, the impact it can have on your ego and your morale on a daily basis.
First and foremost, there is the pain. Whether it’s migraines, arthritis, shingles, or – in my case – fibromyalgia, this kind of pain changes your life in every way imaginable. And, after a time it can seem your whole life is dictated by, wrapped around, impacted by that pain. It becomes who you are – the limitations it causes, the way you feel every day.
Experts say people with chronic pain are more likely to end their lives and are more susceptible to depression, and I believe it. For me, my journey went on for years. At its worst, I could barely work or function – even having someone touch my arm could trigger unimaginable pain. And, it wasn’t like I was just overly sensitive (as some people suggested) or looking for attention. It got to the point where I couldn’t imagine wanting to live through a life that began and ended each day with that kind of pain.
But, chronic pain goes beyond physical issues. There are the side effects – the weight gain, the depression. Those are bad enough. What’s worse are the people who look at you and believe you are faking it or just a hypochondriac – and these can include doctors, which makes a bad situation so much worse. That’s when the isolation sets in. You already can’t do what you did before, you feel that you are losing out on so much of what your life was all about (including with your children, if you have them) and it’s compounded by many people who are dismissive of your situation.
When it’s doctors, it is not just frustrating, it’s dangerous. While I certainly understand that many people abuse painkillers and other drugs, there are many of us who have benefited by drugs and have never over-used them. But, we are hurt by those who are guilty – and there is a never-ending push to end treatment. In that case, someone who sees the light at the end of the tunnel can live in a world with even more stress, worried about going backward. But, that’s a post for another time…
What I would like to convey with this post is twofold – for those who don’t know what a life of chronic pain is like, I would like you to understand what people you love might be dealing with. To be so isolated and face a situation where all you can see for yourself is a future of pain is a terrible thing. That’s where the love of friends and family can be very powerful and positive. The full support of someone who loves you – even if they might not fully understand what you’re going through – is a huge benefit to someone who otherwise can feel terribly alone.
For anyone confronting this kind of situation, please know it can change and it can get better. Two years ago, I had many days I could barely work – I was considering filing for disability and I didn’t always feel confident I really wanted to move on. But, with the help of my doctor (the right one, after years of searching) and a change in myself – the biggest single factor, I believe, to the transformation in my life – today I have many, many more good days than bad. And, the “bad” days I do have are better than the best days I had before. Your life can improve and you can be happy again.
Don’t let yourself be alone. If you need to talk, to vent, to share – you can always comment here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Just remember – hope is real.