This is a must read article. Period.
Chronic pain is something I’ve been peripherally aware of my whole life. I’ve known “that guy in the wheelchair” as well as many others who’ve talked about ongoing issues with pain. What first really started to impact on me about Chronic Pain, however, was seeing what my mother has gone through. She’s always had health problems, whether from her asthma or severe allergies that were exacerbated by her asthma. Over 20 years ago, my mom started to develop arthritis in her hips. She was in constant pain, which grew worse year by year. This past year, her doctor was surprised she could still walk considering the massive deterioration of her hip joints. 7 years after being told she needed a double hip replacement, she finally had the surgery. She has said it was like being reborn.
In 2011, I had my own introduction to Chronic Pain. I was diagnosed with Endometrial cancer. I had surgery, and then spent the next 6 months in and out of chemotherapy. And while I’m now cancer free, I’m left with pain. Pain in my muscles, pain in my joints, pain in my lower back. While my weight doesn’t help, it doesn’t change that this pain is a result of my treatment. Even so, in spite of my pain being chronic, I can still get by.
Do NOT misunderstand me, though, and assume that my condition is the same for everyone with Chronic Pain. I needed to lay down this history to show where I come from in my perspective. I feel as though I walk a path right in the middle of “healthy privilege” and “Chronic Pain”. I can experience both of these conditions because, though I hurt every day, I can have many days where I don’t notice my pain as much. However, because of the chronic nature of my pain, I can relate to those who have conditions far more impactful than mine.
It isn’t hard for me to imagine EVERY DAY being at the worst pain I’ve ever gone through. Because I’ve had those days where I literally could not stand out of my bed. I’ve had pain so bad I’ve lied in my bed crying uncontrollably.
But, see, here’s where I can point out that I’m not special for this insight into pain.
Here’s the big open secret.
EVERYONE is capable of this insight.
And more so, it isn’t even hard.
I’ll accept that there are individuals who’ve never felt pain. In fact, I know they exist. It’s a condition called Congenital insensitivity to pain (CIP), or congenital analgesia. This is nothing to envy. People with this condition risk anything from constantly injuring their feet to even damaging their vision from scratching their eyes in their sleep. They are rare, but they suffer just as much, and can, ironically, have empathy for those suffering from Chronic Pain where a “normal” individual may not.
Back on point, other than those with a condition that cuts them off from pain completely, who hasn’t felt pain? Who hasn’t experienced one of any number of injuries - a burn, a broken bone, a bad cut, a sprain, even a Charley horse? Who hasn’t had one of any number of common aches; a headache, back ache, tooth pain, nausea, sore throat?
Imagine the worst pain you’ve ever felt.
Imagine feeling that pain every single day.
Every single hour.
Every second of your life.
Remember that when someone with Chronic Pain tells you that thy feel like shit.
Remember that when someone with Chronic Pain tells you they can’t go out and have fun with you. They have to skip that movie night. They can’t manage you’re daughter’s birthday party, or have coffee with you, or stay up late chatting online.
Think about how much you complained the last time you had a bad cold.
What if you had a bad cold for the rest of your life?
People with Chronic Pain did not ask for their condition. They didn’t “bring this upon themselves”. They are also not “cursed by God” any more than the rest of us. And while I have Christian beliefs and I’ve seen miracles, I know that simply adhering to any one of a million faiths will not, actually, heal someone with Chronic Pain. Clicking the heels of your ruby slippers will not work either.
So why do you assume, if none of these other methods work, that shaming someone to health is a tried and true method?
Because I’ve seen a lot of that.
So, next time you talk to someone with Chronic Pain, try to remember the pearls of wisdom I’ve written here.
Remember pain you’ve felt, multiplied by your entire life.
Remember that Chronic Pain is the condition, but the individual is a person.
Remember that Chronic Pain doesn’t define that person, but it does affect them.
And remember that respect isn’t picking ONE cause to support and attend parades and high five and demand the world see just how tolerant you are. Oh no. Respect is for every person you meet - even those who aren’t perpetually healthy.
So beautifully written, Drag, my amazing friend. Please read, guys, this is so incredible and a perfect explanation of why you should love without judgement.