They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. Perhaps the first step forward in our life of chronic pain is to admit that we, indeed, have chronic pain.
Some of us need to step into the world declaring, “Hello my name is _______, and I have chronic pain.
Chronic pain consumes our lives, but many people who should know this do not know this.
We hide our chronic pain for various reasons, some of them good some of them not. At times we need to hide our chronic pain from employers for fear of losing our jobs. We feel the need to protect those we love from the weight of our suffering, and so we hide the severity of our chronic pain from our family. We feel ashamed that we used to run five miles and now can barely walk up the stairs, so we hide our pain from acquaintances and friends.
Not everyone needs to know about our chronic pain. Not everyone needs to know the severity of our pain. BUT…more often than not, we hide our chronic pain from those who should know, and we have not been clear about the reality of our chronic pain to those who are closest to us.
Who knows that your pain exists and who does not?
How do you decide who you tell? Do you make this decision out of shame and fear? Or do you decide out of wisdom and love?
Some of us need to rip off the band aid and be willing to unashamedly show our true selves to the world. We have chronic pain, and that’s ok. It is a part of who we are, in many ways akin to stating the color of our hair or the size of our feet.
To move forward in explaining our pain, people have to know our pain actually exists. For some of us, this will be the first step in explaining our pain.
Who knows the whole truth about your chronic pain?
And by this, I don’t mean every nook and cranny of your chronic pain, but the whole and overarching truth of how much chronic pain has infiltrated your life. People can know that you have chronic pain, but not really know what chronic pain means for your life. Who doesn’t know?
Have you sat down and gone over the specifics of your diagnosis with those closest to you? Have you told your best friend how much the pain consumes your life?
When we are trying to succinctly and accurately tell the overarching truth about our pain, it helps to have a metaphor an example or to use specific numbers to quantify our pain and how much activity we can manage.
Example: “I have chronic pain, which mean pain that doesn’t go away. So, it’s kind of like if you had surgery, and then just as you started to feel just a tiny bit better, you had to have surgery all over again. Then again and again. The pain never goes away, and often times it does not get better.”
Example: “I have chronic pain, which means my days are limited. I can be active for about ___ hours and then I have to lie down/sit down/stop to make sure the pain doesn’t flare up too much. My daily life consists of the following activities _____ and then I have to stop.”
Example: “I have chronic pain, and it affects me to the point of being a disability. I can only walk for ____ minutes before I feel ______.”
Example: “I have chronic pain, and it has affected every part of my life. I lost my job, we have to pay for childcare, our finances have been difficult from paying for medical treatments, and it has made keeping up relationships difficult because I can’t get out of the house very often.”
When you first tell someone close to you about your chronic pain, how do you describe it? How do you describe what it means that you have chronic pain? How do you quickly, in a sentence or two, try to honestly convey the reality of chronic pain to those who need to know?
Love to hear your thoughts in the comments!