Welcome to the third post in the Explain Your Pain series.
Post 2 – Is Explaining Our Pain Even Worth It?
Today I want to discuss some practical guidelines about how to have conversations about our chronic pain before I start addressing specific topics. This post will be the foundation for all future posts. In all honesty, the guidelines in this post are straightforward and simple. They are guidelines that we all know, but in my experience, rarely actually follow when we are explaining our pain.
- Speak the Truth in Love
When it comes to chronic pain, we often take one of two approaches. We either speak only a portion of the truth, believing it more loving to shelter those around us from the reality of our pain. Or, we speak the truth in bitterness and anger, upset that people are not catching on quickly enough.
Neither of these options work. When we speak about our pain, it should be the honest and direct truth, refusing to hide or apologize about the reality of our pain. But the truth of our pain should be spoken in a way that is loving to both ourselves and those we speak to, refusing to fall into bitterness and anger.
- Be Patient and Willing to Explain Multiple Times
Explaining our pain must be thought of as a continuous conversation, not a simple, one-time explanation.
We become frustrated too quickly. While we so often desire empathy from our healthy family and friends, often we are hesitant to offer the same empathy in return when we become upset at those we love for not immediately understanding.
Our mindset needs to change. One conversation will barely scratch the surface of the entirety of our chronic pain because the effects of chronic pain on our lives are so pervasive, complex, and all-encompassing. These conversations will become much less frustrating if we assume from the beginning that we will have to explain the same thing more than once.
- Be Proactive in Planning and Scheduling Important Conversations Ahead of Time
The timing and setting of our conversations regarding chronic pain can be difference between making and breaking understanding. For more important conversations and updates on our chronic pain, we must not be scared to plan and schedule these conversations for a time when both parties can be fully invested in speaking and understanding.
This is especially helpful for explaining initial diagnoses, giving updates after doctor’s appointments, and making our loved ones aware when we enter setbacks, flares, and bad pain days.
- Move Forward with Realistic Expectations & Right Motivation
We must have realistic expectations. If we move forward with realistic expectations, we will be much more likely to succeed. We must remember that our goal is not for people to understand 100% of what we are going through. This would be impossible. No person can know an experience they have never had completely. The goal is for those around us to understand to the extent that you be known and supported, that you can receive practical help, and that your relationship can flourish.
- Be Careful to Never Make Assumptions
Probably the most important thing we must keep in mind is to never make assumptions about what people know about our pain. Many of the concepts talked about in this series are obvious to us, but they are not obvious to your family and friends. Over time, we have experienced chronic pain for so long that we become desensitized to what is and what is not common knowledge.
We surround ourselves with other chronically ill and pained individuals who really “get” us because they are going through the same things. And then we wonder why our family and friends are so slow on the up take.
We also have to be gracious in remembering over and over again that what we are experiencing cannot be seen. Our loved ones cannot see when we have a setback, flare, or bad pain day. Our loved ones cannot tell when we begin to make microscopic progress that feels huge to us but looks no different than where we were last month. Because it can’t be seen, we have to say something.