My Chronic Pain in a Nutshell

California 608

  1. I am in pain. All the time I am in pain. When I smile and converse with you, I am in pain. When I go to work, I am in pain. At church, walking around the block, going out to eat, the pain never leaves.
  2. I expend vast resources pretending that this pain does not consume me.
  3. In the midst of pain, I go on with life. In my prior pre-pain life, these levels of pain would leave me lying in my bed incapacitated. Now I push through. I don’t take sick days because every day qualifies as a sick day. If I didn’t do things when feeling sick, I would never do things.
  4. Unloading and reloading my dishwasher takes all morning and happens in a 5-10 step process with rest and breaks in-between. This is simply one example of how complicated easy tasks are for me.
  5. My inability to contribute more to myself, my family, and society makes me feel worthless, inadequate, and insecure.
  6. I feel guilty for being sick.
  7. Every day I struggle with this pull between wanting and not wanting people to know about my chronic pain. There is a piece of me that desperately wants others to know how much I am suffering. But another side of me wants to hide it for all that I am worth.
  8. I don’t know how to explain my pain to people who are healthy. There are simply no easy words for me to convey the weight and heaviness of what I experience on a day-to-day basis.
  9. I feel “other.” Like an outsider or alien within the human race. My life feels so completely different from those around me, that at times I do not know how to relate or converse about normal things.
  10. I fight against bitterness when others’ talk about their acute or time-limited health problems.
  11. At the same time, I feel intense empathy and sorrow for these same health problems of others. I feel and know your pain; I have simply known it longer with no hope of an end, which can make me feel bitter.
  12. People who have experienced acute pain think they understand chronic pain, but they don’t.
  13. The severity of my pain is at times manageable, but when it never goes away, it can feel  unmanageable.
  14. My current walking range is 5-8 minutes. In the past year, I have not worked up to walking over 20 minutes.
  15. Doctors do not have answers for my pain. They know the cause of the pain, but treatment ideas are running out.
  16. One moment I am fine, and the next I am not. My pain levels can go from a 2 to a 7 without warning and for no noticeable reason.
  17. When I go to bed at night, I never know how I will feel the next morning. Better? Worse? The same? Good spirits? Depressed?
  18. I can cope with the pain “well” for one to two weeks at a time, and then I inevitably have a break down. Then repeat.
  19. Chronic pain crushes me on an emotional level every day. The sadness of watching the world pass by without you is overwhelming.
  20. Pushing through doesn’t work for me. Slowly adding activity, exercise, and walking over time does work for a while until I have a setback and have to start at the beginning.
  21. The hardest part is missing out on so much, both in the short and long term. Parties, events, service opportunities, cookouts, church, dinner with friends, going to Starbucks, going on vacation. Not having kids, putting off moving, career on hold.
  22. Chronic pain represents innumerable losses wrapped up into one starting point. Chronic pain is not just chronic pain. It means a life of limited opportunity and possibility.


  1. And once again, you have nailed it. For the most part, you have described very closely how I feel. Particularly #5 and #10 and #20. Lately, I have been working really hard at mustering up empathy for friends when they complain about acute or time-limited health issues. All I want to do is shake them and say, at least your illness has an ending!! It’s tough, but really, I of all people should be able to relate when someone has ill health, regardless of its time frame. However, I’m glad to know that I’m not alone in my thinking. 🙂

    1. Yeah, #20 is a big one for me that I will likely write about in more detail. It is a mystery to my physical therapist why I will be fine one day, and then the next day it will be as though I just injured myself again. I go from being able to walk 20 minutes to barely getting off my couch overnight. I am really curious if other people experience this the same way as I do.

      1. I can usually always pinpoint the reason why I have pain (mostly back pain), even though it is usually something so ridiculous such as reaching behind the sofa to retrieve a wayward spoon while cleaning. Go figure! That happened on Monday, and I’m just now starting to feel better on Thursday. So yes my pain level fluctuates but it’s typically caused by something I have done, however minute.

  2. Reblogged this on this great ape and commented:
    It’s rare for me to find a post that so poignantly expresses what life is like as a sufferer of chronic pain, but this one touches on everything, how it affects physical and mental states, as well as “real-world” functioning and social interaction.

  3. Thank you for sharing your list. I can identify with all of those. I wish I could plaster a poster of this over every building, everywhere. Take out a full page ad in a major newspaper. Scream it from the mountain tops–well, the getting up there and screaming would hurt, but you know what I mean.
    People don’t understand what it’s like to watch life pass you by. And they think they get it just because they’ve had an injury or illness, but they recover. They aren’t stuck in illness purgatory.

    1. Sarah, yes I couldn’t agree more with all of this. Part of the question with this whole blogging thing for me is how do I get people who are not chronically ill/pained to read about what we experience. We intimately know this experience, so the ones who I wish would read this are healthy people who don’t tend to traffic my blog. Not sure what the answer is, but YES I want to plaster it everywhere as well.

      P.S. Was looking through your blog the other day, and it’s GREAT!

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