When People Respond in the Most Unhelpful Ways to Our Chronic Pain (And A Short Survey)

When People Respond in Unhelpful Ways To Our Chronic Pain

I think we all have that “worst moment” ingrained in our minds. That moment we will never forget when someone said something shocking and awful about our pain that we will never forget.

For me, it was a doctor. I woke up one morning with a sharp new pain that shot through my chest, up into my shoulder, and down my arm. It was concerning enough to make my way to urgent care to figure out what was going on.

The urgent care doctor assured me that it was a muscle spasm and nothing serious to be concerned about. He told me I need to stop fixating on the pain.

“Look at yourself in the mirror,” he said. “You have a body that would make other women jealous. Focus on that when you feel the pain, and you will feel better. You won’t notice the pain anymore.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. How could he say something so inappropriate? How could he say something so ignorant? What in the world made him think that looking in the mirror was going to make me feel better about my pain?  No. Just no.

I share this story because my guess is you have a story like this too. A time when someone said something so shocking or hurtful about your chronic pain, chronic illness, or disability that you just didn’t know how to respond. And I would love to hear about that story if you have the time.

Will you take the time to fill out the survey below to help me on a project I am working on?

Right now I am writing a manuscript that I hope will eventually help individuals with chronic pain, chronic illness, and disability better explain their experience. I want to document the unhelpful ways that people talk about our pain and come up with solutions for how we can best respond to these situations. I want to hear how you have successfully explained your pain in the past, to help others use similar strategies.

Will you take just a few minutes of your time to help me out with this? It will not just be a help for me, but to so many people who will hopefully benefit from this project when it is finished. Thank you so much for considering!

Click below to take the survey. Thank you!

Click Here

Check out the first booklet in the Chronic Pain and the Christian Life series, But God Wouldn’t I Be More Useful to You If I Were Healthy, on Amazon.com. 


  1. I am so, so sorry for that doctor’s hurtful words. There’s only so much that can distract someone with ongoing pain from the physical zings. Can we someone get a vote to get doctor’s to take sensitivity training?

    1. Thank you Sarah. I ended up reporting him because he kept making comments about my body that were so inappropriate. And YES to sensitivity training!

  2. When I was still nursing I undertook a 3 day advanced communication course – have to say that the doctors taking part were the worst! Survey done and post reblogged with request to take the survey x

  3. Ah, yes! Good subject indeed, Esther! The words from Dr. Pricks we’ll never forget… I’ve got so many it’s pitiful. My first bad one was when I was still undiagnosed for fibromyalglia. I had such terrible pain in the knees so they sent me to a knee specialist. He barely touched them, looked at me, my cane, how I was slouched over and walking so badly due to the whole body pain I didn’t know was fibro and said: “Lil girl, you’re 19 not 90. Go out and exercise!” O_O Yes, he said “lil girl” in French which is very patronizing especially because he wasn’t old himself. Bastar*! I was in tears after and I thought my mom would stop believing in me. He showed me exercises to do very quickly that I did… and I ended up not being able to move and brush my teeth for a whole week from the pain! Yep! But my mom didn’t give up on me. She saw a program of stretching on TV from people who were told there was nothing to do with them but take pills and said: “Let’s try that!” Within 3 months I was good enough to attend university!! I just needed a proper exercise program that respected my limits which nobody had given me and all the doctors and professionals had made me worse up for the past year. And that was the start of a long line of terribly ill-mannered doctors. I now call them all : “Dr. Prick the…” and add their titles. LOL Cathartic 😉 But that one first doctor experience showed me how to defend myself and that I would have to do it from then on. How right I was! I came to realize that not too long ago.

    I’ll take the survey when I have a minute.

  4. Just filled out your survey, would love to see the finished product when it’s done ?
    I don’t know how you all deal with this pain all the time (no matter what the type/cause of the pain). I am really having trouble accepting it today and not feeling like a failure that I can’t get anything done. I wish there was a local pain support group or something, I’ve never met anyone else that has to deal with pain 24/7…

    1. Hi Sarah, yes it is really hard! There are some good online support groups on Facebook an other places. What type of group are you looking for?

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