September is Chronic Pain Awareness Month. There was a time when I didn’t fully understand the purpose of awareness months. Sometimes I would look at the runs for such and such a condition, the ribbons and the bracelets, the signs and the events and wonder what that was all about.
Now I get it. Now that I have chronic pain, I realize why awareness is important, and I want to share a few of those reasons with you.
We need chronic pain awareness month so people can know that chronic pain exists.
Approximately 100 million adults in the United States experience chronic pain that is moderate or severe, or that limits them in a way that affects their ability to work.
This is a LOT of people. But the world remains largely unaware of this invisible and devastating epidemic that rages at its doorstep. And, the hiddenness of our plight only fuels our pain and increases our suffering.
Sometimes we just want people to know that we exist.
Awareness begins with poking our heads around a corner and saying, Hi there! We are here. Right over here sitting in a corner. You can’t see us very easily because we are stuck at home so much and can’t get out. But we just want to say hi and make you aware that we are still around, even when you can’t see us.
Sometimes we just want people to say hi back and see that we are here.
We need chronic pain awareness month so people can know what chronic pain means.
It is wonderful when people know that chronic pain exists, and even better when they know what chronic pain means for our day to day lives.
Sometimes we want people to see what life is like for us. We want people to know that chronic pain is different than when they have experienced acute pain in the past. We want people to know how it affects every single area of our lives.
It’s like when you have a bad day and just need to tell someone about it. You really need to get into the details and tell someone about all the feelings and the events and what so and so said and what that was like for you. Speaking the words out loud doesn’t make the bad day go away. It doesn’t fix anything or make anything better in a practical sense. But after you talk about it, you feel a weight lifted off your chest. Someone else knows about your bad day, and that helps you move forward.
For so many of us, our chronic pain isn’t fixable. It probably won’t be going away or getting completely better. So, we just want someone to look at us and say, “I see your pain. I see that you are hurting. I see how this pain affects your life in these ways. I’m planning to stick around.”
We need chronic pain awareness month because when people recognize the reality of our pain, it makes our lives more bearable.
We need chronic pain awareness because we are looking for those who will join with us.
Sometimes we really need practical help, and people can’t know we need help if there is no awareness of the extent to which chronic pain affects us.
It’s great when people wave, say hi, and know we exist. It’s better when people stop and chat with us, and really see us in our pain. But, what we need the most is people who first see how much chronic pain impacts us, and are then willing to join with us and help us move forward.
We need people who want to stand with us for the long haul as friends and supporters. Chronic pain leaves us isolated and alone because getting out is difficult. We are far away from the support and friendship that would make our situation more bearable and we are looking for people who will come to us when we can’t come to them.
So often it feels like the only people who think chronic pain is important are those who have chronic pain. Chronic pain awareness month is needed because we are looking for those people who will stand with us and say “chronic pain is important to me too.”
If enough people were willing to say “chronic pain is important” perhaps we would be noticed. Perhaps if we were more visible, more research funds would be used to understand the nature of chronic pain, and more treatment options would become available. Perhaps if various chronic pain conditions were better understood and more properly diagnosed, those individuals who truly need opioids to manage their pain would start getting their prescriptions and other options would become available for pain management. Perhaps insurance would more easily pay for our scans and meds and physical therapy. Perhaps we would have more care, more help, more support.
Perhaps we would finally feel seen instead of forgotten.
What is one thing you wish people were aware of when it comes to your chronic pain?
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.