This is one of those topics I don’t talk about much because it’s fairly personal. But… it’s a very prevalent and important part of my life so I don’t want to entirely sweep it under the rug.
My reluctance to talk about my daily doses of pain stems partly from the fact that it makes other people uncomfortable. I’m trying both to protect them from feeling the things it makes them feel and to protect myself from their reactions.
When I talk about my pain people usually try to give me suggestions, tips, ideas. Based on their own experience. I know that they’re trying to be helpful and that they think that what they’re telling me *is* helpful. That’s not how it feels.
It feels invasive and dismissive and patronizing. And I can’t respond to them based on that, because I know they don’t mean it to feel that way.
“Have you tried ‘x’ supplement?” Probably
“Have you tried applying heat?” Yes
“Eat healthier.” I eat in a very healthy way
“Eat less red meat.” I’ve tried that, it makes me feel worse
“Exercise more.” I exercise in ways that I can accomplish without making my life worse
“” …thanks. I’ve probably tried it, or researched it and dismissed it.
It’s exhausting just thinking about it.
Part of the problem is that *because* it makes people uncomfortable they want to FIX IT. NOW! (believe me, I’d like nothing better) They don’t want to hear that their suggestion isn’t valid *in this case*. It worked for their acute case of pain and therefore it should work just as well for my chronic pain. Those are entirely different beasts. It would be something like treating chronic depression as though it were a fleeting sadness.
The main issue is that the suggestions are for ways to “get through it” and that is an invalid premise. Getting through something implies experiencing it and then getting past it, being done with it. Finishing. That doesn’t apply to chronic pain. There *IS* no “through” it. It will remain, it will be back today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year. It will remain, one of the most steadfast facets of my life. The BEST I can hope for is that it stagnates.
When I open up to someone and tell them that I’m feeling crappy and I’m having a bad day, what I really want from them is acknowledgement. “That really sucks.” I don’t want you to fix it, I don’t want you to tell me something to try (unless I specifically ask you for your thoughts or advice, of course), and I *guarantee* that I don’t want you to try and make me feel better (because no matter how you mean it, it ends us making me feel like you’re dismissing how I’m feeling). I’m sharing a valid feeling with you, I just want you to sit with me and let me feel it and tell me that it’s valid. That’s it.
I know that I’ll survive, I know that you wish I could just feel better, I know that I have good days, I know that I will have good days in the future, I know…. I know.
I’m just having a bad day and I’m reaching out for another human being to share my feelings with.
Wow, I feel much better. Just saying all of that helped. And you didn’t even have to say anything in return! 🙂
Edit: I was done here, but the fine folks at SciShow posted something that made me think and I wanted to share it.
In my own experience, swearing when I’m in pain is an aggressive act. Sometimes I’m angry at my body, feeling like it is betraying me, sometimes I’m angry at life, sometimes I’m angry at whatever just contributed to my pain (I’m looking at you, sidewalk!). When I’m channeling that emotion and swearing, it does end up hurting less than the times where I try and clamp down on my desire to let loose with a few choice words. In those settings where I feel like I can’t use yell out a couple of well-chosen profanities I am definitely feeling more pain. Or when I’m feeling more defeated by the situation, more sad, and thus don’t swear, it somehow feels worse too.