“I don’t think people understand how stressful it is to explain what’s going on in your head when you don’t even understand it yourself.”
Unknown: But understood by everyone with chronic pain
I have been managing chronic pain very well for over twelve years with some understandable bumps in the road. People who met me after I stopped allowing pain to control my life had no idea I had chronic pain. They only knew the healthy, fitness freak, social worker, yoga girl who seemed to have the greatest life. Once I became very close to a friend, I would tell my story. How many people can say they fell off of their bike, broke most of their bones, and ended up having brain surgery: coming close to death? I mean that is a good story! However, then the questions came and the conversation would turn over from my crazy bike accident story to my very sad, confusing, awful story about my life with chronic pain. I never ever talked/talk about pain as talking about pain only brings more attention to what I have worked my ass off to no longer think about despite the fact the pain is there. Therefore, I hated the questions: where is your pain? have you tried this? did you really try and end your life because of pain? you are so healthy and in shape, I just cannot believe you have chronic pain? you should come to this great acupuncturist with me–she could cure you in a second, etc etc. Then I would start defending/explaining that I do not need help, advice, and tried everything in my past to cure my pain. The only thing that truly helped was acceptance of my disease and learning how to manage it naturally. How can anyone understand chronic pain when he or she has never had pain that lasted more than a couple days. People with chronic pain barely understand their condition themselves but to try and explain it to others is close to impossible. I cannot possibly understand cancer but I can empathize with anyone fighting the disease. However, I would not start giving advice or asking a million questions to something the person with cancer probably does not want to talk about and worse gets more stressed out by the questions/advice. It is the same for those with chronic pain.
It is beyond stressful to try and explain chronic pain to people who do have this invisible illness. I try and not talk to people about my condition because it only brings attention to my pain and I end up thinking about pain which then turns my day into a day full of pain. People do not always want advice, in fact most of the time they do not want advice when they are upset or in pain. People just want someone to listen and give them a shoulder to cry on or an ear to vent to. I have found that gender has a lot to do with how people handle their loved one’s problems. Men want to fix things. This is not a bad thing. My dad wanted to help me and “fix” my chronic pain and thank God he did. He rarely made me talk about pain but without his push to enter the Pain Rehab Center where I did learn to manage pain naturally and accept my invisible illness. Had he not pushed me into something I truly was beyond scared to do, I do not believe I would be here today. Women are different: we listen and seem to be able to allow people to vent and cry without having to fix the problem. This is not to say that women are better at handling problems, I have just found that women in general are better listeners and allow people to just talk/vent and cry, understanding that sometimes people are not looking for a fix, people just want to let their emotions out. It is a good thing we are a world made of men and women as both genders offer the things we all need, chronic pain or no chronic pain.