I’m coming up on two years from my last back surgery and 12 years since my chronic illness started. My condition is a huge part of me and some days it feels like it’s all of me. It is all of me yet I try to suppress it. It is all of me yet no one truly knows about it. It is all of me yet I try to act like it’s not there. For a decade I tried to hide who I was, ultimately making me not even know who I am.
When I started back into my mental health journey I knew it would be time to focus on my chronic pain and mental health associated with it, but even then I thought that would be processing it and “getting over it” in order to move on. I’m slowly realizing that what I’m needing is not to process and get over, it is to embrace it and let people know the real me.
I constantly struggle with people not knowing what I’m going through. Not because they don’t want to know what I’m going through but because I don’t even know how to explain it or I feel uncomfortable and vulnerable of the idea of letting people know my true chronic pain self.
I struggled with feeling less than. I wanted to be strong. I wanted to be normal.
But I’m learning to be proud. I’m realizing that I’m stronger than I ever could have imagined being able to deal with this. I now know I could have chosen so many harmful paths when I was in my dark times but I chose to keep going and keep fighting. Through many doctors, through many pain killers, through surgeries, through the never ending fight to find answers.
There were times I struggled but there are so many more times I was strong.
So here I am wanting to let you guys in. It’s time to quit being embarrassed of my disability. It’s time to show y’all my strength to inspire others to do the same! I came up with a few things to understand about someone with a chronic illness, and if you know someone who has one I encourage you to reach out, to let them know even if you may not understand you’ll be there for them.
5 things to know
about someone with chronic pain
We don’t always look like we are in pain. Many of us have lived most of our lives with our chronic pain and have adapted it to our “normal”. Although we may look like we are able to do things like normal does not and should not minimize our pain.
We are often tired. Our bodies work around the clock to try to protect our chronic pain making us extremely fatigued. Doing simple tasks like simply getting up in the morning can sometimes take more effort than someone without chronic pain may use in an entire day. (Look up spoon theory)
It’s hard for us to care about other things. Similar to being tired it is also hard for us to have the energy or drive to care about things that other people would. We are often concerned with our survival and health that we can think of caring about other things as a waste.
It’s hard to keep relationships. There is so much going on mentally, physically and emotionally when you have chronic pain that it can become very difficult to keep relationships. It’s hard for us to express to other people what’s going on as well as us not wanting to put in the extra effort to build and maintain relationships.
It’s likely to have mental health issues. People with a chronic illness may suffer from depression as they morn the loss of what their life used to be. They also can have anxiety from constantly waiting for their next episode of pain. Insecurities with what people may think of them if they can’t do things like other people are very common as well. Perfectionistic personality traits and the need to be in control can adapt to counteract the uncertainty of their health. Disassociation is also super common as a coping mechanism, trying to escape from the pain in our body.