1. There’s levels to this sh*t.
Every person with chronic pain is different and experiences their pain in different ways, but they all have levels they move through as the pain becomes worse. Maybe you pop a few ibuprofen when the pain first rears its ugly head. Next, a heating pad or an ice pack. When it still doesn’t subside, you might try to take a nap or at least lay in a dark room with the blinds closed. After that, it might be time for a painkiller. And of course, sometimes you end up in the emergency room.
2. Sometimes it’s easier to lie.
You’re having an especially painful day but you recently started a new job. Instead of sending an email to your boss detailing your diagnosis and issues, you might lie and say you have a cold. It’s easier for your boss to understand that and you don’t have to recite thousands of pages of medical records. Win-win.
3. You feel guilty almost all the time.
You know it’s not your fault you’re in pain but for some reason, that doesn’t necessarily do anything to assuage your guilt at missing important events or doing badly on a test that you know you would’ve nailed otherwise. You may feel guilty for slowing other people down, for constantly having to duck out of plans at the last minute and for being irritable and touchy when the pain is bad. You know you didn’t choose this but you still may feel guilty as hell when it affects other people’s lives.
4. You don’t remember what “normal” feels like.
Pain is part of your everyday life. Drugs, appointments and new therapies are commonplace. You may not remember what it feels like not to be in pain.
5. You vacillate wildly between hope and acceptance.
Some days maybe you’re sure your new doctor is onto something and you’re going to be pain-free one day. Other days, you might be trying to accept that this is how your life is always going to be. When you have hope, you’re terrified to lose it. When you’ve reached acceptance, you’re ignoring anything that could give you hope again. The cycle continues.
6. You’re basically an expert on your disease/diagnosis.
You know everything there is to know about your situation. Knowledge is power, right? Or maybe it’s just because you desperately Google your diagnosis every other week. Whichever.
7. Random people are always trying to “help” you.
Your mom’s friend’s daughter tries to convince you that going gluten-free is the answer to all your problems. A doctor wants to know if you ate too many processed meats as a child. A college friend says she knows the exact mix of vitamins that will “literally cure you.” And you just sit there, nodding and smiling, because it’s more polite than telling them to shut up.
8. Being in constant pain can affect your emotions.
Chronic pain is hell on your emotions. You’re up and down depending on the drugs your doctor gave you that week. You can’t stop screaming at your boyfriend over petty stuff because the pain is so bad that your fuse is literally one centimeter long. You might feel hopeless because the last round of treatment did nothing. Chronic pain isn’t only physical – your emotional health can be affected, too.
9. Sometimes, you just don’t want to talk about it.
You really appreciate your loved ones checking in on you and asking how you’re feeling but sometimes, talking about it is the last thing you want to do. You just want to pretend it doesn’t exist for a little while.
10. People with chronic pain are badasses.
Anything you accomplish should be celebrated because you did it while your body was fighting against you. The simplest things can feel monumentally difficult when you’re in chronic pain, but you’re still fighting. Look at you. You’re a badass, even on the days when it’s just you, closed blinds and your ice pack.