I have chronic pain. It’s hard to imagine a day in my life when I wasn’t overcome by extremely painful migraines every day. It took me five years to be diagnosed with chronic migraines. Even medications don’t help and I often spend half my day in bed trying to “rest it off”. Often I hear things about chronic pain, that make me so frustrated. I am hoping to correct some misconceptions about chronic pain.
To start I think it’s helpful to define what chronic pain is. Chronic pain is “pain may be caused by inflammation or dysfunctional nerves. The primary symptom is persistent pain that lasts weeks to years”. Most doctors diagnose chronic pain based on the frequency and how it affects daily lifestyle. Chronic pain is an umbrella term for a variety of pain issues like chronic pain syndrome, chronic migraines, joint damage, arthritis, POTS, etc. This is in no way an extensive list and most health issues can cause chronic pain. There’s a chance you know someone with chronic pain and don’t even know it. We are not lying about our chronic pain
01. We are not lying about our chronic pain
Oftentimes people are quick to assume that we are lying about our chronic pain. Just because we look ok doesn’t mean we are okay. Invisible chronic illnesses exist and they are just as valid as a chronic illness you can see. Alot of us have just learned to live with chronic pain and to “just keep swimming” despite the pain.
If you are not our doctor you do not know about our chronic pain. If you are talking about a woman or POC with chronic pain, it was probably already really hard to get diagnosed because of medical bias. Trust us if we tell you we have chronic pain, it’s not an excuse. I wouldn’t wish chronic pain on anyone. If someone discloses chronic pain believe them. I’ve had these issues espically with acquaintances, employers, and professors/teachers.
02. Stop comparing us to others
Sometimes people hear about our chronic pain and are quick to compare us to people they know with similar conditions. Just because we have the same diagnosis does not mean we function the same way or experience pain in the same way. I know that people often say this to try to connect in good nature, but this is genuinely unhelpful. Especially, when you try to ask about our ability and why we can/can’t do things.
03. We try to be there but it’s hard
Sometimes it’s hard to do basic daily activities, let alone doing extra stuff like going to school, work, or being social. Not only does it take a physical toll but it also takes a mental toll. Please do not give us a hard time if we end up missing something or can’t be there for you. We really try but sometimes it’s hard just to take care of ourselves. If you have a friend with chronic pain please be sympathetic and understand that they do try.
04. We are not lazy
There seems to be some idea that people with chronic pain are lazy. They never come into work, they’re in bed half the day and if you wanna go out with them they always cancel. We are not lazy. We just need rest to focus on managing the pain. Trust me our lives are not glamourous. You do not understand how many times I wish I wasn’t lying down and that I could do work or go out or have some time for fun.
05. Do not give us unsolicited advice
This is a pet peeve of mine, personally. Please do not give people with chronic pain, or honestly, any health issues unsolicited advice. I know you are trying to be helpful but are being rude most of the time. It’s different if we ask for advice. But if you do not have chronic pain, do not give me advice. I do not care about hour advice (unless you are a medical professional) because you do not live with this reality.