Monday, July 27, 2015

Living with the Chronically Pained, Part 1: There's No Getting Over It

I have chronic pain. It's something I live with but try not to complain about much. As a result, you may not know that I suffer; or if you do know, you may never give this aspect of my life much thought. 

You might want to think about this, though: I'm probably not the only Chronically Pained person you know. Recent studies indicate that 100 million Americans currently suffer some form of chronic pain. That's approximately one third of our current population.

Simply put: we're everywhere.

If your life overlaps with someone who is Chronically Pained, there are a few things you may want to take into consideration. 

First, the Chronically Pained don't have the luxury of forgetting that they suffer. 

Depending on the physical problem causing the pain, it may come and go in waves; there might be better days and worse days--that's true. But it's generally not something to "get over." For the most part, the pain is just there--an ever-present companion. 

People who suffer chronic pain know, however, that their friends and family (even when fully loving and supportive) really only want to hear so much about their situation. After that, they mentally "get over" it, even though the situation hasn't actually changed for the Chronically Pained. I'm not saying this is wrong. I'm just saying that it is. People are people, and they have their own problems. Unless the Chronically Pained remind everyone that they're suffering, people are likely to forget. That's just human nature. But if people are reminded all the time, they're going to get tired of hearing about it really fast.

So it just seems best that we keep our issues to ourselves. Except if we do, people expect us to carry on normal lives, and that's not always possible. So it becomes a bit of a balancing act. 

Even if the pain is low-level and doesn't totally incapacitate, it still operates as a constant drain on the emotional and physical batteries. I'm not saying that this gives the Chronically Pained an excuse to be vicious cranks--as, indeed, some of them are--but I am encouraging you to have patience and understanding with them, since their situation dictates that they never actually start the day at 100%. 

If your Chronically Pained friends seem to have a shorter fuse than the rest of your peers, remember that there could be a reason. Much of their patience and fortitude is already directed toward getting through the day without groaning audibly. 

They don't always have much left over in their emotional tanks to put up with nonsense.


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    1. I had a friend who had nearly every ailment known to man (I exaggerate only a little when you consider he was one person with all those afflictions). He was the sweetest, gentlest man. I once asked how he coped with life and people without complaining all the time. As you pointed out, people want resolution; they don't want to hear that pain is ongoing. He told me that people get sympathy fatigue and can't handle an ongoing litany of aches and pains. If faced with such a thing, people being people, will begin to avoid the person--perhaps out of selfishness for some, but out of a spirit of defeat for others because they feel helpless to change the situation. When he told me that no one wants to hear a steady diet of that, I thought perhaps we, his friends, were falling down on the job. Now that I find myself dealing with similar issues, I know that he was right. People don't want to hear unremitting complaints, and they shouldn't have to.

      We're taught that every problem has a solution, but when it comes to chronic pain or chronic illness, there is no resolution--just a daily battle that hopefully ends in a draw but sometimes ends in defeat.

      I appreciated the admonition to the healthy ones to be considerate and thoughtful when dealing with those afflicted. How about some words of wisdom or encouragement to address the other side?

    2. Good words from your friend. Sympathy Fatigue is such a good word for it. And yes, the other side will be addressed at the end of the series. :)