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September is Pain Awareness Month! Chronic pain affects millions of people that is often invisible and misunderstood by people who don’t live with pain because it is often believed that if you are not crying about your pain that it’s not real pain. I haven’t lived with chronic pain for nearly as long as some people and I only started experiencing chronic daily pain a few a years ago when I started getting daily headaches due to Hydrocephalus that never way away. Chronic pain does not discriminate and can happen to anyone, and you don’t have to be old to live with pain. When you live with chronic pain it changes the way you look at life and impacts everything you do from the food choices you make to the activities you are able to participate in and do well. There are more negatives to living with chronic pain than positives and everyone is going to react to pain in a different, but I chose to look at what it teaches me instead of focusing on only the negatives. In this post, I am going to talk about lessons that I have learned because of chronic pain.
It’s not your job to convince people that your pain is real- Chronic pain is often invisible and you do not know about much pain someone is experiencing if any by looking at someone because the longer you live with pain the better you get at faking being well. It can be so empowering when family and friends do not question if your pain is real but at the end of the day you can’t control how loved ones feel about your pain. People in pain are always getting comments of people saying you look fine and are you sure your pain is real? I feel my pain every single day and even take medication to prevent some migraine attacks and I am positive it’s real! It is so infuriating when people leave comments on my social media and ask me if I am faking pain for views which goes to show you how much some people know about chronic pain. Some people are going to have a hard time believing you have severe pain when you look well but it’s not my job to convince you I have real pain and if you don’t believe me that is your problem and something you need to educate yourself on. My job is to educate you on the realities of my disabilities and although I do hope you believe me, I can’t force you to believe pain you cannot see. People will always have their own opinions on what they think severe pain is supposed to look like which doesn’t always meet the standards of what pain actually looks like.
It is okay if you skip a workout– Before I lived with chronic pain, I had no valid excuse for skipping a workout and would work out six days a week when I should have been taking a rest day and skipping a workout made me so stressed that I convinced myself if I didn’t exercise six days a week, I would never reach my goals. On good days people with chronic pain can sometimes do high-impact routine and it depends on your disability because some disabilities can worsen with physical activity. Chronic pain has forced me to look at fitness in a different way and I no longer get super stressed when I skip a workout because when pain levels are high sometimes you have to. Hip replacement surgery has definitely helped me overcome my stressful relationship with exercise because I haven’t been able to exercise like I use to and that is okay because some movement is better than none. My goal is to exercise at least three days a week but some weeks I am more fatigued than others and I only exercise twice and that is okay because sometimes chronic pain affects your ability to exercise without worsen. Most people have no excuse for not exercising but I do and whether I exercise or not all depends on how I am feeling that day.
Resting doesn’t make you lazy- When you have chronic pain and are in a flare sometimes your fatigue is too high to do anything, and sometimes you spend days in bed watching Netflix when you have so much to get done. It is frustrating when you have to take an unplanned rest day because as a blogger you can sometimes get behind in your work, but rest days are often necessary for less pain. We sometimes can be hard on ourselves and call ourselves lazy for watching Netflix all day but when you live with pain rest days are not laziness and it’s selfcare because you can’t improve your pain levels when you are trying to do too much.
A community can be so powerful– Friends and family are supportive of my disability and any pain that comes with it but no one in family truly understand how pain affect my life. If I am in a flare, I will not talk about it with anyone in my family because sometimes people will give you unhelpful advice and tell you to be more positive which can be harmful for someone who is struggling that just wants to rant. Family and friends that only get an occasional migraine will never understand what it’s like to always be in pain and it can be so powerful to connect with someone who gets it. It doesn’t always have to be someone who has experienced your type of pain to seek because anyone with chronic pain will understand the physical and emotional aspects of pain more than someone who has never experienced it. There is a huge chronic pain community online and I can’t stress enough how important it is for disabled people to build communities of people that get it because family members can’t give you the same type of support that someone with similar challenges can.
It’s okay to crave the life you had before pain- When you live with chronic pain some of the activities you are able to participate in may change because sometimes the things you use to enjoy trigger your pain and you have to stop doing them. I sometimes will play video games for short periods of time, but I don’t enjoy playing them for hours on end like I did as a child because sometimes my processing is a little slower due to migraine and it triggers more pain. I am always trying to find the positives of pain, but some days are harder than others because pain takes so much from you and it’s okay to crave the life you had before pain.
Chronic pain has more negatives than positives and sometimes we focus on thing pain takes from us and don’t see what lessons we learn from it. Pain forces you to listen to your body and slow down which is something a lot of people struggle with because sometimes you don’t have the energy to do things at the same pace as everyone else. I am not grateful for my pain and wish it would go away but I am a different person because of it and if you were to ask me what my thoughts are on the opioid crisis today, I would probably give you a different answer today than I would have before pain. Chronic pain has some negative impacts on a person, but it can also change in a positive or negative way because it forces you to look at life in a totally way. Pain is invisible and not everyone has the support system I do but if there is anything chronic pain sufferers want you to know it’s that even though someone presents themselves well that doesn’t mean it’s a good day because we don’t always meet the standards of what people think severe pain is supposed to look like. Some people will be bawling their eyes out when they have severe pain but not everyone will because pain looks different on everyone. What lessons has chronic pain taught you?
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