Updated: Oct 5, 2019
Inside the minds of many in chronic pain lives a chaotic cast of characters: The brutal drill sergeant constantly barking impossible demands, the scared child throwing a tantrum because it can’t do as it wants, the grieving widow(er) missing its better half and the new sheriff in town trying to enforce unfamiliar and unwelcome laws for living.
2 - People living in chronic pain already have an overwhelming amount of mental and physical input and do not want to be told how they should feel or what they should do unless they ask!
3 - When a person realizes they will not get back to their old normal they need time to mourn the loss and to slowly shed how/what they used to be.
4 - Although mourning is critical to the healing process, many people get “stuck” in grief and are soon overtaken by depression, low self-worth, isolation and immobilization.
5 - It helps to know that chronic pain is a body-mind phenomenon intricately connected to physical and emotional trauma across one's lifetime. For example, a car accident (being hit) commonly triggers unhealed memories of trauma or abuse.
6 - Once it’s clear that the pain is chronic, people need to learn to re-calibrate the time and energy it takes to do things. They need understanding, encouragement and most especially, permission to slow down, let go and relax.
7 - Planning social outings and RSVPs can become a crap-shoot because it isn’t possible to predict flare-ups, migraines or other very real reasons for not showing up. Be cool if they don’t show up and don't press for why. They already feel badly about thinking they let you down.
8 - Never give up on inviting them to social outings. Scientific studies underscore the importance of a social support system to prevent isolation, depression and dependence on painkillers and/or alcohol.
9- One of the most maddening things people living in chronic pain hear is, “You can’t tell there’s anything the matter with you” or “But you look fine.” Most don’t want to be pitied…they just want to be truly seen and validated.
10 - Chronic pain requires an increased need for nurturing. Those dealing with it may not have learned how to humbly ask for help or how to gracefully receive it.
11 - Stress in any form (even positive: e.g. events/holidays) can create flare-ups.
12 - Good days are like an oasis. People with chronic pain may push to do too much and suffer several very bad days as a result.
13 - Balancing others’ expectations with the limitations of chronic pain is frustrating but managing one’s own expectations without feeling like a loser is often far, far more challenging.
14 - Once the new normal takes place, people with chronic pain need a 360 degree level of support: mental, emotional, physical. This level of support can strain marital, personal and financial relationships.
Pain is a tough teacher - she gives the test first and the lessons afterwards. But pain is unavoidable and as they say, "Getting old ain't for sissies." Whether we have chronic pain or not, if we live long enough we will need to break open to the lessons she teaches us; compassion towards ourselves and others. We learn to surrender and how to truly give and receive love...starting with ourselves first!.