Many chronic pain sufferers appear to be quite healthy and rarely have visual side effects that people can see. Friends, family, and sometimes even your doctor wonder what could possibly be wrong – you look so good – maybe you just need a pep talk.
Thus the twofold plight of the chronic pain sufferer: multiple challenges with physical pain, plus emotionally dealing with well meant advice.
‘You’ve given in to your illness; you need to fight it more’ is often followed by specific advice on what needs to be done to ‘fight it’. This advice includes:
- Why don’t you try this treatment/product that worked for me?
- Stop seeing doctors, it’s all in your head.
- Don’t let your illness control you.
- Stop feeling sorry for your self, we all have problems.
- Don’t worry, be happy.
Author, and rheumatoid arthritis sufferer, Lisa Copen, in an article titled Is Living With Illness Choosing to Give In?, shares her thoughts on this delicate subject.
“Chronic illness uses up a great deal of energy and only the one who lives within the body knows what they can and cannot do on particular days. Sometimes we have to give it our best guess and make a choice. When we choose to not attend an outing we’d planned on because we are in deep pain, we frequently hear, “Oh, you are just giving in to your illness. You are letting it control you.” No, we had to make a choice and we did. Healthy people will understand this when they reach about age 80.”
In other words, don’t measure other people by our own goals or standards of how to live life; especially if we’ve never walked in others’ shoes.
Remaining Intact In Spite of Well Intentioned ‘Advice’
Coping emotionally with chronic pain.
Just because you cannot “enter marathons, audition for reality TV contests or sign up for karate class” some people may assume you’ve given up. But physical limitations are not a measurement of determination about your disease. Each person must look at their own situation and what is an attainable goal for their individual body. It may be something like walking to the corner and back.
Friends and family often give ‘advice’ because they don’t know what else to do – they can’t make your pain go away. Helplessly watching someone suffer can be as emotionally difficult as going through it your self.
Work out a more positive way that your loved ones can support you, such as helping you tie your shoes, assisting you to run errands or weeding your garden when you can’t do it yourself. Ask your friends to just be there and non-judgmentally listen when you need to talk. Support is vital and loved ones really do want to be supportive, they just need to be guided in a positive direction.
For sound advice on beating the blues, read: Depression Can Be A Serious Side Effect Of Chronic Pain
Professor/Dr. Rothbart treats his patients with compassion and understanding. Read about his Philosophy and Approach
Assistant to Professor/Dr. Rothbart