Sunday, 9 April 2017

Back On The Pain Gang 

Like many, many people with an incurable illness I suffer from chronic pain. 

Pain is not often the crux of my writing because I tend to favour focusing on talking about things I feel I have some semblance of control over; like my relationships, my mental health and my attitude towards my illness. 

Pain is a whole other topic that I don't usually discuss in detail for many reasons; namely because I know a lot of people who are new to this disease read my ramblings and I don't want to terrify them, I don't like upsetting my loved ones, and I like to not think about pain when I can. Often it's none of those things and I simply can't deal with anything but my pain. 

Pain is often nigh on impossible to quantify. It's also incredibly difficult to explain to someone on the outside of your own car-crash carcass. 

My partner asked me earlier if I was OK when I truly wasn't and I said "Fine... actually no just in excruciating pain" which made him laugh - not because he finds my misfortune amusing, (he's not Christian Grey), but it was a hollow laugh where he acknowledged a bit of relief at me finally catching myself and being honest. 

The reason the "I'm fine" often comes into play is because it's easier. Not in the long term I grant you, but in the short omg-i-think-im-dying term. It's exhausting being in pain and the last thing we generally want to do is talk about it. 

My hair hurts today. My teeth hurt. How do you explain that to someone who doesn't experience pain on a regular if not daily basis? They think you are overreacting. They don't have anything to compare it to so they work backwards from their own experience and assume you must be exaggerating. We see you disbelieve us. We see you pity us. And we resent it. 

We are forced to talk about pain, namely describe it, a lot. We have to do it to help our doctors solve any medical mysteries, to get the pain relief we need, to express why we are unable to do something/someone.  

We have to tell if it's 'dull', 'stabbing', 'sharp', 'persistent' and various other words used to describe Law & Order. I don't really know what the majority of these words mean in relation to what I feel but I have to use something; it seems screaming incoherently and performing an elaborate death rattle gets you ejected from the ward and I can't risk that happening again. 

The problem with talking about pain when you’re ‘in’ it, is that it allows room for little else other than feeling it. It can be genuinely difficult to even form a coherent sentence when you are experiencing it. I suppose that’s why doctors have developed these charts; the ‘how many out of 10’ and the ilk, for speed and accuracy in treating us. But those charts don’t apply when you are talking to people outside of the doctor’s surgery. 

Pain is subjective and can be all encompassing. Tolerances of pain differ from person to person and can even change over time. When someone is chronically ill pain is a daily occurrence and something we don't always wish to wax lyrical about. That's why we try to adapt our lives around it. Sometimes that's not always possible but on good days, good moments, it is. 

We might not tell you we're in pain sometimes and that's OK. It's our choice and it might just be our way of distracting ourselves; so please be patient and don't expect miracles from us. Don’t let us see that we are frustrating you if we are. I know that may seem selfish but we honestly won’t have the energy to get into any form of debate with you, from brokering a trade deal between countries to forgetting to take the bin out, it’s all impossible.  

Give us a bit of time to feel ‘normal' again once the worst is over and don’t make us feel that we should apologise for it. Even though I’m 99.9% sure we will later anyway. 

Just be kind to us, it really is that simple.

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