Pain is an invisible illness. To those around you, there's no proof it even exists. There's no lab test for pain nor any specific way to explain it. There's a lack of research and data on pain, so chances are your doctors may not know the cause.
Besides, you look just fine, right? But you know better.
No one understands what living with chronic pain is like better than you: You deal with it day in and day out. And if it lasts more than three months, it's quite the silent epidemic, according to Scroll.in. Well, that's a serious health challenge!
It's understandable that your friends and family want to help. Often, though, they're simply misinformed. They may not realise the most important thing they can do for you is validate your pain and the experience that comes with it. When someone asks how you're doing, let them know you appreciate their concern. That will encourage them to continue to ask and care. An inquiry into how you're doing is also your chance to be real about what living with chronic pain is like.
So, how can you explain pain to family and friends in order to help them understand? Here's how to start the conversation.
Don't Hide — Be Open and Honest
Share what you experience and how you feel. Unless you open the door and give others a glimpse of your reality, they can't begin to understand what you're going through. Let them know you have good days and bad days, and that your pain is unpredictable. If you feel emotional about your pain or the impact it's had on your life, share that, too. It's important that the people close to you know that a smile on your face doesn't necessarily mean pain is gone.
Your emphasis on self-reliance can make it difficult for you to accept help, even on your worst days. Naturally, those who care for you probably feel unsure of what to do when you're hurting. Sharing your needs — whether it's having someone cook a meal or run an errand for you — gives the people trying to understand your daily struggle a chance to help.
Make Your Pain Less Abstract and More Relatable
Your unique experience is difficult to articulate, so it may help to explain your chronic pain in ways others can understand or visualise more easily. Try these three methods:
- Use metaphors. "Arthritis is like having broken glass in your joints," or "Sciatica is like hot bees buzzing up and down your legs."
- Give it an identity. "Pain is like an energy vacuum; the more pain you have, the more energy is sucked up from your body."
- Offer real-life comparisons. "It's like the way you feel on the first day of the flu, but it never goes away."
Share Your Story in Writing
Blogging about chronic pain, such as The Better India does, or generally putting your experience down in writing is therapeutic and gives you another path to create awareness and talk about what you're going through. Writing about living with chronic pain can enable you to educate, update and connect with others who may be in the same boat. You could also try participating in an online forum or writing a guest post on someone else's page. Telling your unique story to the world may ultimately help you feel less alone and more understood — and give you an outlet to explain yourself clearly.
Starting the conversation about your experience living with pain can be daunting, but it builds a bridge of understanding between you and those around you. It may take time and patience, but it will be worth it.
Disclaimer: This publication / article / editorial is meant for awareness / educational purposes and does not constitute or imply an endorsement, sponsorship or recommendation of any Products. Please consult your doctor / healthcare practitioner before starting any diet, medication or exercise.