To the People Who Think My Pain Is 'No Big Deal'


Many conditions of chronic illnesses are often glossed over because they do not sound that painful or difficult to deal with, and the person may even look well. Are they just being “lazy” and “faking it”?

Prior to experiencing these symptoms for myself, I might have been guilty of certain ignorant and unkind thoughts within the privacy of my mind.

1. Joint Aches

“It’s one of those little things that old people complain about. It’s just an ache, not even a ‘real’ disease, how bad can it really be?”

That was before I developed rheumatoid arthritis and learned just how terribly wrong I could be. I learned that it isn’t just a “little” pain, but a debilitating one. Your elbows, knees, wrists, ankles and all other joints can puff up into a sensitive, red swell, where the slightest alteration of angles, an accidental brush against any surface or doing tasks such as fastening your bra can trigger intense pain.

Forget about “light” exercises — you might have trouble even walking to the bathroom. Someone I know suffered these horrid aches for four years, and she had to go up staircases by sitting and pushing herself up one step at a time, every day.

2. Muscle Aches

“Is it like a muscular ache you get after exercising?” This is the most common question I get from curious friends. (Thank you for asking!)

“That muscular ache can feel quite good, actually!” Unfortunately, this muscular ache does not feel good in any remote sense of the word. In fact, for me it is worse than the joint aches.

But what does it feel like? In all honesty, it feels as if there are thick nails pounding through my muscles deep into my bones, relentless in their drone-like repetition. It is severe enough to keep me up all night.

3. Dry Eyes and/or Mouth

You’d probably imagine this to be more of an annoyance than anything else, but it can actually make a tremendous impact on the quality of your life. Having dry, inflamed eyes is like having sand scratch against my eyeballs all day long. I used to bathe them in eye drops from morning to night, but the relief provided only lasted for that brief moment of contact.

Having a dry mouth is a bigger torture to me — a million tiny pins piercing through the surface of my tongue, throat, cheeks and lips, with a burning sensation, as if sucking on chili, thrown in for good measure.

Who would have thought that one’s moisture level, which seems like something that could be easily restored either through natural or artificial means, could be so deceptive in its ability to cause pain?

It is not uncommon for me to be kept up by such conditions late into the night, and if I do manage to drift off to sleep, it’s usually from the exhaustion that comes with enduring too much pain.

To those of you who can relate, what other symptoms or side effects did you think were “not such a big deal” prior to experiencing them personally? And to those who are curious about other symptoms — what else would you like me to try describing?

Follow this journey on A Chronic Voice.

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