Why I Feel Like I Have to Hide My Chronic Pain From Other People
Oftentimes I feel like a little kid who is trying to hide the cookie they stole out of the pantry from their mom and dad. The child knows what they did was wrong and if someone finds out they will get in trouble.
For me, I know I shouldn’t hide my pain and emotions because it’s not healthy to keep everything bottled up. I personally don’t like to show others how much pain I am really in for fear of not being understood and hearing the dreaded comments such as, “Well, you look fine so you can’t be in that much pain.” Or “Suck it up, you’re fine.” Or being flat-out told I am a liar. It is bad enough to have to live every day with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), but people who make comments like that make it harder. I have trained myself to respond with “I’m good” when people ask me how I am. I have a list in my mind of who I can talk to and who I can’t when it comes to my illness.
When you are sick, people don’t always like to hear that it is not better yet and they especially don’t like to hear that it won’t get better which is why CRPS is an incurable disease. Seeing the disappointment on their face or hearing it in their voice makes me want to pretend everything is alright and there is nothing to worry about. Deep down inside, I can feel my body giving out on me every day. I went back to work this summer after college to the same job I had the year before. My boss knows I have a chronic illness and that I go to the doctor a lot, but he doesn’t truly know what is wrong. On my first day back, ask anyone I worked with and ask any of our customers and they would assume I was a perfectly healthy 20-year-old. When I got home and realized how bad of a toll the day at work had on my body, I knew I wouldn’t be able to “fake it until I make it” at work.
That night, I had to call my boss and explain that I would be unable to continue working with him until I had a successful treatment. He answered back that your health is more important. There are very few people who would have replied that way when I admit that I look fine.
I have come to realize that yes, hiding my illness is bad for my health, but telling people and receiving rude comments is even worse. Because of this, I will only share my ups and downs with a few select people who I know will always be there for me. To anybody else out there who feels they need to hide their illness from other people, I completely understand why. As a suggestion, find a few people who you trust and talk to them. Even if they are the only people you tell your hardships too, I think it is better than keeping it bottled up. Writing has become a way to talk about my illness to others and although there have been some harsh comments, it has taught me who is there for me and has given me the courage to talk person-to-person about what I am going through and not have to hide it.
The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.