When People Judge Me for Not Working Because of My Chronic Pain

A “friend” recently said to me, “I may have a guy for you.” She knows I’m single and have been looking for someone special for a while now.

We spoke over the phone and she asked, “What do you do? What do you keep busy with? I just want to have things to tell him about you.” I reminded her I have chronic pain due to arthritis and that, unfortunately, I can’t work due to the pain. I also told her that I preferred if she didn’t mention my situation to this guy since that’s something I like to personally relay once I know someone.

When I didn’t hear back from her, I reached out to her via text message and asked whatever happened with that guy. Her response was harsh to say the least: “Oh, yeah. He’s looking for someone who works, so he’s not interested.”

I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Was it the fact that my biggest insecurity was staring at me in black and white? Was it her blatant disregard for my feelings? Was it her insensitivity? In actuality, it was all of the above and so much more.  

Yes, I was disappointed in her response, and I knew I could never write something so hurtful like that to someone. Clearly, she lacked empathy and social grace. But what was so painful was that I was being judged because I didn’t work, not for who I was as a person. It didn’t matter that was I good person and what my morals and values were. No, all that mattered was that I didn’t work.          

What’s so ironic about it is that I feel I work very hard. As a matter of fact, I work a full-time job 365 days a year. It’s a job called managing my chronic pain. It’s merciless, unforgiving and unrewarding. It’s not a job I chose and not something I get paid for.

Frankly, in my opinion, it’s harder than any paying job out there. It’s work that consists of constant anxiety, worry, frustration and pain. It’s a carousel of endless decisions, treatments, medications and doctor’s appointments that you can never get off of no matter how badly you try.

It’s a job that isn’t surrounded by people and social interactions. Instead, it’s rather isolating and lonely. Moreover, it’s the kind of work that is so unimaginably painful and emotionally draining, but it’s not even recognized by others.  

This needs to change. Society needs to understand and recognize just how hard we work. 

Furthermore, being young, single and not being able to work because of chronic pain is a tough pill to swallow. It’s a shame that in our society judges a person’s worth by “what they do,” and that it’s easy to feel lost without the identity of a job.  

However, there’s a population of people who don’t have a choice in the matter. In these cases, it’s not about being educated (I graduated college with a 4.0 GPA) or not being able to find work. It’s about not being able to be in the workforce due to chronic pain.

I believe people shouldn’t judge someone just because they can’t work, especially if they may be doing a much more difficult job like managing their chronic pain. I hope people will open their eyes, mind and hearts and try to look at a whole person instead of just a part of them. 

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Chronic Pain

young woman sitting on a wooden pier

3 Tips on How to Deal With Chronic Pain as a Young Adult

Your 20s are supposedly the best years of your life, especially when you’re having fun all the time and your mind and body are at their best and brightest. While this may be true for some, it isn’t the case for everyone. A topic that isn’t normally found among happy hour conversation or office lunch [...]
student waiting for public transportation

A Young Person’s Guide to Navigating Chronic Pain

So you’re in your late teens or 20s and have been diagnosed with chronic pain. Now what? I sense some of the overwhelming and intrusive thoughts in your brain. “I can’t even drink, but I have to live in pain,” “How could this happen? I’m only 20” and other variations of these types of questions race [...]
Silhouette of two women in front of a sky at sunset

To My Friends Who Show Kindness and Mindfulness About My Chronic Pain

When we live with chronic pain, we often learn to fake through it. We put on a smile or take on the resting pain face. Very few know the actual pain we are in, as they do not see us beyond our masks. Even during painful flares, the mask might not come off because there is always [...]
woman staring at the landscape

To My Loved Ones Who Question Whether My Pain Is Real

As if learning to live with any type of chronic pain condition isn’t hard enough, some of us may also have to cope with a loved one who questions if our pain is real. This just adds to our emotional trauma of being forced to adjust to a life while living with chronic pain. Talking to our loved ones [...]