Why Pain Shouldn't Be a Competition


Someone very dear to me had open-heart surgery and was then diagnosed with bowel cancer. He had surgery to remove a pretty large portion of his bowel and now has a permanent colostomy bag. He went through a lot of pain with radiation and chemotherapy and had it pretty rough for a while.

We were all afraid that we were going to lose him, but he defied the odds and fought back. He worked hard physically his entire life, and at 62, he was more fit than most people I know. I think that was the reason he came through it OK. He was strong, determined and as stubborn as all hell.

As much as I love this man, he would constantly frustrate me by saying, “You don’t know what pain is until you’ve been in my shoes.” I never once argued that with him, since it was true I would never know his pain, just as he would never know mine.

We may all have the same illness, syndrome or disability, but no one person can ever say their pain is any worse than another’s.

How can we really prove how much pain we are feeling when everyone rates pain differently? According to WebMD, we all have a different threshold for pain, and what’s dull for you may be extreme for me. Our pain threshold depends on the person, their genetic make-up and lifestyle.

I was having really bad wrist pain a while back, so I couldn’t work or pretty much use my hand at all. It felt as though a red hot knife was slicing up my forearm. It’s funny how you don’t realize how much you use something until you can’t. Now I know that my pain level would have been a 7 for me.

I went to a neurologist who had me hooked up to some electrodes and started stimulating the ulnar nerve to find the point of injury or compression. Now I didn’t cry or scream out during childbirth, but holy crap did I scream this time! The young woman said to me, “I’m sorry, that was the lowest rate and should not have hurt you.” I have lived with pain for as long as I can remember, and I can’t really think of a time without some form of pain or discomfort. 

Pain shouldn’t be a competition. “My pain is worse than yours” isn’t an appropriate comment. Any pain is painful, that’s why it’s called pain. 

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 Illness

woman in striped dress

My First Disabled Holiday

Christmas carols. Over-sized sweaters. My wheelchair. I remember my first holiday season after I became disabled. All of our Christmas decorations twinkling, the smell of homemade apple pie and bread rolls filling the air, cozy scarfs loosely around our necks. I was eager to settle into a hot cup of cocoa and let the creamy chocolate [...]
woman walking in tunnel

When the Stress of Our Finances Makes Our Illnesses Worse

Being sick isn’t fun, but it can hurt worse financially. When my daughter was born, we had enough money (or so we thought) for her delivery. But when there were complications, things got a little more expensive. When she didn’t take to nursing and was allergic to all over-the-counter formula, we had to purchase the most expensive [...]
girl is flying rock and holding pigeons on flying rock , fly in the dream, shadows, life on flying rock, silhouette.

When I Faced My Fear That I Couldn't Achieve My Dreams After Becoming Ill

When any illness moves into town, generally our dreams, hopes and goals for the future are put on hold. We hunker down, take the medicine and rest soundly with the knowledge that at some point when health decides to return from its vacation, the dreams, hopes and goals will return as well to pepper our [...]
woman giving a thumb's up outdoors

4 New Year’s Resolutions for People With Chronic Illnesses

As we move rapidly through the winter holidays and towards 2017, many of us will be contemplating the widely enacted and rarely kept New Year’s resolution. While some people eschew the idea of changing their ways on an arbitrarily chosen day of the year, it seems like most people relish the idea of a fresh [...]