The Gray Area of Chronic Pain

I often feel that my chronic pain isn’t “bad enough” to talk about. Truthfully, I sometimes even question my right to say “I’m in pain.” Yes, many others have different and even worse pain than I, but that does not negate my experiences. Comparing my pain to that of others is of no benefit to me. We all experience our own pain, and it impacts our lives differently.

I have chronic pain and will likely deal with it for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, since I exist in the middle of the pain scale most days, I feel unworthy to speak about my pain. When did I let myself start believing my pain wasn’t “bad enough” to be treated… to be noticed… to matter? Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful my pain levels
aren’t higher. I just wish I felt allowed to express my feelings and frustrations about my pain and the limitations it creates. In the end, I guess I am the one holding myself back. I find myself wondering, “Am I am the only one with this struggle?”

I live with chronic back pain. After a series of injuries and surgeries, I have come to accept this pain will be part of my life forever. I am fortunate enough to still be able to function, but the constant struggle that comes with everyday tasks goes unseen. Like many out there, my disability is invisible, and yet I don’t feel “disabled enough” either.

Maybe there are lots of us who feel lost in the in-between: too well to be disabled yet too disabled to be well.  I am a chronic pain warrior, but I don’t feel my lower levels of pain qualify me as such. I am disabled, but I can still do many things, just with difficulty. I often find myself wondering, “Where do I fit in?” “Where do I belong?”

I fit in right here. I belong right here, fighting this fight. Finding others out there who fight this fight with me. Our battle matters. Our enemy is the same. Our struggles may not be exactly the same, but we are here for each other. We do not judge each other. We care about one another.

I have  a friend with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). When I visit with her, I sometimes feel ashamed to even mention my pain and disability. She lives with some of the highest pain levels imaginable. I mean, who am I to complain? I need to remind myself that talking about my pain with those who understand is not complaining. Talking about it is discussing a common problem with a supportive friend. We are both chronic pain warriors fighting the same foe. There is no judgment.

Being in constant pain (at any level) wears you down. We must allow ourselves to say “This pain matters.” Being  disabled at any age can be disheartening. We must remember it is OK to feel this way. We are not alone. Others out there feel this way. Surely there are many of us. We can support each other. We can find where we belong. Places like The Mighty are a great place to start.

We all deal with our pain and disability as best we are able. We all fight the fight together, and we all support each other. Just because you don’t feel “bad enough” doesn’t mean your pain and your struggles don’t matter. They do. You have found where you belong. I am here fighting by your side. We just need to be reminded we are not alone sometimes.

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Thinkstock image by Transfuchsian

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