7 Things I'm Tired of Hearing as Someone With Chronic Pain


When you struggle with chronic pain, or any other chronic illness for that matter, there is guaranteed to be a list of things you are sick to death of hearing. Whether it be a well-meaning friend or family member genuinely just wanting to help or a complete stranger who just thinks they know it all, we’ve all been there, smiling politely and nodding our heads as we listen to the same pieces of (usually well-meaning) advice.

I don’t know about you, but I have days where it all just gets to be a little bit too much. Those are the days that I feel on the verge of tears and all it takes is one comment from someone to send me running out of the room sobbing like a baby.

So here’s my list of the usual culprits:

1. “You probably just aren’t drinking enough water.”

It’s true – water is super important for so many different reasons, and yes, dehydration can cause headaches. So yes – I do drink enough water, and it doesn’t make one ounce of difference to my pain levels whether I drink no water or three liters.

2. “Have you tried (insert endless suggestions here)?”

At this point, the answer to this question is almost always yes! It’s been 15+ years of this and I’ve tried pretty much everything there is to try. And when I haven’t, it’s usually because I either can’t afford it or can’t try it because of medication interactions, etc. For example, I’m unable to take any drugs in the Triptan family. But yes, apart from that, if it exists and it’s available to me, I’ve probably tried it.

3. “You shouldn’t be taking so many painkillers.”

Gee, you don’t say! Believe it or not, I don’t take them because they’re delicious – I take them because without them, I can’t function. I can barely function with them! So until you’ve walked in my shoes, just hand over the pills and keep the judgment to yourself.

4. “You need to get out and exercise more. Get some fresh air, you’ll feel better.”

Oh, if only I had known that’s all I had to do! All this time, all I had to do was breathe in some fresh air and I’d be fine (sense the sarcasm). Believe me, there is nothing I’d love more than to be able to go for long walks or even runs with my dog, join a gym, or have a personal trainer – but you try walking, let alone any other form of exercise, when your head is pounding. Sometimes even just taking a normal step causes my head to split and it feels as though it’s going to explode! And yes, fresh air is lovely and I am out in it whenever I can be – I love it – but when my head is splitting, the last thing I want to do is be in sunlight or have any kind of breeze rushing around my head.

5. “My friend had that and she did this, so that’s what you should do too.”

Please realize that every person is different! What worked for your friend is fantastic, and I’m so happy for her, but if I tell you it hasn’t worked for me, then please leave it alone. I’m open to trying anything that could help – I’ll try anything once, but if it doesn’t work for me, then it doesn’t work no matter how great it was for your friend.

6. “It can’t be that bad, you’re still smiling!”

This one really hurts. I pride myself on always putting on a brave face and a smile, even when I feel like curling up in a ball. So when someone uses that one thing that I’m proud of against me, it really breaks my heart. Apparently putting on a smile means my pain isn’t bad enough to be relevant.

7. “You shouldn’t drink alcohol or coffee or eat certain foods.”

OK. I realize that these things can be major triggers for those with headaches and migraines. I don’t doubt that. However, after all these years of being this way, don’t you think I’ve already explored what my triggers might be? As I said before, everyone is different. What may be a huge trigger for someone else is not necessarily going to be a trigger for me, and vice versa. I have tried multiple times over the years – under the guidance of different doctors – to cut out certain foods, drinks and products. I have detoxed, gone on strict diets, cut out all alcohol and caffeine of any kind and then re-introduced these things gradually to try and identify which, if any, may be triggers for me. Not one thing made any difference – not even a little bit! I have gone gluten-free, dairy-free, fructose-free. None of those made a difference either. Besides that, my pain is present 24 hours a day. It doesn’t just appear when I have a glass of wine or a cup of coffee – and it doesn’t get any better or worse when I do or don’t have those things. So yes, I appreciate that alcohol and caffeine are two of the most well-known triggers for those with migraines, but I have been down those roads more than once. At this point, I know my body, and I know that my one cup of coffee a day and my glass of wine every few days has no effect – good or bad – on my pain levels. So please stop making me feel guilty for it!

As I mentioned earlier, the majority of these comments, questions and suggestions really do come from lovely people who genuinely mean well. They want to see me happier and feeling better, and I appreciate that from the bottom of my heart. I didn’t write this post to offend any of the “culprits” or to come across as ungrateful. In fact, if no one ever offered me any advice or asked me any questions, I’d probably feel that no one cared – so I’m very lucky to have so many people around me who do! But those who understand will know why I wrote this – it’s purely an outlet, an alternative to letting out a huge, deafening scream when the frustration sets in and it all just gets a bit much. We all have those days, don’t we?

This post originally appeared on Stephanie Rhapsody.

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Thinkstock photo via Poike.

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