This Is What Can Happen When You Make Fun of Someone's Chronic Pain

When you’ve experienced chronic pain your entire life you may begin to believe that you need to hide it as best you can.

In my late teens, at work, before my congenital kidney disease was diagnosed, I was in so much pain that I was walking with a sliding shuffle/limp because I couldn’t raise my leg and foot without causing agony in my kidney. I had always had this pain, and was told it was gas, so it didn’t really occur to me to not just power through. I continued working two jobs, which made my health and my pain significantly worse. I could usually hide my pain, I had a life time of practice, but this was too severe.

It got to the point where I couldn’t hide it as easily over the period of a month. Well, one day, I spotted my coworkers, who I thought were my friends, mimicking me. Mocking how I walked and how I grabbed and held my side to keep the painful area from moving as I walked.

I was hurt and mortified. The exaggerated, rude motions they were making and the sour grimaces on their faces made me want to cry. I was trying so hard to get through work every day. I was doing my job extremely well, was rising in ranks, despite being in agony, yet here were my coworkers blatantly making fun of me. Making fun of my pain.

That was the day I became a complete pro at hiding my pain. I would walk in a way that caused me agony, because I didn’t want to be noticed. I would go and crouch and hide in corners when I couldn’t take the pain. I learned how to smile, joke around and be normal, all while my kidney was extremely infected and slowly becoming obstructed, off and on, by an enormous, moving kidney stone.

Even then, I waited weeks, until I was vomiting and crying, before going to the hospital. I had always been told it was gas, and that I was just a wimp when it came to pain. I was a teen girl, embarrassed to go to the ER for intestinal gas pain. I was afraid I’d be mocked there, too.

I wasn’t mocked, but by the time I went to the hospital, hiding my pain had become second nature. I thought I was expressing my pain. I told them it was extremely painful, but I was sent home by the ER doctor, despite really horrible urine results, because I “wasn’t in enough pain for it to be a kidney stone or anything serious.” They said it was a bladder infection. Sent me home with no pain meds and antibiotics.

I started hallucinating after I got home. Vomiting, screaming and hallucinating. I went back to the ER. They did a kidney scan, and then I heard a doctor raising her voice as nurses kept pumping me full of more and more morphine, to try to ease my pain and stop my screaming. The doctor was freaking out that I had been sent home previously. My urine had had so much blood and protein in it that I discovered that’s why the first doctor asked me five times if I was on my period. I had told her no, but she seemed to think I was lying. I then heard the doctor making a complaint report against the previous doctor who had sent me home, hours before. I heard that I could have died. My kidney had shut down and was extremely swollen from all the urine stuck inside of it. It also became very infected in the hours between being sent home and going back. I also learned that I hadn’t even had any infection in my urine the first time around.

Then, an ambulance came and rushed me to another hospital where the urologists specialize, and I had emergency surgery.

I could have died, I think partly because I became too skilled at hiding my pain. It became natural, the norm, to give an outward facade of being fine.

I still struggle with showing my pain to others. I try, but I’ve had a few other instances where my inability to express it the way a typical person does has caused doctors to miss when I needed other emergency surgeries.

Please. Don’t make fun of how people look or walk when they are in pain. It can have devastating consequences. It can hurt both emotionally and physically.

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Thinkstock photo by Tishchenko

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