Please Don't Tell Me to Look on the Bright Side When I Say I'm in Pain

One day online, lamenting the fact that my hands were in so much pain I could not finish coloring a page in my snazzy new adult coloring book, I was met with this unsolicited advice from an anonymous humanoid avatar:

“My hands hurt, too, but I just take my time and if it takes me a week to color a page then it takes me a week. Remember, it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”

Cool story, but please take your candy-coated positivity elsewhere because I’m telling you my hands hurt. I’m telling you these hands used to wedge clay and spend hours at the pottery wheel without so much as a cramp or an ache. These hands gave birth to art. Now, there are days I can’t open a pickle jar.


I’m telling you my hands hurt.

These hands used to garden and grate and chop and slice and type and write and color and do all manner of things and now they hurt almost every single day. Same goes for my other joints. I ache. I pop. I creak. There are nights when I go to bed early simply to make tomorrow come sooner. There are some days when all I have is the hope that it’s going to be better than the previous one.

This body used to run. This body used to stretch. It used to climb and swim and bike and look forward to pain because it knew it was temporary. It knew it was going to be stronger afterwards. Now it has to give in before I want it to. These days the leg that would never quit sometimes comes out from under me without warning.

I’m telling you my body is different.

I’m telling you that I’m learning how to live in a body that betrayed me and it’s not easy, nor is it graceful, and it’s not going to happen in a timely manner. I have days where I’m mad – so mad my blood boils. I can laugh it off, but not for your convenience, nor mine for that matter. I cry when I cry and I’d love to tell you it’s going to get better but it’s been more than four years and I’ve still not figured it out.

So, it’s fantastic that you have found a way to go with the flow and take it as it comes and find the silver lining in every dark cloud, but I have not. Your words of wisdom fell flat. I don’t need your words. I need your ears. I’m telling you my hands hurt.

I don’t need you to fix me. Don’t cheer me up. Don’t tell me to look on the bright side. I’m telling you my hands hurt. I’m telling you I can’t perform a simple task, a task a child performs all day long. I’m telling you I can’t express myself. My creative outlet is gone. I feel less capable. I sometimes struggle to find my worth. Hear that.

I’m telling you my life has changed.

My pain, my tears, my frustration and anger don’t make me ungrateful, so don’t you dare suggest it. I can feel all these things and still know I’m lucky for many reasons. I understand it “could be worse,” but I still need to cry. I have to wallow in bitterness. Either I acknowledge those feelings, I own them, or they own me. It’s that simple.

I’m telling you I need space.

I’m telling you my hands hurt, hurt too much to hold a pencil. I’m telling you I’m sad that I want to finish a page in a day, but I can’t. I’m telling you I don’t want to take a week to do it. My heart wants it now and doesn’t understand why my hands can’t make it so. Hear that, please. Feel that broken heart of mine, just for a second, so you know I need your comfort because I’m not just telling you my hands hurt.

I’m telling you my soul aches.

I may have laughed about it yesterday or found some deep, inspirational lesson in it the day before, but today I need to be mad about it. Today I need a hot bath with Jeff Buckley. I need an extra slice of pie and the permission to be an angry beast. Today I just want to bury my head in the covers and pretend it never happened because sometimes that’s what I mean when I tell you my hands hurt.

I’m telling you I need time.

I’m telling you my hands hurt because I’m trying to learn to live with it. I’m telling you my hands hurt because I feel lost and afraid. I feel weak. I’m telling you my hands hurt because I hoped you would empathize. I needed you to be gentle and kind. I’m telling you my hands hurt because I don’t understand why this happened to me and I need you to let me hate it. I can’t be happy right now. I don’t have hope today. This moment is black. Hear that.

I’m telling you I need to break.

I’m telling you my hands hurt, but what I really mean is that I hurt and I need time. I need a few more days or a few more years to figure it out and I will. I do it every day. I learn how to navigate my anger and my tears. I learn how to get around my feelings of weakness and embarrassment and a never-ending stream of humility.

I will find my new normal. I will accept what this illness has produced, but first, I need to tell you my hands hurt. I don’t need you to solve the problem. I don’t want you to put a pretty bow on it. I need to tell you my hands hurt and I need you to hear what that means.

This post originally appeared on I’m Sick and So Are You.

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Thinkstock photo via berdsigns.

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