After 13 Years in the Medical Field, I Now Understand Chronic Pain

I have been a nurse for 13 years. I love being a nurse and always try to keep up to date on the latest care practices. I am constantly attending education sessions and reading new material in hopes to provide the best care for my patients. I really hope they feel I have provided them with compassionate and empathetic care. I always love learning new skills and have enjoyed teaching these skills to new staff.

Unfortunately, I am currently learning something new. I am learning something you cannot learn in a classroom or read in a textbook. I am learning something I thought I understood and that I thought I knew how to care for. I am now learning that you can never truly understand chronic pain until you have lived it.

There are many facets of chronic pain and many varying degrees of the pain. No two persons with the same disease may struggle the same way. The thing about chronic pain is that it isn’t always visible. What I mean by this is, on the outside a person may look pretty good – but on the inside they are likely in true agony. I think this difficulty to see the pain is why it is hard for people to understand, my previous “healthy” self included. The last couple years have really opened my eyes and I now have a completely different understanding of chronic pain.

I now understand what it is like to be standing around your family, friends and co-workers and want to scream because your body hurts so much. I understand what it is like listening to someone talk about their sore ear when your hips, knees, shoulders and wrists feel like they were hit with a baseball bat. I understand what it is like to be utterly exhausted and sleep 10 hours every day. I understand what it feels like to want just one ”good day.”

I understand what it’s like to be crying on your floor and begging the pain to stop, your pain rating well above any stupid one to 10 chart. I understand that pain finally stopping and you get up shower and go to work like nothing ever happened. I understand what it’s like to look at a flight of stairs (even though you are athletic/were athletic) and be concerned that your knees and hips might give out on the way down, or be in excruciating pain on the way up. I understand trying to put your shirt on without crying from the pain in your shoulders. I understand the insomnia that comes from the inability to sleep because lucky you, your pain gets worse at night. I understand lying to your family members about just how horrible you feel because it breaks your heart to tell them. I understand seeing in the eyes of others, that they don’t believe you.

I now understand why a person would take narcotics regularly for pain for just one minute of relief. I can now see how a person becomes depressed because they feel like nobody believes them or will help them. I understand why a person requires so much time off they can barely work a full week or even work at all. I understand how people become isolated from others. I understand how it feels to function with pain other people can’t imagine. I understand what it’s like to have people constantly offering you “ magic” suggestions their cousin used to get better. I understand how concerned you begin to feel when you list the things wrong with you.

But most of all – and this I wish I didn’t know, I understand how chronic pain can take a strong person and slowly break them down into someone they never dreamt they would become.

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