25 'Embarrassing' Side Effects of Chronic Pain We Don't Talk About
Anyone who lives with chronic pain knows it can permeate every aspect of your life. You might find that the physical pain causes you to adopt certain habits or changes the way you interact to your friends and family. And honestly, sometimes these “side effects” of chronic pain can be a little embarrassing. Maybe you always get strange looks when you need to sit down in unusual places or you get brain fog at the most inopportune times.
It’s important to remember that no one should ever have to feel embarrassed by their body — and if you don’t get embarrassed by your chronic pain, that’s great — don’t let us change that! But if you do, you’re not alone. And maybe by talking about the things that cause us to feel ashamed, we can help show other chronic pain warriors they aren’t alone and educate friends and family about the secret challenges you go through.
So, we asked our Mighty community to share the “embarrassing” side effects of chronic pain we don’t talk about. Perhaps you’ll relate to their stories.
Here’s what our community told us:
1. “The most embarrassing thing is who it’s turned me into as a person. I can deal with the scars and the pain. I can’t deal with the anger and the hatred. The inability to see a great future. I don’t know how to live outside my illness because it’s made itself my life.” — Elizabeth A.
2. “Having brain fog when I used to be able to remember everything, to feeling like I’m an uneducated person because I have to use small words or can’t remember what the word for something is.” — Krista H.
3. “Not having the energy to keep up with housework. My husband works all day and he comes home and asks how my day was and I’m like, um, I took a bath… and that’s it. It zapped all my energy to bathe and get dressed so the dishes didn’t get done, nor did the vacuuming, ironing, dusting, etc… I have such terrible fatigue, I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck, and our house is in disarray. So we rarely, if ever, have guests because it’s humiliating to live like this.” — Scarah S.
4. “Constantly needing a place to sit. Even if it’s the ground.” — Ashley W.
5. “The most embarrassing part of chronic pain for me… would be the inability to work. Everyone knows I’m broke. It’s a super embarrassing not-so-secret.” — April R.
6. “The enormous anxiety and panic attacks while going to doctor to fight for pain medication. So afraid of it looking like ‘drug-seeking behavior.'” — Katherine C.
7. “My funny ‘noises,’ as my kids call them. I sound like I’m 95 moving around all the time… and I’m 32. I don’t even realize I’m doing it half the time. Moaning and aching is just a part of everyday life for me.” — Janel M.
8. “A lot of my problems are being so tired. I can go to a coffee shop. I have to leave early because I’m so exhausted. Only people that have chronic pain can understand how it feels just to keep your head up.” — Kathy T.
9. “The constant need to use the washroom when I’m having a flare-up. Once my dad, brother and I had to drive from Chicago to St. Louis, and I kept having to stop. My brother got so annoyed, he was like, ‘You’re worse than Grandpa!’ And my grandpa had bladder cancer at the time. Very emotional and embarrassing for me.” — Megan D.
10. “Canceling on friends and family time after time, then having to turn around and ask to still be considered when invites go out just in case I may be well enough to attend. Basically having to ask not to be forgotten.” — Jennie D.
11. “The most embarrassing thing for me is the unpredictable days. One day, I could be having such a ‘good’ day and be getting by. The next, I could be bedridden and can barely muster the energy to pull myself up and out of bed. Trying to explain this as a 24-year-old to friends, family and work becomes so embarrassing and hard.” — Amy L.
12. “My physical appearance… I cannot wear makeup or keep a hairstyle due to sweating and daily exhaustion. I am embarrassed to go out because I want to look attractive like I used to!” — Karen C.
13. “Mixing up words/word-finding trouble. As a cashier, I need to be able to talk to my customers, but sometimes, like today, I can’t seem to speak eloquently enough and there’s a lot of misunderstandings.” — Courtney H.
14. “I get that ‘knife in the voodoo doll’ feeling a lot and it makes me jerk my body unnaturally and often I yelp or grit my teeth. I worry all the time about how it appears to others and I often get strange looks when it happens. It hurts! I’m not doing it for attention; I just want to appear normal!” — Elyse B.
15. “I pop like a bowl of Rice Krispies when I walk across the room, I groan when I stand up, and I ‘get stuck’ on the ground and have to do this awkward shifting from arms to feet to get into a standing position. I’m only 37.” — Jaime R.
16. “Shopping — in stores without mobility scooters, I dash in and out hoping I don’t 1. Fall when my left leg goes numb due to lumbar scoliosis, or 2. Fall down from dizziness, a side effect for most of my medications.” — Pamela S.
17. “I’ve got Crohn’s and it’s a struggle because my pain comes and goes like fun little surprised of ‘Hiiiiii I’m back.’ I work full time — super lucky and I don’t complain — but the sudden stabbing inside is often worse to me than when I am having a bad day and am stuck at home. It’s the nervousness, the anticipation.” — Bethany T.
18. “Heating pad burns. I have burns on my abdomen and back from using my heating pad because I have bad sensory nerves and I could not feel it burning me. I hate showing doctors my back and stomach and trying to explain. Heat was all that worked.” — Elisabeth W.
19. “Being in so much pain that my body temperature goes up and I start sweating uncontrollably. I always look and smell like I haven’t showered in days even if I just showered because I am too sensitive to put on anything other than comfy clothes, too exhausted to do my hair, and sweat through my deodorant. If I had the energy to be embarrassed, I would be mortified!” — Sara W.
20. “Constantly being ‘the flaky one’ — my friends never know if I’ll show up at our plans, or if I’ll be at home in too much pain to move, or getting sick from gastroparesis.” — Emi A.
21. “Loss of bladder control at times, which I don’t know if it is my chronic conditions and/or pain causing it or if it is that most of my medications I’m on causes drowsiness and I’m just too asleep to feel when I have to go. I’m only 41 so this is quite embarrassing and hard to comprehend why this is happening to me.” — Stephanie K.
22. “School. I miss so much, and it’s embarrassing every time I come back after a flare-up to have to explain to the teachers over and over again.” — Baylee M.
23. “I feel most embarrassed when I’m out in public with my friends or family and I can’t keep up. I constantly have to make them slow down or I have to completely stop and rest. And when you’re 23 you get looks that make you feel like you’re lazy, not dying of pain. And when I’m with my mom and aunts and they are carrying the heavy bags because I can’t, and some stranger make the comment that I’m the young one and I should be carrying the bags for them. You can’t see my pain; the only visible signs are possibly some discoloration and swelling, and it’s my leg so people don’t see why I can’t do this stuff.” — Sabrina H.
24. “Getting stuck on the toilet and having to call someone and use my spare key to help me up because my joints just would not let me get up.” — Renae P.
25. “I’m constantly moving in my seat. It gets really embarrassing when the office is quiet or when I’m sitting in an all day training.” — Tracy S.
What are some “embarrassing” side effects of chronic pain we don’t talk about enough? Share in the comments below.