4 Reasons Why It Can Be Difficult to Share 'Good' News With Chronic Illness

“So, is your back better or not?” ask nice people on the school run. I really wish I had a simple answer to offer, but like a lot of things surrounding chronic illness, the outcome of my recent bout of treatment is not entirely simple. Here is why people you know with long-term conditions may not sound as optimistic as you might expect even if something good has happened.

1. We have more than one problem.

Even though my physical problems center around one area – my back – there is more than one difficulty with it. The pain at the base of my spine has improved greatly thanks to recent injections in the facet joints, but all the
issues around my central spine, which is supported by metal rods, are completely unchanged. This is not to say I am ungrateful: being able to sit for a bit longer is lovely. I am very pleased not to be taking a cushion everywhere. However, leaning over to write or type once I sit down, which is central to any work I do, isn’t any easier, and sitting more comfortably actually means I have painfully overdone it a few times.

2. We may not have had realistic expectations.

When the base of my spine went wrong, it made the long-term pain in my higher back, neck and shoulders feel worse too. As I understand it, this is because the pain pathways in my brain got stronger. I therefore hoped that
everything would start to feel easier if my injections worked lower down, but I don’t think these things happen that quickly. Rationally I never really thought they would, but I think I was secretly hoping that I would snap back to where I was a couple of years ago immediately, and I definitely have not.

3. We aren’t sure if improvements are permanent. I have had successful injections before, for a different problem a few years ago, but the effect wore off after a few weeks. So far the recent lot have lasted for nearly two months, so I’m very optimistic, but I frankly don’t entirely trust my body anymore. It has been in continual pain since 2011 and seems to have a capacity for sudden nasty surprises.

4. We don’t want to let you down – again.

People who care for me will feel (almost) as upset as I do if my health takes another step back. Also, if I rush ahead and assume that I can commit to more things because my health has improved a bit, I will have to dump them if the improvement doesn’t last. I have had quite enough of letting people down over the last few years and I don’t want to keep on doing it.

So please be patient with anyone you know who is sounding very doubtful about improvements to their health. They aren’t just “being negative” and desperately want to get properly and lastingly better. Chances are that their situations are complicated and they’ve been let down too often to shout any improvements from the rooftops.

Getty Image by finwal

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Chronic Pain

raging kakapo pain relief cream, neck wrap and japanese mint oil

14 Products That Can Make Mornings Easier If You Have Chronic Pain

When asked what the hardest part of the day is, many chronic pain warriors agree that those first few minutes (or hours) after you open your eyes in the morning are unequivocally the worst. Maybe your joints and muscles feel stiff after lying still all night, or maybe the morning chill is causing an increase [...]
Changing sheets on a bed.

Changing Sheets and the 'Little' Big Challenges of Chronic Illness

This morning I had to change my bed sheets. It has been quite a long time since the last sheet change. I put it off because it takes so much out of me to do. It seems like such a little thing, but it wears me out. It takes me about two hours to do [...]

6 Frustrating Aspects of Being a Young Person With Chronic Pain

“You’re too young to have those problems!” “It can’t be anything serious, you’re only in your 20s.” As a young person who struggles with chronic pain, I often hear these comments from others older than me, implying that age somehow correlates with health, and by extension, you can’t have serious health problems until you’re older. As any [...]
A woman with a serious expression sitting by a window.

Why I Don't Consider My Chronic Pain a ‘Gift’

“It must be so nice to be able to sit at home all day long and do nothing!” “You’re lucky, aren’t you?” “It must be nice to have other people cook and clean for you.” “Attention is nice.” “You can probably just get out of anything using your chronic pain as an excuse, even if [...]