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 it’s not true.”
Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope, and nope.
If I had a penny for every time I heard a phrase like this over the years, I would be a millionaire. The worst part is that some people actually say this in a condescending jealous tone and when my response is not what they expect, they follow it up with a similar response.
I have learned to just smile and move on when I hear comments like these. It’s better not to engage in conversations where individuals already have their minds made up. It’s not their fault either. They are stressed from their everyday life and simply just yearn for a day off. Unfortunately, a “regular” day off is not the same as a “day off” for someone with a chronic illness.
Let me show you why.
Regular Day Off:
You are healthy.
You get a good night’s sleep – anywhere between five to eight (solid) hours.
You wake up with nothing aching.
You are able to get out of bed with or without snoozing for 10 minutes.
You can easily brush your teeth, your hair, shower, and change your clothes.
Breakfast? Piece of cake.
Taking an hour or two to respond to emails, messages, or social media is simple and does not require more physical or mental energy than any other activity. In fact, it can be rewarding to be able to attend to your correspondences in a timely and efficient manner, leaving the rest of the day free.
You get to plan out your day with either your spouse, parents, or children as you wish.
If things do not go as planned, you are able to find an alternative solution and carry on without any hiccups.
You have the option of just lounging at home, running errands, or socializing as you please.
You get the picture.
Chronic Pain Day Off:
Sleep? What’s that? You’re lucky if you get two to three broken hours of sleep a day.
You wake up with dull aches all over your body. Don’t forget that migraine you’ve been nursing for the past few days.
Oh crap, another one of your organs has decided to play games. Who knows how long this will last.
Oh right, the alarm. Fudge.
You lie in bed for another 30 minutes – or however many hours it takes for you to become functional.
You contemplate whether you can brush your teeth standing or sitting today.
Is it even necessary? Can I just go back to bed?
Do I have to shower? My skin hurts. Fudge it, I’ll just comb my hair for now.
PJs it is.
You somehow make it downstairs and curl up on the sofa.
You got yourself a glass of water if you were lucky enough to remember.
Oh damn, you forgot your pills. You know, the pills you eat like candy in order to survive on the couch.
Eventually, you muster up enough courage to walk over to get the most convenient breakfast you can find along with your 10 bottles of medication.
Back on the couch, you go.
You contemplate putting on the TV as background noise and pray that the TV doesn’t overstimulate you, or worsen your migraine.
You ignore calls and messages unless:
1. You have the mental and physical energy to read, write and/or talk.
2. It is extremely urgent.
You are forced to cancel all events now and in the near future.
You hope someone feeds you.
And that’s just the morning.
This goes on all day, every day. The events may vary later on in the day for most people, but this is no exaggeration of how a person with chronic illness spends most of their days “off.”
No, I do not think chronic pain is a gift. It is very hard to eat, sleep, communicate with others, and go to school or work. Believe it or not, some of us enjoy having a functional life. Or enjoyed, rather. Think back to the days where you were off work or school for the holidays and were bored out of your minds by the second day. Now add just the morning that I have written about to those two days. Repeat.
In my experience, it hasn’t been all it’s cracked up to be. Not everyone living in pain, like myself, believes it is a gift.
Please do not suggest that people use their chronic pain as an excuse to get out of activities or events. That is extremely disrespectful. It does not make it better if you are good friends. Just refrain from making such comments.
Please be more empathetic to those around you with chronic pain. Instead, ask your friends and family living with chronic pain what they go through during their time at home. Genuinely ask them if they need any assistance. Try to put yourself in their shoes before you tell them you wish you could trade places.
Better yet, just don’t say anything. Many people living with chronic pain will go out of their way to give you the benefit of the doubt. They will explain it to you numerous times, until they decide it’s not worth it anymore. Please do not add to their chronic pain by belittling their experience.
It truly is not a gift.
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