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There Is Both Beauty and Ugliness in Chronic Pain

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There’s beauty in our pain and there’s grotesque ugliness in our pain. In a way, you could say “we have it all.”

There are the positives that come when someone faces adversity on a daily basis. Strength builds. Compassion grows. Understanding deepens. Empathy rises out from the ashes of things we previously couldn’t comprehend. But now we know. Now we know that looks can be deceiving, that judgment helps no one and hurts everyone. We have learned how to adapt and find joy.


I can honestly say I know more peace and more joy now than I did when my pain and illness were less severe. I had to reevaluate what my priorities were. I had to take a moment and be still. Stop the constant, hectic pace of life and see the beauty that has always surrounded me.

But there is ugliness as well. You can’t have light without the dark.

And the dark can be very, very black and bleak.

The tears you cry for the pain that overtakes you. The silent sobs that wrack your body, that hurt you to your core, because even that, even expressing your sorrow, is mentally and physically painful. Your muscles scream as you cry. Your heart bleeds as you rock back and forth and cradle yourself.

The guilt you feel when you see how much your illness and pain are hurting your loved ones. The sadness you feel when you wonder if they would be better off without you. Being desperately glad they are here for you, and equally sad they have had this pain, this difficult life, placed upon them. Feeling selfish for hoping they stay, but so relieved they are still here.

The fear of the unknown. The racing heart you get before each new appointment and each new procedure or test. The uncertainty of what tomorrow will bring. The exhaustion of constantly having to be at war with your own body. The toll it takes on the body and mind, when your days consist of struggling to simply survive. When you are so tired of the fight and don’t know how you will continue.

drawing of a painted skull surrounded by flowers

The most surprising thing of all is that you can feel all of these things in one day. The strength, the joy of seeing the beauty around you, the love and empathy you can give to others due to your experiences, the guilt, the fear and the overwhelming physical and emotional pain. Times when your body feels like a traitor that is causing chaos and destruction in so many different ways.

Life with chronic illness and pain is something that can’t be fully understood unless you’ve lived it. We don’t have to live it alone. I extend my hand to you.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Originally published: July 26, 2017
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