An Apology Letter to My Body With Chronic Pain
I’m sorry for wishing you were different and calling you flawed. Living with chronic pain for 12 years taught me to question a lot and dislike much about you. In the chronic pain world, we’re encouraged to constantly ask ourselves, “Are you hurt or does it just hurt?” We live in a world where “find a distraction” is our first line of defense because “find a reason” and “find a solution” aren’t always possible. The absence of an explanation from you about why it hurts makes me crave reason and logic that much more, which directly conflicts with my experience of pain for which there is little semblance of such amenities.
I’m sure many other bodies with chronic pain can relate to the psychological scrutiny they experienced when they first sought treatment for why they hurt. Doctors and family members alike were determined to tell me that you’re making it up – it’s all in your head. It’s not in your head! The only things that are in your head are the decisions you make and the ways you live your life each day in spite of and because of your chronic pain.
Body, I spend a significant amount of energy and effort fighting for functionality and normalcy, which both come with their own unique consequences. For example, the cultural notions of what a “perfect body” looks like has made it easy for me to find reasons to dislike you. Mainstream media tells me ableism and thinness are indicative of “ideal” bodies; for you, that’s not realistic. It’s hard for you to attain what the world depicts as the “perfect body” because often there’s no explanation or quick fix, and in some capacity your physicality is limited. I’m sorry if there were some days I pushed you too hard. When you live with chronic pain, you’re taught to simultaneously be hyperaware of yourself, question yourself and ignore your pain whenever possible.
The dismissive nature of ignoring your hurting and ignoring you can be minimizing to a body plagued by chronic pain. It perpetuates a narrative that suggests I can just think your pain away and that it’s psychological, maybe even not real. I think this makes others perceive your experience as less severe. Living with an invisible illness means if you choose to tell people about your condition, you constantly have to convince people you’re struggling. Likewise, for you, that same narrative makes good pain days much more deceptive. I sometimes find myself questioning your experiences — asking “Is it really that bad?” Sometimes I even feel like those other, bad days are someone else’s life, a dream or something you conjured up. That’s what they want me to think! The problem is, if I’m questioning you, why am I surprised when others do, too? What accommodations, narratives and misconceptions are others supporting or creating about chronic pain that keep us questioning you?
Here’s an idea, body: rather than criticizing you, let’s (together) accept your reality, reclaim your strength and demonstrate all the ways you can be excellent — all the ways we can be excellent.
This story was originally published on RSDSA.
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