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14 Things People Who Live With Pain Daily Wish Their Friends Understood

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Pain is a funny thing. Most people may never have to give pain a second thought; having to think about it only when absolutely necessary, or when it is unavoidable. We talk about how pain can be a consequence — if you play with fire, you’re going to get burned. We talk about it as our greatest challenge — pain and childbirth are synonymously linked, and pain is one of the greatest fears an expectant mother has of labor; but they know the reward is their newborn, healthy and thriving in their arms. We talk about pain as a method of strength training — no pain, no gain, push through, power on. In sports and athletics, pain is a part of progress, aches are a part of growth.

But what about chronic, inescapable, daily pain? How do we explain that? Moreover, how do we get our family and friends to understand the struggles we’re going through, when half the time we don’t understand them? Chronic pain is exhausting, it drains you, claims little pieces of your personality and can just make life a lot damn harder to get enjoyment out of — it’s hard to enjoy the company and conversation when all your willpower is going into fighting wounds visible to nobody but yourself.

Sometimes the best thing our friends can do is hit the pause button and ask us what will help us most and listen to that response. So, here is what our Mighty community had to say, when we asked them what they wished their friends understood about what it’s like to live with daily pain.

Even the best laid plans don’t always work out.

1. “When I cancel on an event, I am far more upset and disappointed than they are and that I wouldn’t cancel unless the pain was so great.” — Louisa O’ N

2. “My pain takes over and sometimes I have to cancel plans at the last minute. Please don’t stop including me in things though — it’s my spine that’s damaged, not my feelings.” — Lynne S.

We’re very good at struggling in silence.

3. “Please understand that you actually ‘get used to it.’ So, you only ever bring it up when it’s a super painful day or you’re in a bad flare. So otherwise they think you’re fine. When in reality, you suffer in silence most days.” — Lexi P.

4. “Know I will likely never express how much pain I am actually in. If I told you my reality, you would likely think I was being dramatic or just plain faking it. No one wants to hear someone complain all the time, and if I started telling you every time something hurt, I would never stop talking. So, when I do mention my pain, please take it seriously and remember that what I’m telling you is only the tip of the iceberg, but it’s bad enough that I need you to be aware of why I am limited.” —  Jenny K.

We are grieving the person we used to be, and adapting to being someone new.

5. “I wish I could be the person I used to be; I miss being myself.” — Ruth H.

6. “Just see how often my heart aches for the person I was. How much I miss my life.” — Carli A.

We want to use our energy to see you sometimes, so please don’t take that choice away.

7. “I would like to feel like I exist. Yes, there are days I’m unable to do things, but I’d still love to be invited. There are days I’d happily fight through the pain to have a coffee and conversation. I can still watch movies. On good days, I can be quite active. My weeks and weekends used to be full of lunches, shopping trips, movies, coffee, etc. Now, nobody even sends me a text message. I don’t know if they are afraid that I’m too sick or in too much pain, or if they’re afraid I’ll want to talk about my illness (that is the last thing I’d want to talk about…), I just don’t know. I don’t understand. It hurts. The loneliness is so overwhelming sometimes.” — Deirdre U.

We still want to be included, even when we cancel a lot, so please keep inviting us.

8. “I didn’t choose this. I would rather be able to go out, do things unexpectedly, be able to commit to things, etc. I’m not cancelling for fun reasons.” — Jessica R.

9. “Please don’t stop inviting me to do things. I know I cancel all the time but I still want to matter.” — Laura C.

Sometimes, we just need to be (gently) held/supported through our bad days.

10. “Some days I just need a hug. Some days I just need you to listen to me. No judgment. Ugh. I can’t even put it into words what I need or want on my bad days.” — Chelsie S.

Or we just want low-energy hangouts so we can see you.

11. “It’s very lonely and I still want to be invited. It’s exhausting and masking pain to be around others takes a lot out of me. Sometimes all I want/need is understanding and someone to come sit with me and just ‘be’ with me.” — Lori H.

But mostly, we’re just too damn exhausted for any of this.

12. “It’s emotionally exhausting to know symptoms can be ‘treated’ but won’t really go away.” — Tiffany P.

13. “The mental and emotional exhaustion. I may have gone to work, did my job and all but that takes so much out of me physically that I’m mentally and emotionally done for the day.” — Jozee M.

And finally, this particular comment sums up everything you could ever need to know:

14. “We need your support. Just listen, lend a hand on even a simple thing or just check in every now and then. Let us know you care.”  — Kristine C.

Some submissions edited for clarity.

Photo by Reneé Thompson on Unsplash

Originally published: September 23, 2020
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