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15 Powerful Truths About What It Means to Be a 'Pain Warrior'

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When we talk about people with chronic pain, we often use the term “pain warrior.” But what does that mean? What makes someone with chronic pain a “warrior?”

The answer is obvious to anyone who lives with chronic pain themselves: Because so often, getting through the day with chronic pain requires a fight. A fight for treatment, a fight for understanding from friends and family, a fight to keep up with the demands of work or parenting, and a fight to complete everyday tasks others take for granted. You may not be going into a literal battle, but everyday life can feel like a battle when you have chronic pain.

In honor of Pain Awareness Month, we teamed up with the U.S. Pain Foundation to ask our communities what they think it means to be a pain warrior. Now is the time to make sure everyone in your life knows the battles you face because of your pain — and how strong you are for getting through it.

Here’s what our communities told us:

1. The pain is always there.

“My pain isn’t going to go away. And that it’s not even a little bit comparable to a pain they only experienced once and can forget about when it’s gone. Mine will always be there and many days are spent adjusting activities to be able to do them ‘normally.’ This includes sitting and even holding my phone.” — Sammi H.

“Being a pain warrior is being in a battle that never ever ends… Our pain doesn’t go away and we are so very tired of fighting it. We struggle to do the most simple of tasks and we bravely smile through big moments and life’s milestones. Our pain doesn’t leave on special occasions or holidays. It doesn’t matter if it’s our wedding day or the birth of a grandbaby. Rain or shine… our pain is still fighting us. Some of us are lucky enough to have pain meds and other pain warriors have none. Yet, we still fight every breath we take. We fight in the middle of the night while others are sleeping. We silently cry because our pain is so bad. We fight a battle that never ends.” — Jenny W.

2. But the pain can fluctuate and is not the same for everyone.

“I think people tend to think that chronic pain means that we should be in excruciating pain 24/7 and that’s simply not the case for everyone. There’s many different types of pain and for me, my pain is simply exhausting.” — Michaela S.

3. Just because I don’t “look like” I’m in pain doesn’t mean I’m not.

“My doctor says I need to go into acting because I would win an Emmy award for being in so much pain but acting like I’m totally happy and feel great! That really says something about how you learn to live with chronic pain.” — Cassidy S.

“You only see me on my good days, and I still feel awful… I’m just really good at hiding it!” — Terri D.

4. Pain doesn’t care how old you are.

“I may be in my 20s, but that doesn’t mean I’m pain-free. Pain may be more likely as you age, but really it doesn’t discriminate.” — Anneka N.

5. I might have trouble doing even simple tasks, but I keep trying anyway.

“It’s a day-to-day battle… and a lot of the time it feels more like just surviving. We don’t call ourselves and each other ‘warriors’ because we’re off on these epic battles… it’s because pain makes the most simplest tasks, like getting out of bed or getting dressed, difficult feats. You’re battling everything. All of the time.” — Cole K.

“To me a pain warrior is someone who is in so much pain, that they often struggle to do very simple tasks. But they keep trying. No matter how many times they have to take a break and then start again, they complete this task. They do not give up.” — Joy S.

6. I may not be talking about my pain, but it’s still there.

“Just because I don’t complain about it, I’m happy, that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel it. I’ve just gotten used to it and refuse to let it control my life anymore!” — Liz Ann T.

“I rarely speak about how much pain I am in. So if I am complaining out loud… please know that means it’s bad!” — Janice M.

7. I didn’t choose this life.

“I don’t want to be a pain warrior. This was never what I wanted to do with my life. I went to graduate school. I built a career. I owned my own home. My life was more than this. But pain runs my life. Mental and emotional fatigue make my decisions. And I have to fight it. I can’t let my illness have my identity, so it’s a constant battle for friendship, advocacy, health care, accessibility, purpose. No one chooses this life. Instead, we have to rise to the challenge. I think that makes being a pain warrior both more difficult and more honorable.” — Sarah A.

“I ask people if they ever required pain medication, from an injury, a surgery? Keeping that time in mind, think what it would be like if it never stopped. None of us knew this wouldn’t go away, until it didn’t.” — Emily T.

8. I still try to smile and have fun while in pain.

“I can laugh, giggle and smile while in agony. I’ve been in severe pain for two decades and while it may put limits on me and my activities it will never stop me from living life, making plans and being happy — even in pain. The pain never stops, I’ll never stop. This is the only life I get, I plan on living it.” — Krista B.

“Being a pain warrior to me is smiling when every part of me wants to cry. Smiling because my pain may demand to be felt but not letting pain determine my worth. Yes I look ‘normal,’ whatever that means. Inside the pain radiates through my body like an overly charged electrical system. But still I smile. It will not beat me. I am determined to beat it.” — Stephanie W.

9. Sometimes I grieve for my life before chronic pain.

“I grieve for my old self often. I watch my neighbors leave for work in the morning and wish that was me. I’ve missed so many things I can never get back in my daughter’s life, she is far past the time of me being able to pick her up when she fell or wanted [to be] held — I’ll never get to do that. Every task requires an immense amount of planning and energy.” — Dannielle Y.

10. I still want to be included in plans even if I have to cancel sometimes.

“I still want to be invited places though I may have to cancel last minute.” — Kris W.

11. I do everything I can for my kids despite the pain.

“I can push past the agonizing wrath of Crohn’s to take care of my daughter. After a day of playing and taking care of her with a stomach full of broken glass, I’ll sit down and tell her I’m just tired when she asks if I’m OK. She’s 5 and doesn’t understand. I hope she never fully understands.” — Amanda K.

12. I can’t always predict how bad the pain will be.

“It’s not fun being in pain constantly not knowing the amount of pain you will be in. I do work but some days are harder than others. I won’t give into this pain. I take my medication; sometimes it helps, other [times] very little. But also not moving I hurt too, so it’s kind of a double-sided situation. Wish the best to all those in pain for whatever reason.” — Carole R.

“The fear is controlling because the pain is constant. When my pain levels aren’t a 10, I desperately want to try to be normal but the constant pain won’t allow for that because it reminds me a 10 could break through at any moment leaving me unable to take care of my kids.” — Jacqueline B.

13. I fight to get the treatment I need.

“Please know being a pain warrior means we are highly educated on medications, alternative therapies, procedures, surgeries, home remedies, diets, etc. to help or manage and it’s likely we’ve gone broke trying most things… Being denied appropriate care or medication for adequate pain management has become a huge concern and reality for many of us. We want people to realize that we are a group that craves to be part of society, wants to feel better, work if possible and have a shot to create better lives for ourselves.” — Hannah S.

14. Please remember there’s more to me than my pain.

“Just because I live in pain 24/7 doesn’t mean I want to talk about it. There is so much more of me to know. Please just talk to me like you would any other person. I just want to be in the moment, I don’t want to talk to about pain, I want to try to forget about the pain.” — Jamie S.

15. I am stronger than you’ll ever know.

“I often hear from people with chronic pain who are at their wit’s end about getting proper care and who feel completely at the mercy of a cruel and healthy society. I remind them that they wake up every day with the task of doing as much as they can while enduring unrelenting pain, all the while those who condemn them go about their day without having to compensate for anything. ‘What does that say about you?’ I ask. It says that you have exponentially more strength and courage in your little finger than do all ‘normals’ combined… The very last thing that you are is ‘weak.’” — Cathleen M.

Originally published: August 30, 2018
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