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What People Need to Understand About Chronic Pain This Pain Awareness Month

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September is Pain Awareness Month, and the running joke in the health community is that some of us are extremely aware of pain. For many people with medical conditions, chronic pain is a constant, day-to-day companion. It never seems to go unfelt or unnoticed, except to passersby who often see laughter, smiles and energy, not debilitating, agonizing pain. The reality of living with and making peace with chronic pain is vastly different from the picture of health the rest of the world may see.

One of the “job hazards” of living with chronic health conditions that cause pain is never knowing what body you’ll wake up in. You could be fine one day and wake up with shooting, burning pain the next. You could feel agile all morning but have a pain flare-up in the afternoon. You could be energetic one day and completely fatigued the next as you fight against your sore body.

It’s strange to feel like you may not fully know your own body amid its unpredictability, but if you struggle with pain, you learn to treat yourself with care and listen to your needs. You discover what your body craves when it’s hurting. You follow through with managing your pain – no matter how much you’d rather be doing anything else – because you don’t want your physical state to disrupt the rest of your day. You learn to be more gentle with yourself, practice self-care and occasionally say “no” when your body’s aching and anything more than staying in bed proves to be too much to handle.

Living with pain is a delicate balance between living with a health condition and purely, simply living. It may be going out some nights and staying in others, alternating between springing out of bed and lying down all day, wincing and working hard, sleeping and staying up. It may be smiling, laughing and enjoying life’s simple pleasures, even when life seems less than enjoyable. It’s inconspicuous, silent normalcy concealed within challenging circumstances.

Helping those of us who live with chronic pain may seem daunting, but it is far simpler than it appears. See us, listen to us, help us when we ask and respect our needs. Our pain may seem complicated, but at heart, we’re all people, pushing past pain and living life, one day at a time.

Photo by Andrii Podilnyk on Unsplash

Originally published: September 10, 2018
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