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Chronic Pain Is More Than Just the Physical Pain

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I had to retire through ill health from work when I was 28. I stopped work, but obviously my pain didn’t stop. I wasn’t fit for working and I wasn’t fit for doing anything else either. I stayed at home day in, day out. I read, I watched daytime TV, I had a few hobbies, but other than my husband and occasional family visits, I saw practically nobody.

I lost my confidence.

I could have easily become a recluse. It would have been easier than facing going out and meeting people and trying to have conversations.

What could I talk about?

I simply had nothing to say.

I felt like I only had my pain.

I thought people didn’t want (or need) to hear about  me, my pain or my life. My life… my boring life. I was in chronic pain. There is a strange mix of awkwardness, embarrassment and guilt that can come with any chronic condition. So I probably wasn’t exactly a bundle of fun.

Perhaps I had anxiety. Or perhaps depression. Chronic pain and retiring so early probably warranted that. I didn’t acknowledge it at the time, though… nor did any doctor I saw. People on the outside wouldn’t have seen it. I smiled my way through life. But I wasn’t always smiling on the inside. Now over 20 years later, I look back and realize that I was dealing with more than just the physical pain.

I hope that the emotional side of chronic pain is recognized and addressed more nowadays for other people.

I got through it, though. I think a big change happened with the more widespread use of the internet.

I was able to have conversations with people in all parts of the world. Whether I was playing games or learning new crafts and hobbies, I was actually chatting to people. A skill I had almost forgotten.

Then I discovered online communities for people with similar pain to my own. I was able to discuss my pain and listen to other people with the same problems. Our own experiences and thoughts were helping one another. I found out many of them were in the same position as myself. They didn’t socialize.

But suddenly we were socializing.

We had people to talk to.

Each other.

The internet grew. I grew. I helped people. I realized that despite my condition, I could still do something. I could still be someone. My confidence grew. It’s still growing.

I think I’ve learned that I’m not just about my pain. There’s more to me.

And in the process of learning that, I’ve met a lot of lovely people. People who aren’t just their pain either. And some of us have become good friends. We’ve never met, and the chances are that most of us never will meet, but the friendships are real.

I often say that my friends live inside my laptop. They really do. I’m just sorry I can’t offer them a coffee.

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Lead photo by Thinkstock Images

Originally published: January 25, 2017
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