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17 Photos People With Chronic Pain Wish Their Doctors Could See

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When you sit down at a doctor’s appointment, it’s hard to make your doctor fully understand what chronic pain does to you each day. With chronic pain being largely “invisible” and appointments sometimes lasting only a few minutes, how can you possibly explain what your life is like during the hours of the day you’re not sitting in front of the doctor?

In these times, you might wish you had a photo you could show them that would provide some visual representation of the effect chronic pain has on your life — something you could show them if they start to question whether your pain is “really” that bad. While medical professionals should trust that their patients are telling them the truth about how they feel, it’s unfortunately true that being able to see the side effects and symptoms themselves sometimes makes them sit up and take notice.

We asked our Mighty community to share a photo they wish they could show their doctor, that represents what their lives with chronic pain are really like. These photos show the true cost of chronic pain — the missed activities and time with loved ones, the physical symptoms you must contend with, and the toll it all takes on your mental health. To those of you fighting chronic pain, we see you and we hear your stories.

Here’s what our Mighty community shared with us:

1. “Having an invisible illness meant that I had to endure an incredible amount of pain. On one hand it looks completely normal and no one thinks twice about me being able-bodied. The other hand is how it feels. My doctor didn’t take my pain super seriously until he saw the swelling in my hands. I wish the doctors could see the pain I feel on a daily basis.” — Allegra H.

womans hands, one is swollen

2. “With chronic migraines that have countless triggers and symptoms, to abort the pain I typically have to take three to six different medications per migraine that almost all cause decreased heart rate. Whenever I’m able to wake up out of the haze, I have to frequently check my heart rate to make sure it’s high enough. I also use an oxygen tank thing because I feel like I can’t catch my breath; like there’s no oxygen getting to my brain. My lips and extremities get blue. So, sure the migraines suck and are incredibly debilitating, but the methods to get rid of them are just as terrible.” — Jamie T.

woman lying on bed wearing stethoscope

3. “The side selfie. Rampant in our pages and communities. Either a signal for other spoonies to encourage you to start your day, or congratulate you on making it through the day.” — MJ R.

side lying down selfie

4. “I noticed in a photo I took today my eyes. I have had bad pain all day. I suspect I have trigeminal neuralgia on top of fibromyalgia and intractable chronic migraine. My eyes often get a purple pink undertone to them. I have pink eyeshadow on my lid but the colors under and in the bags of my eyes are true … This is the face of chronic pain…” — Jillian J.

woman's selfie outside large building

5. “I am a children’s author and martial artist. I was once able to teach and perform alongside my family, but the pain of fibromyalgia forced me to turn all of my attention to my writing efforts and focus on my books.” — Leonardo R.

man, woman and daughter wearing martial arts outfits

6. “I’ve had chest pain and dizziness almost nonstop. It’s terrifying. My cat laying on my chest is cute but it’s also the most comfortable I’ve been in a while. I swear she knows where I hurt because, whenever the pain is bad, she comes straight to me and lays there to comfort me.” — Sarah A.

woman with cat on chest

7. “Home after working all day to my meds and rest. This is what it takes to even get ready for bed.” — Daniel P.

man lying in bed

8.This is my face when I have a lupus/Sjögren’s flare. I wish they could see how much I hurt and how swollen I get. I stay in bed all day and can barely move.” — Kat S.

woman selfie

9. “You see me in the office but what you don’t see is me missing out on life. You say if I just get up and do something I will feel better but what you don’t realize [is] I desperately long not to miss the special moments in my kids’ lives. Field trips, sporting events and even just a simple hike. Don’t you think I would rather be living than just existing… 30 pills a day but nothing for pain because I just need to learn that this is life now according to you, but this isn’t life, this is just existing.” — Kat H.

collage of four photos, three of selfies and one of pill bottles

10. “Underneath what looks like a healthy, pain-free person is a chronic health condition called dystonia which causes muscles in my upper torso and neck to involuntarily contract. My spine feels like a corkscrew and the forceful muscle contractions feel like two people have ropes tied around me and are yanking me in different directions. Always unstable, just standing is a chore and the pain often unbearable. Below the surface is a story you can’t see with the naked eye.” — Tom S.

tom seaman

11. “I can’t get my daughter up the stairs at nap time so she sleeps on me like this every nap time and my oldest plays on my phone while I watch TV (she’d wake up if she heard her cartoons). Just because I can’t move her up the stairs I miss out on two hours of alone time with my oldest, or getting stuff done. But my knees won’t allow it.” — Mags D.

woman holding baby and puppy in her arms

12. “I took this selfie after leaving a doctor’s appointment and having a meltdown in the car. I was feeling hopeless because I had dedicated lots of time, emotional energy, pain and money on a treatment that didn’t help. I felt let down because I believed they didn’t put in the effort to investigate the cause of my pain before suggesting this treatment.” — Stefanie D.

woman's' selfie in the car

13. “Trying to stop crying due to pain, but the tears just hitting my face gives me more pain! My skin is super hypersensitive due to nerve damage and chronic nerve pain!” — Cassidy S.

woman wearing glasses selfie

14.I’m covered in a heated blanket with meds in front of me, a wheelchair to my right and a crutch to my left. I’m wondering how I’m getting ready to go to my meetings today at 11 and 5.” — Sherry G.

view of living room from couch

15. “If I was able to change things, if I was able to use determination to get better, if willpower worked — I wouldn’t look like this. This photo is only a tiny reflection of what it feels like on the inside — fatigue, rashes, confusion, poor sleep, chronic pain. Debilitating, awful, frustrating despair.  It all takes a toll and no one wishes this on themselves. So when I come to you for help, it really is because I need it because for me, there is no cure. Yet.” — Natasha M.

woman with red rash on face

16. “This is after a cupping therapy session. I wish my doctor was able to see how hard I’m trying to find relief without medications. But sometimes the meds are the only thing that works. Shaming me and telling me that I’ve had too many prescriptions for pain medications so I’m cut off isn’t actually helping me to live at a manageable pain level.” — Samantha S.

selfie of woman's back in the mirror showing cupping marks

17. “I wish that doctors would acknowledge that when I am present for life, when I show up for my appointments and actually get up each day, that the pain does not go away. I wish they would understand that my pain has nothing to do with anxiety, and it surely has nothing to do with what I look like that day. I wish that doctors would quit smirking at me when I state that I am at a constant level five on the scale of pain. I wish they actually tried to figure out what I’m going through instead of tell me that nothing is actually wrong. I wish, I wish, I wish.” — Aaren E.

black and white photo of woman in bed

Originally published: November 8, 2018
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