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When Chronic Pain Makes You Seem ‘Uninterested’

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Editor’s note: name has been changed to protect identity.

This was back just after I graduated from college. I was working at a production company at my school, and I was one of two student employees. Jane, the girl I worked with, graduated at the same time as me.

She already had her sights set on a studio in Dallas, and was going down to tour it. Our boss had an “in” with someone there, so I got to go too. It was a chance for us to see a real studio, a far cry from our three-person operation at a state university. (Read: no budget.)

It was a big exciting day. And about halfway through the car ride there, chronic pain struck hard and fast. As we pulled into the parking lot, I was shaking, and I snuck a painkiller after saving up enough spit in my mouth to hopefully get it down.

Jane and our boss walked ahead of me. The facilities were amazing. They had a room with no corners, the walls curving gently to the floor, to get that endless white look. That was my favorite part. I was surprised to see a bar in the office — years later, I have yet to work at a production company that didn’t have a bar. But at the time, it was wild to me.

But I didn’t vocalize any of this. My delighted reactions were deep inside a trembling, quiet girl shuffling along behind and sitting down whenever possible.

Jane already knew I struggled with chronic pain, and she herself had chronic stomach problems and was very understanding. I’m good friends with our boss, too, but he was never understanding about my health issues. When we got back to the office, he was a little miffed with me.

“What did you think?”

“It was really cool!”

“Really? You seemed… uninterested.”

“Dude, I was on the brink of death, I swear.”

“Alright. It just didn’t make a good impression.”

“I know…”

Jane got the job. I got a job at another studio, also in Dallas. In the grand scheme of things, that day didn’t matter all that much. I drive by that studio a lot – Jane’s moved on. I’m not at my studio anymore either. But I think about this day all the time.

These days, my pain is much more under control. I don’t even use prescription painkillers anymore, but I do still have extremely high social anxiety, and now it’s anxiety attacks that cause me to retreat within and seem “uninterested.”

It really sucks to feel unable to communicate the things you think and feel. Especially when you want to be friendly and excited, but instead you’re quiet and withdrawn.

I’m not uninterested.

I’m here. I’m in here somewhere.

Photo by Joanna Nix on Unsplash

Originally published: July 31, 2019
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