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When Someone Dismissed My Health Issues as 'Just' Physical Pain

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I was talking with someone about depression the other day, and used my life as an example for something (that’s what I do, how I explain things – I use my family or myself for examples), and then they said something that really made me stop. “Yeah, but yours is just physical pain.”

Just physical pain.

Just physical pain?!

After several weeks, I’m still thinking about it, because that person just didn’t have a clue what they were saying. They never knew how much it hurt me, and how deeply that comment would hit.

Words have always meant a lot to me – there’s a reason I’m an English major – no matter if it’s praise or put-downs, they stick with me. I can still remember silly things from many, many years ago that stung, and still do a little, even though I’ve moved past them now. And I have a feeling this comment will be one of them.

“Just physical pain.”

Is that what my life has boiled down to? People are so accustomed to my being in pain that it’s no longer “I’m sorry you’re in constant pain,” but rather “at least it’s just physical pain?”

No. It was just the one person making a silly comment when they were emotional and depressed.

I wouldn’t wish this pain on anyone. I am so grateful I’m the one who has it, instead of one of my siblings, because I can do this. I can live like this, no matter how hard it becomes. I don’t know how I could stand to see one of them have to live like this.

But back to that comment. After many, many years of hiding my pain, after lots of different doctors, treatments, therapies and pills, after medications that had bad reactions, making me cry I was in so much pain, or that gave me anxiety, depression and insomnia to the point of desperation, after a lifetime of trying to pretend to be “normal” and not mentioning my pain because I didn’t want the pitying looks, after finally coming to terms with my body and loving my life in spite of the underlying fear of still not having a diagnosis, this is what it came down to.

Just physical pain.

When they said that, the person wasn’t thinking. They would never do anything to hurt me, they were just pitying themselves, which yes, I can definitely relate to. But they had no idea what that comment would lead to. To me, them saying at least mine was “just physical pain” was really them saying “yes, I know you hurt, but my hurt is more important.” They know me well, but they still don’t know how hard I have struggled with depression, as well as everything else. How hard I struggle every day to live with that “just” physical pain and how hard I work not to let that bog me down into the lingering depression and anxiety.

For me, it’s a choice. Ever since I was on the meds that caused my anxiety and depression to become prevalent, I have been more susceptible to falling into those traps than ever before. And living in constant pain, you tend to get depressed. It’s reasonable. There’s a lot you can’t do, and you are living in a world of hurt. But instead of falling into that depression, I have learned to focus on the good, doing whatever I can to divert the depression – at least for a little while.

The results that come out of chronic pain can be terrible, and wonderful. There’s a strength, a resilience, a bravery that I see from these spoonie warriors that amazes me. It’s a strength you get when you have to go through something like this, and it takes all different shapes, from all different hardships and circumstances. And it’s a strength I always hope I shall never have to see from those I love.

This pain has made me stronger. It’s not “just physical pain.” It’s physical. Mental. Emotional. It hurts, in every possible way. But I have to forge ahead, and make a better tomorrow, no matter how much pain today holds. It’s heartbreaking. It’s depressing. And it hurts. But it’s not “just physical pain.”

Look beyond the pain. What do you see? I see an unimaginable strength.

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Originally published: December 28, 2017
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