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If You're Wondering Why I've Been in Pain for So Long

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Living in chronic pain, I have often had to live with others’ inability to accept what’s happening with me.

People who aren’t in pain often wonder why I’m not better yet. “How can anyone be in pain that long?” they ask. “It’s just not possible.”

Except that I can and I am, unfortunately. It’s real. It’s physical. It’s tiring, and it demands the utmost of my inner fortitude and emotional stamina to keep going and not sink into a blob of misery on a regular basis. If you’ve been in pain for any length of time, you’ve probably experienced the same thing.

While we’re doing our best to manage our ongoing pain every day, people around us are moving on with their lives. They’re moving forward while we are staying in the same place. This can lead to misunderstandings and frustrations on both sides of the experience.

We become frustrated with our pain, with our physical condition, and with ourselves for not healing faster. Others become frustrated with us as well.

We hear, sometimes overtly and sometimes very subtly, that we’re probably not doing enough, or we’re just not doing the right things. This is often from very well-meaning people, but still…it’s so often about what we’re not doing.

We have been told any number of things about why we’re still in pain:

1. Maybe we aren’t really working at healing ourselves.

2. Maybe we just have to try another therapy, supplement or magic wand.

3. Maybe we want to stay in pain.

4. Maybe it’s emotionally based – which usually translates into “maybe it’s not real.”

5. Maybe it’s “all in your head.” (I’m never sure what that really is supposed to mean. Pain is pain. If someone were cooking up their physical or emotional pain in their head, then they must be in a lot of pain already at some level to have to do that.)

Even some practitioners doubt the possibility of the existence of extreme pain over time, as if the length of time a person is in pain somehow lessens its believe-ability, instead of proving its intensity and intractability.

Yet when others announce that our pain cannot be real, they are dismissing our experience and our reality. It’s like saying, “You aren’t real.”

It’s a level of denial, I guess. It’s scary to see someone in pain for a long time. It turns the world upside down for people. It’s not supposed to happen. Sometimes it’s easier to disbelieve someone who reports experiencing pain for months or years than it is to admit that relentless, ongoing pain can be a reality…because then it becomes a possibility for anyone, and that might be too much to let in.

And sometimes I think people deny other people’s pain so they don’t have to look at their own.

Why does pain stick around so long?

Sometimes we just don’t have an answer for that. But because we don’t understand how it all works yet, or how to move through it to the other side, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or it isn’t real. It doesn’t mean that we are wrong,  mistaken or have failed in some way, just because we’re still navigating our way through it.

Is there a far shore without pain for those of us who have lived with it for years? I honestly don’t know the answer to that question yet. I’d like to believe there is. But I do believe that all of us who must deal with pain on a daily basis are doing it in exactly the right way for us, whatever that may be.

This journey is completely individual, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Whether anyone else wants to believe it or not, those of us who have lived with chronic pain for any length of time understand that there is no quick and simple answer.

How long will it take to be out of pain? I guess the only answer to that is not a very satisfying one, but it’s accurate.

It will take the time it takes.

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Getty image by BrandonToomey

Originally published: February 8, 2018
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