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Forget What Others Think – Do What Helps Your Chronic Pain

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You overdid the night before. You spent the whole time thinking, “I’m going to pay for this tomorrow.” And you pay for it: taxes, fees, and even little bit of interest for the next few days after that. People say they feel like they got hit by a truck. You feel like you got hit by a semi. A fleet of semis.

When you have one of these days and you’re an introvert, you just want everyone to leave you alone. Just want to get through the day. Become invisible.

That’s not easy when you are changing positions in your chair every five minutes because you can’t get comfortable. You try to hide the fact that you can’t make full sentences because of brain fog and the stabbing pain you are working so hard to ignore. You sit down in your chair ever so slowly and pray no one heard the grunt you just made. I’m the “grandparent” of my friends of these very reasons. I love them, but I’m not old enough to be a grandparent yet. But, my friends all love me, so it doesn’t really matter.

But it’s not your friends you worry about – it’s the passersby seeing you limping, the desk clerk that watches you slowly approach, the person who tries to hold the door for you and has to wait longer than they bargained for.

You smile and try to brush it off. Most people don’t say anything but look at you puzzled. Some people try to interact with you with phrases like, “Bad gym day?” or, “Man, rough night huh?”Some people try to fix your problem, “Oh, your joints are hurting? Try this magic vitamin based on pseudoscience.” Or, “Do you want a Tylenol? I have one in my bag.” Thanks, but no thanks. You don’t feel like explaining your life story to them.

I am lucky enough to have found a semi-private place with a microwave. Heat packs save my butt (literally) and yet I don’t use them in public for fear of looking weak or weird. I could take the elevator, but then I’m “lazy.” I could ask a friend to grab that item that is just out of arms reach, but then I am bothering them.

Well, you know what? We should. Why don’t we do the things we know will help us? You didn’t get out of bed for them. You got out of bed for you. For your family. Because you have a big presentation that day. Because you can’t skip anymore. Because you are going to prove you’re stronger than this crap. Because you make the decisions, not your body.

You deserve to give yourself the best shot you can, even if it may seem weird to everyone else. You deserve to be there at least as much as anyone else, maybe more. I’m not saying be rude. Stand up for your self. If someone offers help or sympathy, take it. If there is an easy accommodation that doesn’t bother others, make it. If there is an easy stretch that helps you, do it. Self-care doesn’t mean only the self can see it.

Reward yourself for making the effort, regardless of the result. Doing something is better than nothing. But my guess is, your result would be much better if you didn’t let those silly healthy people dictate your habits. The spotlight isn’t as bright as you think. Or, better yet, you might just inspire someone else to do the same for themselves.

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Originally published: November 2, 2017
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