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This Is What Chronic Pain Looks Like

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This picture is of me waiting at urgent care. I am in my scrubs because I just got off work.

black and white photo of woman in a medical office

I got mistaken for a nurse by a doctor who was wanting to know where the lab is located. I had no clue because I am not a nurse in this facility. He had no idea I was in pain or even a patient.

This is what people with chronic pain look like. They look like everyday people with jobs and families.

We have become so accustomed to hiding the pain that we are able to fool everyone around us.

I got up this morning put my son on the bus for school, hung out with my toddler, went to work, and now I sit in a crowded urgent care waiting to be seen because my pain is becoming unbearable today. I have pain most days, every day. Today it lingered, today it’s winning.

No one noticed that I was in pain. I put on a smile and went about my day.

When I registered at urgent care and the nurse asked why I was being seen I cringed.

I said softly, “Back pain.” I could feel the cold judgment pouring out of her eyes. Did she think I was a drug seeker, attention seeker, or looking just to get a work excuse? She can’t see the rods that are fused to my spine, or the weak joints from living with Marfan syndrome. She didn’t know that every day I am taking the max amounts of ibuprofen and Tylenol. She doesn’t know that I have spoken to my doctor about the pain and she shrugs it off saying if it gets worse we will send you physical therapy. She doesn’t know my doctor hasn’t taken more then three minutes to discuss my chronic pain. She doesn’t know that a part of me is terrified to go seek help for pain because I am afraid it will be ignored, or even belittled. It has before.

Chronic pain has its claws latched into me. I will always have this pain. But As much as I can push through it, I will. Chronic pain hides behind a smile. Chronic pain is not going to steal my days. I will keep on pushing, fighting, and living.

Some days are better then others. Some days I have to give in. I have to let the pain win.

Chronic pain might be invisible to the world around us, but it’s real. It’s a constant battle.

Originally published: August 30, 2016
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