The Mighty Logo

4 Things to Keep in Mind If You're a Teenager With Chronic Pain

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Having chronic pain is bad enough, let alone trying to be a semi-normal teenager. People try to tell you the things you can and cannot do, they try to discourage you or they encourage you to do something you know you cannot do or something that will put your health at risk.

They demote your pain and how bad it gets. They demote how your symptoms can be set off by the tiniest of things and skyrocket as fast as you can say, “I don’t feel well.”

Everyone wants you to be a normal teenager so badly that they try to will it into happening, but it doesn’t. I have had my fair share of people blowing up at me in frustration saying they just want me to get better and be able to be a normal teenager. And you probably have to.

But guess what? I am not a “normal” teenager. No matter how badly I want to be. Trust me, I get it. You try your best to live your life, but you are just going to have to live it differently than everyone else, and that’s OK. You do what you have to do. Plus, who wants to be normal anyway? Normal’s boring!

1. Let me tell you one very important piece of advice that took me forever to learn: You do not have anything to prove. You do your best. That’s it. If people push you, you push right back. And eventually they will learn and observe that you are doing your best and taking it one day at a time. The expectations people have set for me are incredibly unrealistic. They want me to be able to function as a normal teenager so badly that they set their expectations that much higher, and I feel like I have to meet or even exceed them in order to prove something.

Once I stopped trying so hard to live up to the expectations people have set for me that are not realistic and just started trying to reach my own expectations and goals, I started to enjoy life a lot more.

2. Be realistic about what your body can handle. I would rather not do that one thing today than not be able to do anything for the next few days, or risk throwing myself into a flare for weeks at a time. You never have to push yourself past what you know you can handle just to make a point or be like everyone else. I know it’s tempting and frustrating. But if you do that one thing that will push you too far today, you most likely won’t get to do anything the next day. Do as much as you can, then rest.

It’s good to push yourself every now and then, but don’t dive right in and go a mile when you should have gone 50 feet. I am not saying I have perfected this myself; I end up going the mile or more sometimes, and I pay the price. But, I have found myself getting out there and having fun with my friends a lot more by slowly upping the things I do.

3. Tell your friends, or at least your closest friends. They need to be aware just in case of an emergency. Let them know what could happen, and walk through the steps of what to do to help you in that situation. Honestly, I was friends with my best friend through the entire process of my health deteriorating. And I couldn’t be more thankful to have her in my life to talk to on the hard days and for her to be understanding when I have to cancel on our plans. I can’t even count the amount of times she has stayed in with me and watched movies instead of going out and doing that fun thing we had planned because I wasn’t feeling well. I know it’s scary to tell people, but if they can’t handle it, you don’t need them in your life anyway.

4. Don’t let doctors talk down to you. Don’t let them push you around or tell you how you are feeling. No – only you know how you are feeling. They might know how to help but ultimately it’s your body, not theirs. If you don’t like the doctor and there is another one available, try that other doctor and see how that one works out. It took me three years to perfect my team of eight doctors that respect me, listen to me, understand (or at least try to), ask how I feel about the treatment plan and give me options to choose depending on how I am feeling.

Honestly, everyone’s list is going to be different. But it never hurts to getting a little spark going to help recognize what your list is so you can keep it in mind.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via UberImages.

Originally published: April 7, 2017
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home