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6 Things I Keep in Mind When Someone Invalidates My Pain

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Here’s the thing about pain: everybody experiences it differently. And as someone with chronic pain, it’s hard to remember a time when I don’t feel pain. And sometimes, that means that I forget there are people out there who don’t have the same experiences as me. Which also means they don’t always act or speak the way I need them to.

Some days, when there are flares and you run out of spoons, sometimes all I want is to have someone say, “It’s OK to be in pain. I know your pain sucks. I wish I could help.” I just want to know someone understands, but when they dismiss or invalidate my pain, it makes it that much harder.

The next time that happens, these are the things I recommend keeping in mind:

1. They may not be doing it on purpose.

We have certain people in our lives for a reason; we picked them and they picked us back. They’re good people and so are you and when they’re being insensitive, they might not be doing it on purpose. They love you and they love having you in their lives – why would they want to hurt you?

2. Don’t take it too personally.

Being a person in the modern world is hard. From personal to work to political to global aspects, we all have a million things to deal with. Sure, we have to deal with pain on top of that, but sometimes people get caught up in their own lives and don’t always have the time and resources to help you the way you need it to.

3. Reach out to someone who understands.

Talk to somebody! Someone who understands what you’ve been through and what you are currently going through. Sure, they say complaining and dwelling on pain isn’t productive, but sometimes all it takes is knowing you’re not alone.

4. Do some research.

You are not alone! If you’re up to it, grab your phone, a tablet, your laptop, and do a little research. See what others do during their flare-ups and see if you can incorporate some of their tips and tricks into your own self-care sessions. You’d be surprised what others do – the internet is a wonderful, and powerful, place.

5. Be patient and explain.

It hurts, physically and mentally, when pain hits and someone ignores it. It makes you feel belittled or patronized when someone says your pain isn’t real – because you know that it is. You can feel it, even if they can’t see it. But be patient. I think now is the time to rise above and be the teacher. Be calm and patient and explain what and how you feel – physically and emotionally.

6. Know when it is enough.

Despite being patient and willing to teach, some people are not willing to learn. And if they consistently dismiss or invalidate your pain, even after multiple attempts to have real conversations about it, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your relationship or conversations with them. It’s not giving up, it’s picking your battles. And sometimes it’s just not worth the fight.

Chronic pain sucks. Trust me, I know. And there’s nothing more frustrating than someone saying it’s “not that bad,” that “they’ve had worse,” and to “stop complaining.” But there is also a plethora of people out there who know and understand your pain and are there to support you along the way. I know your pain is real. It’s as real as mine. Let’s get through it together.

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Thinkstock photo by Archv

Originally published: March 29, 2017
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