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When People Treat My Chronic Pain Like an Imaginary Friend

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So my Grandpa George used to say this if we complained: “Oh my finger, oh my thumb, oh my belly, oh my bum…”

I guess it’s a good thing he’s not around to hear me whine.

I hurt a good portion of the time.

All the time.

And the fact is, there is a part of chronic pain you just get used to. A silent companion,
screaming in your ear. An obnoxious partner constantly nagging, obviously present, yet invisible to those you need to see it. I equate this nuisance to Snuffleupagus. Do you remember him? If you don’t, he was Big Bird’s imaginary friend on “Sesame Street.”  Actually, I am not sure he was imaginary. But every time Big Bird tried to introduce him to his other friends the enormous, fuzzy, elephant-like being would vanish.

This left everyone to believe that Big Bird had fallen off his rocker, er, uh, nest.

I always questioned why Sesame Street residents Maria and Bob were so quick to criticize Big Bird. Mr. Hooper spent the day warding off blue, cookie-stealing monsters, and listening to a beast in his trash cans gripe about all the singing, and Dracula constantly counting, but Big Bird — why didn’t they believe him? This was ironic to me. They were interacting with a giant yellow talking bird — was Snuffleupagus really that far off from a believable concept?

Next to me on the couch, or lying with me in my bed, is my Snuffleupagus. He is lurking behind every corner and wandering alongside me, burbling on and on the horrors of his company. And I try to explain him, or introduce him to my friends and family. He evades them, in spite of his enormity.

He’s unbelievably stealth.

Coincidentally agile.

Fascinating, something so huge is able to mimic a shadow or a specter.

And it’s not that I think my loved ones don’t believe me. However, I feel as though I am being humored, worse still, pitied. Should I complain, I hear my grandfather’s catchy, albeit mocking chant.

“Oh my finger, oh my thumb, oh my belly, oh my bum…”

I buckle down and put my chin up and pretend I am OK with them not seeing the massive, furry, long-nosed beast behind me. I know he’s real. I know what he’s up to. I know the truth. And like my other grandfather would say whenever we complained, “Heck, I’ve had worse places on my eye and could still whistle.”

Me and Big Bird know all about mammoth beasts no one else sees.

They all have no idea.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: Describe a time you saw your disability, illness and/or disease through the eyes of someone else. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: April 13, 2016
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