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5 Things People Say That Diminish Chronic Pain

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While recovering from a medical procedure I had this past month on a splenic artery aneurysm, I was not prepared for the role chronic pain would play. The worst part — I may have to endure this procedure a second time, though I’m hoping that won’t happen. A family member told me recently that even if I have to do this endovascular procedure again, I’ll experience some discomfort for a few days, and that’s it.

I don’t want to say this individual was diminishing my pain. But in actuality, throughout my recovery, I spent days and weeks bedridden due to crushing chronic pain flare-ups in conjunction with excruciating pain as a result of healing from surgery.

People who don’t have fibromyalgia or another chronic illness often don’t get that chronic pain is an ongoing struggle. If my body tells me not to do something, I better listen. But even then, my whole body can go from minor aches to a complete lockdown accompanied by immense pain words couldn’t describe. Lifestyle changes have benefited me as I treat holistically and homeopathically, but nothing really makes the pain disappear. I became aware that people who don’t understand tend to minimize how difficult and painful fibromyalgia can be. I know it’s not to be deliberately insulting, it’s just a lack of understanding. Here are five ways people diminish pain and how to respond.

1. “It’s just a little discomfort.”

Insinuating that it’s “just a little discomfort” doesn’t come close to what I feel when I’m in a chronic pain flare-up. Nobody gets to classify my pain as “a little discomfort,” especially if they don’t really know. Instead of lashing back or being defensive, end the conversation. You can’t force someone else to relate, and it took me a long time to realize that.

2. “Nap today and sleep good tonight; you’ll feel renewed tomorrow.”

Taking a nap or spending a day in bed most likely won’t renew me the next day, and that’s the reality of chronic pain. During a flare-up, it can take three days or three weeks for things to simmer down. I can get my nine required hours of sleep. The consequence of living with fibromyalgia is those nine hours of sleep won’t do anything, and by that point, I’m on my pain’s schedule and not my own.

3. “Stop being negative and overreacting.”

Addressing pain symptoms isn’t being negative or overreacting. The way I talked about them was constructive, to raise awareness and educate people. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “nobody wants your negativity.” After someone says that, I decide to talk with that person less.

4. “It’s all in your head.”

Science now knows fibromyalgia is real and has to do with damage to nerves. It’s 2019, and when I report symptoms of severe pain that’s so bad it has caused swelling or other bizarre symptoms, the last thing I expect to hear is: “it’s all in your head.” It’s not in my head — it’s all over my body. Telling someone, “it’s all in your head” is blatantly adding insult to injury.

5. “You’re stressed, and that’s why you’re feeling tension.”

How many times has a physician, family member or friend said, “You’re stressed, and that’s why you’re feeling tension?” Nobody gets to decide that you’re stressed and conclude that’s why you’re having pain. It’s not tension due to stress. It’s fibromyalgia.

Getty image by MangoStar Studio.

Originally published: May 12, 2019
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