The Mighty Logo

When Your Pain Begs to Be the Center of Attention

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Pain is like a cranky inconsiderate family member. You know the one. The one who always has to give their unwarranted opinion, and can’t wait to tell you how your life isn’t meeting their expectations. Pain doesn’t care what you want. It doesn’t care about your career, or your lifelong goals, or the impression it makes on your loved ones. Pain begs to be the center of attention.

Today was difficult. So difficult that I ate chocolate in the bathtub while sobbing. That probably sounds more dramatic than it was. All day, I had this lingering feeling of weight on my shoulders. The thought of upcoming doctor’s visits, and the anxiety of having to explain my symptoms and illnesses is something that I just don’t want to do any more.

I’m tired. I realize I use this phrase often, but when I say that I’m tired, I really mean so much more than that. What I want to say is, “This morning, I didn’t want to get out of bed. Not because it was comfy and cozy, but because my body was so stiff and painful that it felt like my bones might shatter. I put on a brave and happy face for my child, but cringed at the thought of having to lift him due to the pain and weakness in my arms. I struggled with a migraine, burning stomach pain, nausea and no appetite, but I made myself eat so that I could take medication – even though I knew I would have to throw up shortly after.” So yeah, sometimes it’s just easier to say, “I’m tired.”

I think, from the outside looking in, a healthy person (well, not necessarily “healthy,” just not chronically ill) might think that we want to identify as being ill, but that could not be further from the truth. I can’t speak for others, but I know this, I miss my health every day. I want to be able to pick up my 20 pound child without pain or worrying I might drop him. I want to go on a vacation, have date night with my spouse, go swimming or hiking. I want my life back. I don’t want to have to worry about every food ingredient, or the pain and nausea I get from long car rides, or not being able to play outside with my son due to the heat intolerance and lack of energy. I don’t want illness and I didn’t ask for it.

So what do I do when I feel that illness has turned my life upside down? I cry…but then I push myself harder mentally because I can’t do it physically.

Here’s the thing, I’m not telling you that I think happy thoughts and all of my pain melts away. We all know that’s bullshit. What I mean is, I make adjustments. If I’m having trouble lifting my child (or well, lifting anything) we’ll play with toys in the floor, or I’ll sit somewhere comfortable outside of his playpen while still engaging with him. If I need groceries, but have leg pain and weakness or can’t lift some items, then I order online and pick it up. I’ve also opened myself up more to asking for help. I can’t say it enough…it’s OK to ask for help. Mentally, emotionally, physically, or any way you need help. Find a way that is comfortable for you, or well, get out of your comfort zone and ask for help any way you can.

Let’s be honest, I’m probably never going to be “well” again, but I definitely don’t want to only identify as a sick person. In the past year I have done some things that I once thought wouldn’t be possible due to my illness, and I hope to continue the journey of finding and adjusting to what works for me and my family. Mostly, I want to laugh more, have hobbies, and just be a person again. Illness may be a piece of us, but it is not who we are.

Originally published: June 19, 2018
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