If you’ve suffered from pain for a long time, you know what a mess it can make of your life. You may find yourself unable to do things that you need to do, such as work, clean, and garden, and unable to do things that you loved to do, such as playing with your kids, playing sports, or doing crafts. In giving up these activities, you may have lost your best strategies for coping with stress. You may also have lost important sources of pride, and even of identity. “Who am I if I can’t . . . do physical work? play my guitar? skate with my kids?”
You may find yourself spending a lot of your time at doctor appointments. You may have been hopeful and then disappointed about medications or surgery or other treatments. You may find yourself withdrawing from friends and family, who don’t seem to “get it” about your pain and disability, because you look fine. You get tired of complaining. You get tired of explaining. You feel isolated.
You become afraid of activity, because movement seems to increase your pain, and as a result you get stiff and out-of-shape. It’s hard to get comfortable in bed, and you lose sleep. Your sex life is shot, and your partner is getting impatient. Your insurance company keeps sending documents for you to complete and may seem to doubt whether you’re being honest about your condition. Even your friends and family may seem to wonder whether the pain is “in your head,” so you sometimes wish that your problem were more visible. You know the pain is real.
With so many losses and changes, it’s no wonder that you begin to feel depressed and angry: “Why has this happened to me?” “The medical system has let me down.” “This isn’t fair!” You become anxious, worrying about your future: “Will I ever get back to work?” “What if the pain gets worse?”
All of these are understandable reactions to chronic pain. In a later post, I’ll explain how people can take steps to reclaim their lives from chronic pain.