How to Talk with Friends and Family About Chronic Pain
By: David Lechnyr, LCSW
Sometimes people with chronic pain give up trying to explain things because they feel misunderstood, saying things like, I don’t want to be a whiner, I’m afraid they’ll think I’m a hypochondriac, or No one can understand. So how do you tell someone what it feels like within your body?
It’s difficult to describe. Part of the challenge to communicating your situation with friends and family is that chronic pain is not well recognized. More people suffer from chronic pain than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined, yet it gets very little media attention and the general public doesn’t realize how common – or valid – it is.
You can describe it like trying to put together a puzzle. Normally, it would take you fifteen minutes. But, how long would it take if you were hooked up to wires that gave you a painful amount of electricity every five seconds? Chances are, it would be almost impossible. The pain takes away your ability to focus and concentrate. That’s what living with chronic pain is like.
When talking with others about your chronic pain, it’s important to be honest. It’s okay to admit that life hasn’t been all that smooth lately, or that you are feeling pushed or depressed. Appreciate their interest. If you thank someone for asking how you’re doing, you encourage them to keep asking – and to continue to care. If you brush an inquiry aside, it’s unlikely to come again – the person who asked will assume you don’t want to talk. Be patient and share your feelings. Give those who love you time to understand your situation.
You can help by sharing what you are experiencing and how you are feeling. Accept help. You understand how important it is to maintain self-reliance and stay active, so it can be hard to accept help even when you really need it. When you are suffering it’s okay to let friends or family run to the grocery store for you, bring you a meal or clean your gutters. By accepting help, you are allowing them to express love in a way that’s truly meaningful. You would do the same for them.
Don’t feel obligated to maintain relationships with people who negate your feelings, or shrug off your experience with a buck up, buddy. Focus on those who believe in you and choose to help you without judgment.
Photo credit: Pixabay/rtdisoho