Loving and Living with Chronic Pain

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Chronic conditions aren’t always visible, and they can affect much more than the body. The daily endurance of pain or illness can leave you feeling angry, confused, isolated, ashamed, and hopeless. It strips away your sense of agency and redefines your sense of normalcy. As your body betrays you for weeks, months, or even years, the idea of “getting back to normal” feels far or even impossible to reach. 


While there are millions of individuals dealing with chronic conditions, it is rare to hear anyone talking about it. Many people don’t want to burden the people around them with their pain or illness, especially in areas like Los Angeles, where there is extraordinary pressure to create, achieve and excel. Additionally, chronic pain can be difficult to talk about and especially hard to understand. Even if someone wants to share their experience, many times they find it isn’t worth talking about because they are met with statements like the ones listed below rather than with the reassurance and validation they need.  


As well intentioned as these statements may be, you may want to think twice before saying:

1. You Don’t Look Sick

It isn’t rare for someone with chronic pain to look just like everyone else. They have their ups, their downs, their laughs, and their cries. Even on their worst days, they can be pretty good at hiding their suffering due to the fear of being judged and misunderstood. 


When someone with chronic pain hears someone say, “you don’t look sick,” all they can think is “here we go again!” Maybe for the hundredth time they feel required to explain what their experience is like on a daily basis and hope to God that this person has a compassionate response. Sometimes, rather than having to educate someone on their condition to prove their pain and risk hearing one of the other statements below, it is easier for them to hide their pain, further isolating them from the people around them.

2. Have You Tried… (Yoga, Exercise, Diet, Etc.)

Offering advice about what has helped you or someone you know deal with pain is a nice gesture but not always warranted or welcome. More likely than not, an individual suffering from chronic pain has already been offered every exercise plan, medication, diet, activity, and cure-all idea you can think of. Suggestions like these can be very frustrating for them because it assumes they haven’t already been trying everything they can to feel better and once again makes them explain why (insert suggestion here) isn’t going to cure their condition. Instead, just listen to them! If they want your opinion or advice they will ask for it. 

3. Is That Even A Real Thing?

It is especially difficult for those who have chronic pain that exists in the absence of medically identifiable causes. Despite scientist’s efforts to better understand the mind and body connection, many individuals and their doctors are left frustrated trying to pinpoint a medical cause. This also makes it increasingly difficult for family and friends to “get it” and provide their love one with the reassurance and validation they need.

If you or your loved one is suffering from chronic pain or illness, therapy is a great place to find support and hope for relief. Therapy can empower you to cultivate the tools, insight, and mindset needed to move forward. It can be a safe place for you to share anything and everything that is coming up for you. It is time to regain your sense of self, discover a new “normal,” and reengage in your life. Come begin your journey towards living your fulfilled and inspired life.