My ministry normally focuses on saying an encouraging, faith-building word (hopefully) to those struggling with chronic pain. I don’t often address those outside that circle, but I want to do so today. My intended audience, today, are those of you who love someone in chronic pain. There are a few things I want to say to you that hopefully will be beneficial to all involved.
First of all, we (those of us dealing with chronic pain) are not different than you. Everyone has pain in life and pain comes in many forms. Do forgive us if sometimes our “you can’t possibly understand” attitude comes off as elitist, as if we belong in a special category of suffering. Pain, of all kinds, is always deeply personal and no good comes out of trying to “one-up” each other over the kind of pain we are dealing with, like two old war veterans dueling by showing off old battle scars!
However, something profound has happened to those of us in chronic pain. We eventually lose our sense of remembering what it was like to not be in pain. I think this is what we aim to express when we saying something like, “You don’t understand what I am going through.” That sentiment is born out of the frustration of how difficult it is to relate what we really feel, not just the sensation of constant pain, but the nearly inexpressible ways that our fight with pain has impacted everything else.
Also, please forgive us when we inadvertently diminish your pain. When your back hurts, it isn’t somehow lessened because mine has hurt every day for the last few years. I mean that sincerely. If anything, I should be growing in empathy for any kind of suffering of those close to me. It is a knee-jerk reaction, that my first thought is about myself when I hear about your pain instead of showing concern for you. I noticed that the “we” fell out of my writing in this paragraph and the “I” became prominent. I know I cannot speak for all those with chronic pain when discussing my failings, but I have a suspicion that most fellow spoonies can relate.
We do love those who share this painful journey with us. Truthfully, we couldn’t do it without you. I do hope you will believe us when we tell you we are hurting. It is by nature hard to tell people that you love “no” and a burden to disappoint others. So, please know that when we tell you that we can’t do something that we have measured that decision before we declared it.
And above all, please do not try to fix us by encouraging us to be mentally tougher, or trying the latest remedy you read on the internet, or heard from your hair stylist. There is no magic cure for those who are chronically ill. We have spent countless hours with doctors and other medical professionals trying to get our lives as manageable as possible. We probably have tried various diets (and some may have helped). We have learned how to be resourceful and seek out information that we need. You are very, very unlikely to possess the key to our better health, no matter how well giving up diet sodas worked out for Aunt Suzie.
We don’t need to be fixed, but we do need your love and support. We need you to believe us and listen to us. Every once in a while, we may just need to vent or cry a bit about how difficult our life has become. If you want to help, join us on the ash heap and cry with us a while. We won’t stay in that state forever. We know how to pick up ourselves up and carry on. We’ve been doing it for a while now.
We love you and we want to support you. We need your love and support. If we never had to deal with chronic pain, that would still be true. It isn’t truer because of chronic pain, but we may be more aware of the need we have for each other. And in that, there may be a blessing. Let’s be sure we don’t waste it!