I am one of those millions. I have been fighting chronic pain for over two years, having been misdiagnosed with lupus and ultimately diagnosed with amplified musculoskeletal pain syndrome (AMPS) and complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). Yes, I promise those are real words.
I have often been guilty of fudging the truth of my statements when people ask me how I am for fear of being misunderstood. But this only adds to the many stigmas that those living with chronic pain face.
Everyone experiences pain differently, so I do not expect every point of this article to resonate with others who deal with chronic illness. This is meant to raise awareness and increase education about chronic pain and how it affects some people.
1. Chronic pain affects millions.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a study stating that 50 million adults in the U.S. alone experience chronic pain with almost 20 million of those adults experiencing debilitating “high-impact chronic pain”.
2. Chronic pain is often invisible.
Just because someone appears to be high-functioning does not mean they are. Pain is a quiet devil, and is often invisible. This leads to many problems for chronic pain patients. We often fall under scrutiny from doctors, employers and friends for looking healthy, but not acting healthy. The invisibility of pain leads to a lot of misunderstanding regarding ability and function.
3. Chronic pain can be intermittent.
Chronic pain patients are under a lot of pressure when functioning in public. If we feel good enough to hang out with friends and have a good time, our bodies will likely pay for it later. Pain, while different for everyone, is largely unpredictable. This means we may be fine one minute, and basically feel like we are dying the next. We only have so much control over the body’s natural responses to pain.
4. Chronic pain-related suicide rates are growing.
In 2014, research from the CDC said that around 1 in 10 suicides was linked to chronic pain, rising from 7.4 percent in 2003 to 10.2 percent in 2014.
5. Chronic pain does not make you a bad person.
My pain is unpredictable, which makes me unpredictable. I often have to back out of social functions, cancel plans, and flake on commitments . It frustrates me as much as it frustrates anyone else. This does not make me a bad person, even if it looks that way. It makes me unreliable, but that is out of my control.
6. Chronic pain is not the end of the world.
Pain complicates my life, and it sucks. But I still have a lot of reasons to be happy. Every part of my life is affected by the pain that resides in my body, but I still have a lot to live for. My friendships and relationships may look different than yours, and they may take a lot of effort. That doesn’t mean they aren’t worth fighting for. Even in my pain, I can still cling to my faith and my family and friends who work hard to make my life as joyful as it can be.
7. Chronic pain has many different causes.
There is no single cause for chronic pain. Accidents, injuries, nervous system disorders and unknown causes are frequently cited as reasons for pain. This is one of the contributing factors that makes everyone’s experience with pain unique.
8. Chronic pain patients are some of the strongest people I know.
In my journey of learning how to live with chronic pain, I have had the bittersweet pleasure of crossing paths with many other pain patients. Let me tell you, they all make me feel like a wimp with their resolve and passion for life. The camaraderie and bravery among the chronic pain community is an unfortunate necessity that keeps a lot of us fighting. Living with pain and still fighting for joy in life is quite possibly the bravest thing anyone could ever do.