You can’t see pain. You can’t touch it. Most frustratingly you can’t easily explain chronic pain.
That’s the thing, no matter what happens and no matter how little it’s understood by those closest to you, the pain itself doesn’t go away. This isn’t Schrodinger’s cat where you don’t know the cat’s fate until you open the box. No, no, the pain you feel is always real regardless of whether your family truly understands what chronic pain is.
That’s not the end of the story though, simply giving up and living with that deficit in comprehension can become a source of aggravation and lead to bitterness, resentment and ultimately some strained relationships.
So how do you get your family to understand chronic pain?
First and foremost, effective communication and the ability to find the words to describe what you’re dealing with and feel are imperative. That’s often easier said than done.
Science & Pain Medication
The definition of chronic pain
is a great place to start. Explaining that chronic pain isn’t some phantom thing
or a call for attention but rather an actual issue with how the central nervous system processes pain signals
and that your system can even become hyperreactive to pain through something called central sensitization
Making clear that chronic pain is, in fact, a diagnosable medical issue and that while not always curable, there is medication that can help, in addition to things like physical therapy, complementary/alternative treatment and more. It’s important to note that while useful, meds aren’t a 100% fix and the trade-off with taking them is having to live with the side-effects.
Pain management isn’t a zero-sum game.
Metaphors Help Comprehension
Where literal definitions fail us, painting a picture with words is frequently helpful in explaining what living with chronic pain is like. Explaining chronic illness is no easy task, people simply have a tough time putting themselves in your shoes and truly getting what the effects of it are.
Among the most well-known of the metaphors is the Spoon Theory, a powerful piece written by Christine Miserandino. In a nutshell, she explains it to a friend by using spoons as a visual representation of the very finite amount of mental and physical energy you have in a day and what the effects of that chronic illness (lupus in her case) are on those spoons. As the friend lists her daily activities spoons are taken away for things she hadn’t considered taking that much energy, all serving to illuminate the constant suffering and extra effort required for even menial tasks.
There are countless chronic illness metaphors
that can help bring awareness to your family.
The Impact of Pain Isn’t Just Physical
Your family members may not realize that the physical experience of constant pain slowly but surely seeps into the rest of your life too. The pain itself may not be visible or measurable and letting them know that the energy it takes to deal with pain has real costs elsewhere in your life: which are measurable.
The emotional, social and eventually fiscal repercussions of it can be immense and are absolutely worth sharing.
Craving support from those closest to you is natural and even if your family can’t fully grasp what you’re feeling, if they’re genuinely willing to hear you out, that’s a great start. Listening is half the battle.
The more you can get them to understand that what you’re going through isn’t all in your head and has tangible consequences in your day to day life and creates genuine limitations to what you can and can’t do. Limitations that necessitate They say honesty is the best policy and nowhere is that truer than here. Being as brutally honest as possible and pulling from your personal experience with pain can work wonders. Ideally, this outpouring can help lead your family to be more supportive.
Getting your family to comprehend chronic pain may seem like an unending uphill battle but at Pacific Rehabilitation Centers it’s something we know well. Let us be a resource not only for your treatment but also for helping your family understand where you’re coming from. Reach out and let’s start a conversation.
If you would like to learn more about Pacific Rehabilitation Centers, please read more about us
or contact us