I would like to say that having a chronic pain bone disorder has shaped me into an empathetic person who is always able to sympathize with other people’s struggles, but that wouldn’t be an entirely truthful statement. While I am a very empathetic individual, my sympathy skills are lacking towards the able bodied people in my life.
I know, that sounds harsh — and I suppose it is. But, for as long as I can remember, pain has been my constant companion. Activities like simply getting out of bed and getting ready for the day exhaust me — never mind my daunting to-do list. That coupled with the fact that I am a parent means there are things I simply can’t get out of doing no matter how exhausted and sore I am. I don’t get to rest as often as my body needs to rest, so the moment an able bodied person tells me that they are sore — I want to rage cry, and often times…I do. At least internally.
It’s not because I believe that my pain is greater than theirs, but it’s because I’m so tired of shouldering my pain and doing everything that I have to do, especially knowing that their pain will fade in a few days. Mine feels never-ending. It’s not at all surprising that someone who suffers from chronic pain would have little patience for those who are able bodied and experiencing a few days of aches.
When you have chronic pain, it’s often incredibly difficult to see past it. You are shrouded in pain, it’s sewn straight into your skin and it weighs you down constantly. You long to be free, you long to do the things you see other people doing with the same ease. The things you do, you have to carry your pain with you.
And those around you don’t always understand it, they can’t seem to comprehend why you always hurt, why certain activities set you off more than others. Most may try to, but it’s difficult for them in the same way that it’s difficult for you to hear “I’m sore today” when you’re sore every day. You feel like you can’t talk about that [daily, consistent] pain because people often try and help you “get past it” by telling you Jesus will take your pain away or perhaps exercising might help? Then those same people will hurt themselves and expect you to understand — because in a way, you do understand, but your understanding is tampered by the fact that they don’t understand your pain. It’s like a merry-go-round of bullshit.
But…that being said…it’s important to get over all that, otherwise the bitterness will rot you from the inside out. You can’t expect those around you to understand you in your darker, more painful moments if you can’t pull out your sympathy and patience when they are suffering. People who experience chronic pain often have a high pain tolerance. For them, a sprained ankle is nothing while someone who doesn’t regularly experience pain may find that absolutely hindering. You don’t need to compare their experiences with pain to yours and make them feel bad because they’re complaining about a “minor” thing (in your mind). You know what it feels like to feel hindered, and the easiest way to tap into your own sympathies is to focus on that.