The other day, I read an interview with author Veronica Roth. This part of the interview stirred up quite a bit of controversy in the chronic pain community:
Particularly the line that suggests chronic pain is a gift.
Now, I’m not going to rip apart Veronica Roth or the interviewer. I know how intimidating interviews can be–sometimes, what we say gets taken out of context and that could very well be the case here. However, I wasn’t the only one to take offense to this suggestion. A lot of other people within the chronic pain community felt hurt over it, and rightfully so.
I can’t tell you how many times I was told over the years that “God only gives us as much as we can handle!” in regards to my chronic pain bone disorder. I’ve also heard the “this is a gift” spiel, and 9 times out of 10…the person giving me such pep talks (if they could even be called that) is an individual that doesn’t suffer from chronic pain.
Hearing things like that is isolating and frustrating. Suggesting that chronic pain is a gift feels a lot like healthy individuals denouncing our struggles.
Chronic pain is no gift; it severely impacts our lives. Every moment of every day, it’s there. We deal with people who question the validity of our chronic pain disorders because they can’t “see” them.
I am Canadian, so I am fortunate that our provincial health care covers my surgeries, but I know many of my American spoonie friends who struggle with getting affordable health care coverage.
Ignoring all of the financial burdens that come with having a chronic pain disorder, it severely impacts our relationships as well. I’ve lost friendships and romantic relationships because of my Multiple Osteochondromas.
The only gift in this is my sheer stubbornness and determination to press onward in spite of it. I attribute that to my personality, not my chronic pain.
Those of us in the chronic pain community are desperate for books that portray life with chronic pain accurately. We are desperate for novels that will change the way society views those of us with disabilities. We want a voice, and we want to be understood, but we also don’t want to be pacified.
When you fictionalize something that is a severe medical condition, you need to be aware of the fact that it is misrepresenting it. It is my hope that authors in the future will write about chronic pain in a realistic way rather than a fantastical one. We are not martyrs, we are people dealing with real medical conditions.