Pain Patients Shouldn’t “Tough It Out”: Stop being Stoic

Functional.Put on the mask.Smile.Blend in.But different under the skin.Writhing, seething, beat of pain within.Adjust the mask.Smile.Functional.

 

I have literally been called ‘stoic’ by a doctor. I have talked about it on my blog before how I have developed this tendency. I believe they teach us to be stoic by their attitudes. By the time you find a good one, you are pretty stoic and locked into the habit of it. But we should not be. We should be brutally blunt about the realities of our pain.

I believe in my case it is likely both due to my personality and past medical stigma. My personality type is introverted and also reserved by nature. (INTP type) One of those personalities that doesn’t like emotionally awkward conversations and will go out of her way to avoid them but if confronted with them, will approach them in a rational way, rather than emotionally… which comes off aloof and like I’m not addressing people’s emotional needs and like I don’t feel the emotions myself (which I do, obviously, just think a rational approach is more productive). So with this personality type, I’m going to be the last one to admit I’m having a ‘problem’ emotionally dealing with anything, but I will rationally discuss the issue… like the facts, and maybe toss some research out there.

And I’m sure it all appeared great up until I tried to kill myself. Granted I gave them ample opportunity to know I was not coping with the level of pain. I did say I was not coping with the pain. I did say the words. I did express myself very articulately. But doctors need to see the behaviors and emotion, which I didn’t express. But I definitely told my doctor more than once the pain was getting to me and I could not cope with that level of pain and work. He simply was too dismissive. He didn’t ask questions or care to acknowledge what I was saying. My words were not enough for him.

And I Always under-expressed the pain. For years I did so. Because of the stigma with Fibromyalgia which I had experienced for Years. So you don’t want to be seen as a chronic complainer. Or as a drug seeker. So since they always ignored my needs in regards to fibromyalgia pain I began to see how they saw chronic pain as something that must be endured. That it was something they didn’t quite believe in. So you must just suffer with it because they don’t feel like treating it, so I did, and I coped with it. That they suspected it might be ‘all in my head’ or ‘enhanced’ by depression. So you do begin to be stoic.

However, this video is exactly right we need to not be stoic. With my new doctor, I laid it on the line. But you have to understand at that point something in me had fundamentally broken. I could not speak honestly about pain without emotion seeping into my words… so that brought a level of honesty that anyone could not fail to hear if I spoke about the reality of my existence. Rather than my usual vague statements that is. And then when I was applying for long-term leave my spouse and I, who share the same doctor had appointments on the same day and I was very anxious about my long-term leave documents. I thought she would be like all my doctors and dismiss the seriousness of my pain and the fact I could not at all cope long-term in the state I was in. I thought I would have to convince her… and that I would ultimately fail. I worried about what that meant about my future. However, my spouse had his appointment first. And he, also, was deeply concerned about what would happen if I returned to work. He was concerned I would become seriously depressed, or suicidal if I had to work with that level of pain… which in fact was my concern. He expressed that to my doctor. His anxiety that my leave would not continue and what that would mean for me. And in comes my doctor and I express my anxiety about my leave. She says to my flat out that she does not believe I should return to work yet. I was stunned. I could not believe I didn’t have to say anything. I didn’t have to express my level of pain or how hard it was to function with it at all. It made no sense to me. Until I spoke to my spouse later and realized he had mentioned me to her prior to me seeking her. Literally advocating on my behalf without even realizing it.

So yes, I believe bringing someone else, who sees the impact of pain on your life. Who worries about that is possibly a very good thing. Because when it comes down to it the habit of downplaying your pain and being stoic about it due to various reasons is hard to break… unless you have been traumatized by it and it seeps passed your facade. But we are forced to hide it so much and we are faced with stigma so often it is really hard to truly express the actual impact of that pain. While others, they can see the impact, and express it more clearly. I may lie about things, the level of pain, my coping and be really stoic. But my spouse would say honestly… she doesn’t sleep, she doesn’t drive, she doesn’t go anywhere… he would be honest about the facts. And if he was with me, then I would be honest about more.

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