The Pain Facade

One thing we learn when we have chronic pain fairly early on is the Facade. That we should to some degree mask our pain for many reasons. Some of these valid reasons. Some of these reasons based on exposure to stigma. Some of these reasons based on societal norms.


I have to admit that I am fascinated with the process because of the fact it is so layered. Both necessary and a product of culture and stigma.

In some sense a part of me loathes it. I loathe the fact that we hide so much of our pain. Because we don’t want to be seen to complain so much. Because others do not want to hear it and when they do they never seem to understand it. Because talking about it is never quite appropriate. Because it seems to be more appropriate that we suffer in silence, but also be Productive. That would be far more appropriate.

Yet I cannot deny that there is a layer of functionality to the facade. We hide our pain from those who love us and who we love because they do not like to see us suffer and because they do not know what to do about that suffering. They can to some extent see it better than anyone else we will encounter in our lives, but we try to hide the depth of our suffering nonetheless.

We also hide our pain, and talk about it less certainly, in work environments simply because it is not appropriate in that environment and also to some extent it helps us to use work as a distraction to not think about the pain we are in, not discuss it, and focus instead on what we are doing. I used to also make a lot of jokes as well to get past the pain. You want to function through it, and that means not discussing it or expressing it. Although for some reason this always seems to imply it is not in fact There, and that simply is not the case.

The irony of the facade is that we mask pain to be more productive with pain, or for the benefit of Others…. and Yet, masking the pain, makes Others doubt our pain More. I assume they must prefer us to be screaming and crying constantly. It better fits their concept of chronic pain, even though we all know they would tire of this within moments of it.

So it is a universal skill we all develop and generally we all develop it for the same reasons. Utilize it in the same situations. Encounter the same problems with it. Seems to be this universal secret we all possess. I find it profoundly astonishing for all the doctors claim to understand about chronic pain, and I admit they know very little, they seem to grasp very little about the facade and how it impacts our behavior and how we express our pain in various situations. We can be downright stoic, unless in what we consider to be the very upper ends of the pain scale. Doctors fail to consider this though. We don’t have the right ‘pain behaviors’. They logically know this, of course, this is why their infamous pain scale exists after all but we know the look in their eye and that look of disinterest and that ‘I think I will treat this one like a crack addict’.

But then there is that upper-level pain. I can’t say what the line is for you. Your line may be different for you than it is for me. But we all have it. Where the pain bleeds through the cracks. Where our smile becomes fixed and hard to hold, then fades altogether… just impossible to maintain. Your eyes hold the pain and then become glazed over and zombified. Thoughts are hard to hold and you have a hard time understanding what others are saying to you. You can just lay there and just the pain swirling in your brain to keep you company. Some limited pain distractions may be possible in the passive sense, and then nothing is possible. You beg your mind for sleep. Beg it for unconsciousness. Your facade cracks when you cross the line and then as you pass further along no facade is possible. Anyone can tell you are in immense pain. The only thought you hold is pain. It is etched into your face.


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