I’m just going to say it, there is a lot of stigma with chronic pain that makes society as a whole judge us as socially unacceptable in many ways. Some small ways and some monumental ways.
So let’s start with some of those ways there are stigma for chronic pain.
Feel free to add to the list.
We can’t just seem to cure ourselves:
Society loves a good cure story. Someone ate wheatgrass and pickles for a year and they were Cured. Ensues fifteen minutes of fame and Life Goes On. None of this chronic pain thing that is just relentless and impacting a life forever. None of this chronic business at all. So… have you tried Everything to cure yourself? Are you sure? Are you doing something Wrong? You must be doing something Wrong. You know, if you lost weight…
It is immensely offensive to society that some of us cannot work:
We all should be functioning members of society after all. And those that are not are just begging off the system that everyone else has to pay for. Must be just lazy. Hell, must be nice not to work, eh? All that free time to be unable to function due to pain. Not to even mention so much of everyone’s self-identity is in what they do for a living. When you say that you are unable to work the responses range from pity to some sort of sympathy. We have a void in our lives. A lack. Something we have a hard time processing as it is and something we have a hard time adjusting to. If we have a hard time adjusting to it, well, most people realize it would indeed be a hard thing to deal with. But society as a whole doesn’t like people who don’t fit. They want to make you fit. It is all about how to get you into the workforce, even to the detriment of your wellbeing and health. And if they can do That, they will.
We simply have no ambition or drive:
We are not productive enough for society. Our houses are not pristine all the time. We cancel plans when we have to. We can be late even when we do not intend to be. When we do work it can often be flex time, from home, or part-time with no capacity to work more than that. We pace ourselves and do not have that frantic run around stressful lifestyle that is so desirable. Fundamentally, this is seen as a lack of Drive to do better. Be Better. When in fact, we pace, we have a more relaxed lifestyle out of necessity and it works for us. This is not to be mistaken for a lack of drive or ambition though. We have that, it is just limited by our limitations. So we have to keep our ambitions and goals to ones we can achieve.
They have to accommodate us:
How dare society have to accommodate for the disabled? And yet there is this sort of resentment that they Have to. People, co-workers, and some employers can resent this. Simple things like parking in a disabled parking spot. Why? You know people need those spots. Or wearing perfume when your workplace is fragrance-free. And, in general, I think we can acknowledge most places are not designed with disabilities in mind. I worked in one place where I couldn’t have an ergonomic assessment because the office design, as nice as it was, wasn’t suitable for it. It wasn’t even considered in the design stage at all that anyone might need changes to their office. Any changes at all. Not to even mention the fact at another office I worked at if you were in a wheelchair you were not going to the bathroom or lunchroom anytime soon. This covers all disabilities from chronic illnesses to physical disabilities to chronic pain. But it is important.
That we should be completely and profoundly miserable with our fate at all times:
Yes, indeed, if you have a pleasant emotion you are not in pain. You smile. You laugh. Not in pain. You do something fun. Definitely not in pain. You must be in abject misery at all times to be disabled For Sure. If not, you definitely shouldn’t be on disability. Post one smiling picture, even if you were in a lot of pain at the time and smiling through it because it was, well, a picture… you should be declined for disability insurance. We are simply not permitted a full range of human emotions. Hell, I’m not saying we don’t have more anxiety and depression. I have depression. More frustration, stress, anger, and difficulties coping. We really do. But we mask the pain, for one. And we are fully entitled to be, well, human. This is a stigma with a lot of disabilities and illness. This idea we should be in a constant state of misery. I know my depression and unmanaged pain made my life a living hell for a decade, but you know what? I still had the capacity to smile and laugh. Even in that hell. Because I am human. Because I used laughter and jokes to hide my pain. Because assuming someone who is depressed can’t smile in laugh is another stigma.
There is so much stigma with chronic pain and illness in society. We could write a book on our own personal experiences alone.
Can you think of others? Let me know