I am just going to say it, you can repress all you want, you can be as stoic as you want, as zen as humanly possible… and pain is going to get to you. Not every day. Not all the time. But on the severe days. And when you are just so very tired of the constant nature of it all. We just cannot escape the emotional toll of chronic pain. It is human nature. But it is human nature under a constant stressor.

Text- Chronic Pain: Emotional Toll
Image: Cartoon woman's face cracked in half and half falling away

It is okay to not be okay.

I know we fake it a lot and for many varied reasons. Check out the Facade to read more on what I think about this. Anyway, we can get pretty used to being stoic. Hell, I’ve had doctors tell me ‘you’re so stoic’ and I’m like, well, you have taught me to fear exaggerating so I downplay everything so whose fault is that? But we have a right to be upset. Angry. Frustrated. Sad. And a whole range of emotions. We do Not have to pretend all is cool at the freaking time when all is Not cool.

I have written a post that says we have the right to smile and laugh and not be miserable 24/7 and be in pain without people assuming we were spontaneously cured by the chronic illness fairy. Well, likewise we are allowed to be in a shitty mood when things really suck… because, hey, we are an actual human. And this is a constant stressor we are experiencing. It is exhausting to cope with all the damn time. It is relentless. And it gets to us.

Just do not feel guilty for having a bad mood day.

Some days I am just down. I am wary about it because I have depression treated with medication and I want to be careful about it. But sometimes I am just having a down day. Sometimes I am angry because I am suffering and treatment is not progressing at a speed I would deem appropriate. Sometimes I am frustrated I cannot do what I want to do or even need to do. That my body just fails me a lot.

It will upset you that:

  • You have to miss some days of work and your co-workers and depending on you
  • You have to miss some plans and disappoint some people
  • That you’re not as social as people want you to be
  • When your career begins to falter and you struggle to find ways to hold onto it
  • That you cannot do all the things you want to
  • That you cannot have all the goals, desires, and ambitions you want
  • That you may feel like you are failing loved ones
  • Even feel like you are failing at life.

And these are all problems and thoughts that come with chronic pain. But you see, emotions, they twist thoughts

Fact is, pain and emotions are linked in the brain. Stub your toe and you hell ‘shit fuck damn it all to hell’. And we feel pain all the time so we deal with emotions all the time. A constant flux. And that takes a massive toll on us. And we may smile through it a lot but it is very stressful for us. That is why I recommend a psychologist that specializes in pain… so that we are able to freely express our thoughts and emotions and frustrations with the pain experience… without being doubted, judged, flippantly told something that isn’t going to help, cause worry when we do not want to.

When we have an emotional experience due to pain:

  • We should think about the Thoughts we are attaching to those emotions. Because sometimes we attach thoughts to emotions just automatically without thought. Like I should feel useless, worthless, guilty and other things. Worse things.
  • We should be careful to not take our emotions out on others, although it is hard, we have to understand it is an internal response to pain. And I do not mean repress the emotion. I mean finding some sort of outlet to work through the emotion from hobbies to meditation to exercise to just getting out of the house for a walk.
  • It can be beneficial to do an emotional diary where we write down the emotion that is occurring with the pain, the thoughts that come with it, and what we are doing to cope with those thoughts.
  • Sometimes it helps to just tell yourself, yes, I am feeling this emotion and, yes, it is perfectly normal. I do not need to think anything in response. I just need to feel it and let it flow through me.
  • And sometimes it helps to just distract ourselves from the emotion and from the pain.
  • Part of self-care is taking care of our emotional well-being and if you know of your self-care things that relax you, calm you, or make you feel good about yourself these are your go-to for bad mood days.
  • And I really do recommend a good psychologist you vibe with.

Things to worry about:

  • Unmanaged depression
  • Unmanaged anxiety

This is something we need to manage because it greatly complicated pain and coping. It can be difficult to manage as well and we have to pay attention to it as its own entity. Because our mental health is just as vital as our physical health.

What I think we should never feel but do:

  • Blame
  • Shame
  • Guilt
  • worthlessness
  • uselessness
  • like a failure

And when we do we really have to stop and think about that and make ourselves understand it IS NOT US PERSONALLY it is our illness. We are not to blame. It is not our fault. We have to cope and live with it, have the consequences of it, but it is never ours to own personally.

It is a big tangled mess. And that is why coping is not a linear line where we work through it and acceptance is this achieved end goal. Bam. Done. No, it is all over the place. Not a circle. But a web. Anger. Guilt. Depression. Acceptance. Back onto Denial. Then anger again. We can linger a day in one. Or years. It is just a constant flux. And sometimes we need support to wrap our heads around it all. So that we do not blame ourselves. So we do not begin to attach negative thoughts to those emotions.  The brain just does that because it is really just trying to make sense of why it is feeling that emotion but then the thought because habitual and we feel miserable because of it. It can take a long time to realize, hey, that stupid thought is so Wrong. I am not to blame at ALL. It gets really rough sometimes when we have a rapid decline in health and functionality and it can take a while to find our balance again. We have to tread carefully sometimes. I have lost myself to deep, dark emotions before… thinking it normal because, well, pain… but that was just hell. And I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. I needed a psychologist, pain management, and depression medication… in my particular case.

Just remember your overall wellbeing is important. And that includes your emotional health. We can’t always hide it. Sometimes we need to talk about it with someone.

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Chronic pain and emotions

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6 thoughts on “Chronic pain: Emotional toll

  1. Yes! Thank you! The “just smile” you will feel better makes me feel like committing crimes. To tell someone “if you can write about it, it must not be that bad” makes me want to “kill”. Continue being kind to yourself!!

    Liked by 1 person

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