So for pain awareness month, I thought I would share a post of the impact of chronic on me… because a lot of it will be rather familiar to many people in pain.
This is because pain has a Significant Impact on our lives.
The impact of chronic pain in my life
Major Depressive Disorder
I developed MDD after having chronic pain for decades. After a bout of depression early in my fibromyalgia diagnosis. Just came back… and worse. Now we do get depressed as a consequence of pain but that is different than developing Major Depressive Disorder which is when all that emotion from the pain morphs into its own entity itself. And then it causes its own set of problems and compromised my capacity to cope with the unmanaged pain Even More. I had suicidal ideation without MDD. And I certainly had it with MDD. But I was also suicidal once I was full-on depressed. I had two suicide attempts but also keep in mind both were influenced by medications I am ‘sensitive to’ and can no longer be on. Partly. Partly influenced by the fact I had constant suicidal ideation. Depression and/or anxiety is one impact we can have with chronic pain that is higher than the rest of the population.
Loss of career
I held onto my career for a long time. Long after I should. Long past when my doctors, psychologists, and my family said I could not work. Because I needed to for the income. But eventually pushing through the pain like that, well, it breaks you. Survival mode isn’t meant to be lived in. I ended up on a long term and when I came back I wasn’t cured. I was the same despite what long term said. And I didn’t adjust well at all. My skills had stagnated. My pain and depression were not managed well so work was very difficult and I couldn’t seem to catch up with the numerous changes. So I had to take a demotion to a position I wasn’t quite so skilled in due to lack of concentration and memory issues. And it worked for a bit, barely. It was a real struggle to work even part-time. And then I got sicker and I have been disabled ever since. On long term and on government disability. And yeah, I felt like a failure. I felt like it was my fault. However, by then it was abundantly clear whether I wanted to or not I couldn’t work. At all. Or drive. At all. And I have had to come to terms with this fact.
Loss of self
Something happened in the time I struggled to work and failed and struggled to work and failed. My self-worth became to crumble and just fell apart. I felt worthless as a person. My self-confidence was destroyed. And then every time I took a leave from work whether for treatment, depression or pain I lost my sense of who I was as a person. When I went on full-time disability I was a bit of a mess because of this. And it is a bit of a puzzle to put yourself together again. Find some confidence and self-worth again. Ro re-construct a self-identity outside of work. Who you become after all that isn’t who you were for sure. It is something different and I hope with a lot more resiliency. But it is a long slow process of change. It is almost like that time traumatized me in a way. And I think it did because of the stigma and discrimination and the stresses and the suicide attempts. So recovering from that horrific time was very slow. Even when I was in a better work environment… I was still broken inside. I hadn’t healed that which had been crushed. Only when I was off have I slowly put the pieces back together Fully. And recovered from a time that really damaged me mind, body, and spirit.
I went on many leaves of absence, some insurance refused to pay for which increased my debt. I went down to part-time in order to see if I could function that way. And that reduced my income and further increased my debt. And then with being disabled and having next to no income… I have struggled with financial insecurity since but been incapable of working and fixing the problem. It comes with a lot of guilt even though I know I am incapable of working right now. I hate it. I am not to blame for it but I have to deal with the consequences of being ill and the consequences are financial instability. Struggling to pay bills. Cutting what can be cut. Reducing what can be reduced. Do what you can to make bills as minimal as possible so your budget is smaller. And even then… disability income only goes so far. It is very difficult. I have a spouse (not working right now since he got laid off) and so generally another income in the house. Other people do not have that. And to think of what I make on disability? And trying to survive alone on that? It is inconceivable. It is extremely difficult for us. We do not get the minimum wage. We are below the poverty line. We do not get raises. We are not valued enough. So we have to struggle constantly. See Living wage vs. Disability income
It is hard for us to get out and about. And many people do not get this. And so we can lose a lot of friends. And become very isolated as a result. And sometimes our own family turns against us. I have some friends that understand my situation. And I am lucky for them. Just a few friends but that is enough for me. And my family understand me as well. My father, medically, is very similar to me in many ways. My mother has her own health issues but she has Always even since I was a child had my back in every way possible. So they ‘get it’. I am very fortunate that I have friends and family who understand this. Some do not have this at all. And some have a significant other that does not ‘get it’ but my spouse does. He is a compassionate and empathetic man by nature. Before I was even diagnosed he understood I had limitations due to a condition I had no name for yet. He understand I do what I can when I can but sometimes I cannot. He didn’t like me working and neither did my family… not seeing the impact it had on me. But I knew financial instability would be the result if I Didn’t so I did push myself for far too long and suffered the inevitable consequences of that. But that is on me not him. While I do not have issues with chronic illness and relationships I feel the need to note it is very, very common that we Do. And I did in the past lose so many friends due to just not being able to keep up. See Our relationships and fibromyalgia
Suicidal thoughts and actions
We have a higher risk of depression and anxiety. But also from the pain alone, we have suicide risk factors. And it is common to have suicidal ideation… less common to have INTENT (and if you do seeking help Immediately is what you have to do I learned to keep yourself safe). (See Crisis Lines in your Country for Help if you need it). It is a hard thing for us to talk about or mention because we are afraid we will be judged or locked up. When I realized my suicidal ideation was getting pervasive I did seek the help of a psychologist in my area because I had attempted and I knew I was at risk… and it Does help to talk about chronic pain with someone that will never judge you. Pain is relentless and we have to deal with it all the damn time with no breaks or holidays or vacations. So yeah, we are going to have thoughts about an end to that, even if we have no intent to die… it is like a fantasy of wishing we had no pain anymore. But it is dangerous and we do need to acknowledge that. One thing I learned from my suicide attempt is it is a fine line from thoughts to actions. And one you can cross in just one moment. So take it very seriously. Please. Especially when we have comorbid mental health issues. But even without those… the thoughts occur to us.
We all have dreams, goals, desires and ambitions. Being disabled by pain doesn’t mean we are any less human with human goals and needs and desires. The difference is we have to compromise and give up a LOT. Sometimes it feels like we give up everything that makes us human and strips our lives down to mere existence. And if we cannot work, some of us still can, but if we cannot we have to find 1 thing we can do for ourselves that gives us joy in-itself. For me, that is writing. As hard as it has become to do, it is my Thing. I need it to feel Me. To feel productive. To get me out of bed. And we can have dreams, desires, goals and ambitions but they have to be really curtailed by the reality of our limitations. And we have to accept that. This is very hard to do. I constantly think of things that I could do or want to do or would make my life better only to understand right now just Not possible. Maybe one day. But not this day. So I cling to my 1 Thing. We need things we are capable of doing to fill our days that we can do and enjoy doing. One thing someone suggested to me that I love is free online courses (which at this time with the vertigo is impossible but maybe one day)… and that is something we could do that is keeping the brain engaged. And hobbies. And reading. And all sorts of things. So many not what we Want but it is something. We have to take what we can get while we can get it.
Aside from the Impact we do adjust to the life we have. I am a happy person. I have depression but it is treated and I can still consider myself a basically happy person. I have my writing. I do socialize with my friends at least once a month. Yeah, I wish for More. And maybe I will get that one day. But I have to take what I can get right now. And right now requires a lot of rest and recovery. When I am ready I’ll be able to nudge these limits. But right now the limits are petty firm. But my sense of self is healthy. My self-worth is better. My self-identity is solid. I know who I am. I like who I am. And I am not just this person in pain. So yes there is a massive widespread impact from chronic pain. It touches everything in our lives. It touches everyone in our lives. But we also make a life within our limits the best we can. We have to.