Then shut up about your pain. Maybe the only reason people are trying to help you is to get you to stop whining about it all the time.

Random Social media comment by someone who is rather dickish

I won’t mention where the troll posted or their name. They like attention because they are weird and creepy and icky like that. But I will mention what they said because it has inspired a post. Not about them… they are not important enough to think about. But about how and when we communicate pain and the results of that.

There is a lot of misunderstanding about chronic pain and how and when we communicate about it. When we choose to. If we choose to. And what happens when we choose to.

Chronic pain paradox: Talk about it? Keep quiet?

Talking about chronic pain- and what happens when we don’t and when we do

First of all we rarely talk about our chronic pain. Because 99.9% of the time there is no logical reason to because:
  1. It is our baseline and normal and Normal Pain for us is not worth mentioning
  2. Because 99% of people do not care to actually know
  3. Because we do not want to talk about it… we want to cope with it and it is easier to do that silently
  4. Because we do not want to deal with fake ass sympathy
  5. Because we do not want 101 pieces of advice we have heard 1 BILLION MILLION times and we actually have done, do, or doesn’t work because people do not comprehend in the least bit all the many things we do for chronic pain management
  6. Because of the small minority of douchenozzles out there who doubt our pain, think we are lazy, think we are complaining, think we are whining… and no one likes to bitch slap people like that. Well, they deserved it. Verbal bitch slap. Anyway, they are rare. And frankly, they do not even matter. We do not need to validate our pain to morons.
Then there is when we talk about our pain
  1. It is unusually high and we are mentioning it because it is affecting our capacity to cope or function
And then people are all like
  • Stop complaining. Some people have it worse. Some people have cancer, you know.
  • Why do you mention it, you’re like projecting it into the world and being all negative. If you were just, like, more positive then it wouldn’t hurt so much
  • Stop whining. We all have problems, man.
  • But you like totally did a Thing yesterday
  • I highly doubt you are. Or you would LOOK like you are in some way people actually look when they have chronic pain, which I don’t know, because I don’t have it… but I am sure it doesn’t look like you look
  • I saw you actually leave the house so I highly doubt you have pain at all. I mean, really.
  • I saw you laugh and smile yesterday so no way you have chronic pain. Everyone knows you have to be utterly miserable every second of your existence to have chronic pain
  • It is funny you should mention that. My friend’s cousin has that and shoved Kale up her butt for 10 years and was cured
  • It is funny you should mention that you have a severe migraine that has lasted for 10 days without relief because I have like a mild tension headache. Samesies!
  • Or Most common they feel uncomfortable and awkward and have no idea what to say or do and this is perfectly Normal and Human. We all feel this way for deep, emotional experiences someone tells us that we ourselves have not experienced. We are at loss as to what to say. I get you, man. I feel your pain. And I understand it is difficult and I don’t mind that you don’t know what to say… you listened… and I felt Heard.
When you don’t mention it for some time
  • So you’re cured, eh?
  • What do you mean you can’t run a marathon? You look fine!
  • But… but… I thought you were better?
  • You still have that chronic pain that is chronically chronic? I don’t understand? What does chronic even Mean?

When your chronic pain makes people uncomfortable with their fragile existence

People do not actually like real conversations about illness and pain. I believe because it reminds them of their fragile existence and the unpredictability of life. That they too could become sick at any moment. Ahhhh here comes an existential crisis! PANIC!!!

People also do not like to have real conversations about it because it makes them feel awkward. They have no idea what response is Right. This is totally normal. We all feel this way when someone tells us something deep and important and emotional that we have never experienced. We do not know what to say. So it is normal that some awkward response will happen. I’m afraid it just happens sometimes. We understand this. What we do Not understand is being brushed of, having our pain minimized, or diminished or ignored. Not cool.

The Paradox

We hide our pain for many reasons. To save our loved ones from see our suffering. To pretend to function in the workplace. Because we do not want to be seen as weak, or complaining, or lazy or or or… And also because over time we just Become Stoic about a certain level of pain that it is not worthy of mentioning.

It is a bit of a problem for medical professions who have basically taught us to not exaggerate by their indifference to our pain. So we hide it… and then they minimize and diminish it More. There is no winning that game. We no longer have normal pain behaviors like Screaming in Agony. We lose those by masking the pain so well. We use Our WORDS… and that is just not sufficient.

And it definitely makes our pain more invisible to those around us who then assume we must Not be in pain all the time because we don’t mention it or Scream in Agony all the time. So they think it is spontaneously gone. Or not as bad as we say. Or why can’t we do that thing we did yesterday… because the concept that pain is variable is beyond them. It literally makes the stigma worse.

Fact is, hiding our pain makes it more invisible. But we hide the pain so that we can function in the world better. So…we are screwed. And besides that, baseline pain is not something we react to, whereas a normal person would run away screaming for pain killers LIKE NOW. And we are just used to a level of pain all the time. Hardly something to make a fuss about but people ought to know we are always in pain. Always. Chronic being chronic and all. But we do mask a lot more than our baseline and that does cause issues… makes life explaining the level of pain we experience a lot harder because we no longer have the normal pain behaviors.

But then you talk about it and you’re complaining, whining, talking about it too much… oh so negative… focused on your illness too much… blah blah blah.

Literally, we cannot win with people. Talk about it. Don’t. Mention it. Don’t. Do. NO, not that Way!

I don’t even bother anymore. Why do I even care if people understand? I don’t. I am the one that has to cope with it. I am the one that has my pain management strategy. I don’t need to mention it or talk about it or anything. Bit too many times by people who pretended to actually care. So ‘I’m fine’. ‘It’s all good.’ ‘Not bad’. ‘Still alive.’

Some people deserve your truth.

Most do not.

And we have the freedom to choose who gets our truth and to what depth. Remember that. Not everyone deserves it. Family, good friends we can divulge as much as we want and feel comfortable with. Our loved ones Love us. Medical professions, insurance companies, yes, we have to give the the details… specifically as humanly possible whether they like it or not. They just have to suck it up. Psychologists… go deep, man, give them the actually deep, dark truth… it is so refreshing to just have someone you can actually say what it actually is like without any judgement. Everyone else… meh. Random people you can give them random educational information if you want. Or not. You can keep it private. Or not. Up to you.

Just remember if you do encounter a douchenozzle, and they are out there. Feel no guilt. Rip them a new one. Frankly, I have lost all tolerance for stigma at my age. I give back and then some. They want to be dicks? Well, I will ensure they know it and know it well. Thankfully, they are rare in the real world. But on the internet when they can hide behind a keyboard you may find most of them. I suggest blocking. Or feed them a dish of what they deserve and then block them. Whatever you feel like. And doesn’t stress you out.

See more on related topics

Mental illness: Stigma thoughts
Fibromyalgia awareness and stigma
When confronted with the lazy stigma

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20 thoughts on “Chronic pain paradox: Talk about it? Keep quiet?

  1. Kale up the bottom eh: have never tried that one and you never know ! I like “the freedom to choose who gets our truth and to what depth”. Wise advice. Mostly it’s best avoided altogether I’ve found and the only issue I have personally is with officialdom. Doctors and the DWP (welfare). There are only a very few people who do both get it and respect what you share and what you don’t. I know I am lucky to have them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We are very fortunate in the people we find in our lives we can share with and accept what we do share with them. And understand we have limits to what we share.


  2. It may not be common but people will ask about my pain I mention something as you said briefly; which turns into listening to them describe how much worse off they are than me. I believe you’re correct people get so uncomfortable they don’t know what to say so they try bonding by meaning they understand because they too have pain so they tell us. I really don’t give a hoot about that, I listen, accept it and in the end, I really don’t know if they are in pain or not.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, exactly. It is just the way humans are built. They want to relate to what the person is saying… even if the experience is not relatable.


  3. Yes: an all too a familiar experience, Nikki!
    When people ask health related questions I sometimes smile and say:
    “How long have you got?”
    Then I’ll often change the subject.
    It’s obvious most have no real interest, so I don’t want to waste my limited energy on boring them. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I once had a nurse in my doctors office say that I looked too good to be in pain. I am always in pain. Enormous pain. I didn’t know what to say to her. So I said nothing. I wish l’d known what to say.
    We do know how to hide it well. Only my husband and daughter know what I go through. Even my sons don’t know what I go through. They live several states away and I only see them once a year usually. Why diminish the time I have with them talking about my pain?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We just learn it automatically, it can’t be helped. Unfortunately it is very problematic with doctors. They look for obvious pain behaviors that we have learned to mask.


  5. “Psychologists… go deep, man, give them the actually deep, dark truth… it is so refreshing to just have someone you can actually say what it actually is like without any judgement.”

    Without judgement? That would be nice… In my own experience, psychologists are the ones most likely to say things like, “You’re not in pain — you just THINK you are,” and “Chronic pain is caused by depression and low self-esteem, and if you’d just stop thinking you’re better than everyone else, the pain would go away.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is a really really bad psychologist. They typically do CBT and teach coping strategies for pain management. Or they should. Now I have had some pathetic Therapists but they do not have the training. I’d fire any dick that told me my pain was in my head and I was just depressed. After I had some real precise words about his or her ineptitude

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hard, too, when friends and family try to peddle their latest health kick. I know they mean well or want to earn $, and maybe they have found the one thing that will cure xyz, but I’m betting on not. So, awkward to say no thank you. I’ve lost one “friend” due to this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is very difficult. So many people believe in all sort of weird things. Or sell them for extra cash on the side… we all have side gigs these days. I just say tried it, doesn’t work for me. Or allergic, which sometimes I am. Sometimes I say that sounds interesting… I’ll look into it (never). lol


  7. What an excellent and insightful post! I don’t suffer from chronic pain, but my son and I both have chronic illnesses (and he has chronic pain from Lyme disease), and it is much the same. Fortunately, we have rarely encountered outright hostility, but you hit the nail on the head about our reality making others feel uncomfortable AND they don’t know what to say. You also nailed it with “But you did a Thing yesterday!” My mother in particular is BIG into denial and avoidance and will NEVER ask me how I am. If I am bad enough off that I mention to her I’ve been having a rough few days (or weeks), she will either say absolutely nothing for a solid 30 seconds and then change the subject, or – my favorite – “but I saw on Facebook you [enter normal activity here].” It is so demoralizing. Just the other day, I mentioned to her that our son was doing better with his treatments and a few minutes later, she asked why he wasn’t working full-time: “but I thought you said he was better?” sigh… It;s been 18 years for me and 16 years for my son, and my mom still doesn’t get it.

    As you can see, your post really hit a nerve for me! At least, it;s nice to know there are others out there who do “get it”!

    Thanks for the great post –


    New Book: Finding a New Normal: Living Your Best Life with Chronic Illness

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It can be extremely frustrating especially when it is someone in your life you love. For me it was very often co-workers or friends. Or employers even- ‘Why don’t you cut your hair then you wouldn’t get so many migraines’ ‘Maybe it is the fact you take too many medications and should just stop them all. You’d feel better’. or blaming me with ‘No one else ever gets chronic migraines so I don’t understand how you can’ Well because you’re wrong that’s why.


  8. ‘we are mentioning it because it is affecting our capacity to cope or function’- Exactly. I bring my chronic health issues up to explain that its nothing personal, I just cannot physically do whatever it is that person want/expects. AND I am most definitely NOT asking for advice or sympathy. Managing my own emotional reactions to chronic pain is enough of a challenge, I do not need anybody else dumping theirs on me. Long after the other person has forgotten about their outburst, I’ll be dealing with my reality.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great post Nikki! I found your perspectives on talking about your health burdens with others very refreshing and most relatable. I too have had all those experiences, inner-thoughts and reasoning’s and almost never ever let on about how I’m feeling anymore. That’s also why I’ve kept my story to myself for all these years.

    But your post (and others I’ve recently read) have inspired me to rethink my situation. Knowing that others are going through what you are, takes the lost feeling of suffering alone away. So I’ve found the guts and released my chronic pain story in hopes I too can inspire these feelings in others.

    In recognition of your inspiration (and because I think your post was Bang on!) — I have linked this post (and your blog site) at the ending of mine. Thanks Nikki, and may you have more good days, than bad!

    Liked by 1 person

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