Chronic pain I have always said is something you don’t ‘get’ until you get it. It is a member only club… one that sucks though and you can’t get out of. But sometimes, just sometimes, some of those members also toss out judgement. Almost flippantly like they lack empathy for the suffering of the person who made the comment on some social media site. That that person is weaker then they are or not doing something they Should… and I really wonder how this could be? How could you Not empathize? How could you not ‘get it’? We are not all carbon copies.
I have talked about this before and I can’t believe I still have to post about it actually. Yet I have seen it Again on social media. Someone people trying to be supportive and offer advice to someone and then someone else saying Well, They are Just So Strong that they can just Cope, so why can’t anyone else? Must be they are just that special, eh? So very strong. While everyone else is just that weak. Or Well, I do This or That and if You just did that then you would get better like I did. What the? Who says? It would be called a cure then wouldn’t it?
We all know chronic pain
Here is the thing. I know what my experience of pain is. I know how I cope. I know all the things I do to cope. I know all the chronic pain conditions I have and how they interact. I know my life stresses and how they affect me. I know my mental health and how it affects my health.
I do not know someone else’s suffering and experience of pain. Or how they cope. Or the things that help them cope that may be Entirely different than mine. I do not know if they have comorbid conditions since most of us do, likely that is probable and I have no idea how those interact with their pain. I have no concept of their life and their stresses and how that impacts them. I have no idea about their mental health and how that impacts them.
I simply am aware of my own experiences. Yeah, I can offer ideas on what may help based on my experiences. It may work for them it may not. We all add and subtract things from our toolbox based on exploring what works for us. And what doesn’t. And we are all different. Knowledge is power so helpful suggestions go a long way in exploring what may be worth exploring for us all. We may not have tried that specific idea or way of doing things or coping in that way. And I know I am always trying to progress in coping and overall well-being.
So, yeah, sharing is a very good thing. Saying your way is the best and only way? Not cool. Saying you are like so much better at coping because of your awesomeness… also not cool because you are implying that other person Lacks something. They don’t. Yay you. Whatever works. But never belittle other people their struggles. I have struggled to cope. I have also had times where I cope extremely well. Not because I am SO strong of will… just because life was a certain way, or medications worked a certain way, or my mindset was a different way and I wasn’t depressed at that time, or I had learned a few new tricks that were actually working for me, or I was Not working at that time… or usually a combination of more than one of those. Balance was temporarily achieved for a bit. I generally do not cope so well working when I cannot pace, have no pain management and my mood then tanks. Just the way it is.
Never judge people based on your experience of pain and what works for you
Maybe your chronic pain condition, while the same as theirs, isn’t as severe. Maybe you do not have the same symptoms or the same symptom severity which can impact quality of life as much as pain can. Maybe your life isn’t as stressful. Maybe their job is insanely stressful and puts a hard impact on their pain levels. Maybe you have an excellent support network. Maybe you have no comorbid chronic pain conditions compounding the initial pain issue. Maybe that person is just in a coping slump that we can get into because coping is a process and most of us, that are not superior, do not Always cope perfectly our entire lives. Maybe there are so many factors you are not even thinking about that make you different from them that should make you realize that you should never compare how you cope to how they cope.
Nor should you ever say the Way you cope is better than any other method someone else copes. Maybe you eat kale 24/7 and that is what works for you. It is not going to work for everyone. Nothing works for everyone. Just the way it is. Being dickish about it is just rude. Some people can be so judgmental about this one thing that works for them like it Must work for everyone and everyone is just wrong that is doesn’t.
Never ever, ever think you are mentally or emotionally stronger than someone else because you think you just cope better than they do… you have no concept of their lives. Or health. What they endure may require a massive amount of resiliency that you could never comprehend because you do not have to endure that. You don’t know.
Also coping is a very fragile thing. One day you are coping and then the pain gets worse unpredictably, or another pain condition happens, or another chronic illness… and you are no longer functioning well at all. And then coping takes some time to adjust to that lower functionality. It is very unpredictable that line between hard to function but doing it to can’t function and simply cannot do what you did before. It turns your life upside down. It affects your income adversely. Stress skyrockets. Some empathy goes a long way. When you have a chronic illness this can happen to any of us at any time. Illness is a fickle, fickle beast.
Just don’t judge what you don’t know really
We don’t like it when stigma is directed At Us and people make judgement about chronic illnesses and chronic pain. Likewise no one likes the feeling of someone within the chronic pain community making them feel like they are not doing enough, are not enough, are weak or worse. It is a horrible thing to do to someone who it going through chronic pain which in Any shape or form is extremely difficult to deal with. No matter the condition, symptoms, or comorbids. It is damn hard. Just do not make it harder by being That Person.
Empathy is so undervalued these days, I find. We just seem to think for some odd reason everybody must be like us. Same pain. Same symptoms. Same stressors. Same personality. With some perspective we can see we are all so different that there is no way to make comparisons like that. Yes, we all have some of the same struggles with coping. Guilt. Frustration. And the stages of coping can be so similar in us. But we are all different people. Different bodies. We can Relate to their pain. We can Relate to their symptoms. But we do not know if we are Samesies. We do not live in that body or that life.
I think there shouldn’t be judgement or shame or blame within our own community when we see so very much of it Outside of it. Am I right? We are doing our very best to survive here. And we walk a very hard road, every one of us. Isn’t that enough? I just want people to be supported, lifted up and made to feel not alone in their battle. Not belittled and shamed.
I know it is not intentional. I definitely know that. More just inconsiderate. Or not very thoughtful. And I think with social media and just using words… that can happen. We have to be careful in choosing how we phrase things. Just to be considerate to others and especially to the person we are responding to in the main post or main thread.
I do understand we are all under tremendous strain and stress. This year, in particular, is a real bitch. And I do know that tends to make us more irritated and frustrated. I get that. But it doesn’t mean when someone asks honestly for advice on how to cope you make them feel Smaller. It doesn’t mean you take a My Way or the Highway approach when we all know everyone needs a totally different mix of things to manage their chronic illnesses and pain. And you may think it but if you do just do not write it. Recommend. Suggest. Say hey this helps me. ‘I like to do this.’ Simple as that.
Just be nice. Understand words matter. Know that your perspective isn’t the only perspective. Know that we all are suffering the emotional and mental toll of chronic pain. I think that makes so many of us very emphatic and compassionate people. Just sometimes that doesn’t come out in the way we express our opinions.