Ever see the television commercial for depression? It talks about how depression doesn’t just impact the person emotionally, but physically, socially and although not spoken, spiritually. It is all consuming, and that’s one type of pain. What about the pain that is associated with illness, wouldn’t that be all consuming?
Let’s face it, pain is an unwelcome intruder. It isn’t invited, it isn’t asked to stay, in fact we do all we can to rid ourselves of pain. The problem is that eradicating pain and still being functional don’t always go hand-in-hand. It’s important to understand your pain. When are you most impacted and how long does it last? As a college student I began the long and painful relationship with arthritis, specifically in my feet. Walking was unbearable and the medications didn’t always work. Over time I had to understand and plan my days around the pain until I could find more definitive treatment options that would alleviate the pain.
Pain from illness is not like twisting your ankle during a basketball game. You can’t just walk it off and expect everything to be okay. It’s important to find strategies, treatment, providers who truly understand pain. If you’re looking for a provider ask them specific questions about their experience with pain, and not simple pain, but complicated or chronic pain. Don’t expect all doctors to be experienced with anything other than “normal” pain. It’s important to find a pain management program or a palliative care physician whose knowledge of pain goes beyond the basics.
If you are visiting an allied health practitioner the same holds true. Don’t assume that because someone has a practice that they understand how to handle pain. As we mentioned above pain is multi-dimensional and unless the provider understands all the ramifications of your pain experience you’ll get more of the same and the pain will go on.
Don’t make excuses for your pain. It’s one of the most personal experiences those with illness will encounter. It impacts our physical being and alters our way of interacting with the world. Many facing ongoing pain retreat because it’s the only way to insulate themselves. It distorts how we see the world. Networking with others who experience extreme or prolonged pain may help you find the necessary resources. Trust me, this is far beyond “take two aspirin and call me in the morning”.
How do you deal with pain? How does it impact your daily life? What have you found to alleviate your struggle with pain? How have you changed your relationship to pain?