Living with Chronic Pain
3 Questions Chronic Pain Patients Ask Themselves Along Their Journey
Enduring chronic pain or long-term illnesses, two things that typically go hand-in-hand, is a huge burden to bear. This is in part because we constantly gauge if we are properly dealing with our health and connections with others, which requires us to make difficult decisions on a regular basis. Here are three daunting questions that we often encounter:
1. Should I exert my body to the limit, or play it safe?
Occasionally, the yearning to be like healthy people is so intense that we can convince ourselves that it is okay to push our bodies to do activities that it should not be doing. For example, when children and grandchildren visit, many folks with chronic pain will try to act healthy and defy their body’s cues to rest. Unfortunately, these bouts of overexertion tend to result in exacerbated symptoms for the next week or so.
2. When should I ignore symptoms or ask my doctor?
If we bring up a new symptom, will our doctor think we are being thin-skinned and too sensitive, or worse yet that we are turning into a hypochondriac? We really need to focus on not giving into these negative thoughts since a new symptom could potentially indicate that something serious is happening and needs immediate attention. Everyone has read stories about people ignoring symptoms because they assume that they have popped up as a new component of their chronic illness, and later learn that they are cancer or a new illness that should have received immediate attention.
How to proceed when a different symptom emerges requires making another difficult choice: act immediately, or wait and monitor the symptom without obtaining a professional opinion? We need to vigilantly listen to our body and make a decision on our own.
3. Should I share my health problem or keep it private?
Many people worry that if we discuss our health problems with friends and family, they might react critically or even forgo hanging around us. Moreover, those who do not react negatively may simply alter the way they connect to us. Of course, we want to be treated humanely and like adults, yet if we communicate our health battles with other people, there is a possibility we will begin to be treated like a shadow of our healthy self.
Alternatively, if we choose not to discuss our health problems, we might mislead people into thinking we can be more active than we really are, or that we can partake in activities that we actually should not. By doing this we also forgo receiving the support we crave – both practical and emotional.