Living with Chronic Pain
Dealing With Embarrassment due to Chronic Pain
Living with chronic pain can cause resentment, frustration and embarrassment. Each individual experiences their pain uniquely. Shame and embarrassment frequently surround those with a chronic pain condition. Some may feel that they are weak, while others are embarrassed about the limitations of mobility, stamina or cognition.
The use of medication, mobility devices, and other tools can also trigger feelings of shame. Society often places a stigma on disabilities that encourages thoughts of inadequacy, embarrassment and guilt. When dealing with chronic pain, it is beneficial to have tools to reduce these intrusive thoughts.
Seek friends and loved ones who are supportive and will help combat the embarrassment associated with chronic pain. This diminishes the internalized and toxic beliefs that a person may have about themselves.
Self-compassion is the act of treating oneself with empathy and kindness. People who show self-compassion are able to notice when they are struggling, understand that this is a shared human experience, and show grace to themselves. It also helps with developing coping strategies that build resilience. Self-compassion consists of three elements: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.
Reframing toxic thoughts can be difficult; however, it becomes easier when practiced regularly. If a person thinks “I shouldn’t be in this much pain, why am I so weak,” they can attempt to reframe the thought by doing the following:
- Acknowledge the thought
- Think about where the thought stems from. For example, “My co-worker never believed me when I told her I was in pain.”
- Argue with the thought. For instance, ask yourself what evidence you have? Remind yourself that many people believe you, and that others who feel pain are not weak.
- Consider other perspectives, such as, “I live every day with a lot of pain. I am actually very strong.” There is no reason to be embarrassed due to a health problem.
Be conscious of internalized ableism
Ableism is a set of beliefs that favors able-bodied individuals and discriminates against disabled individuals. People may treat those with chronic pain or other disabilities differently, and often negatively. They do and say ableist things for several reasons, including the following:
- Fear of death or loss of mobility in themselves
- Social conditioning
- Incorrect moral beliefs
- Fear of the “other”
Ableism can be internalized. When the stigma that society places on disabled individuals turns inward, a disabled person may have these thoughts about themself. For example, thinking that taking medicine is weak, or that they should be able to do work, do chores, and perform other activities, etc. Being aware of these thoughts and where they originate from, while challenging their validity, is beneficial. It helps to replace toxic beliefs associated with embarrassment, guilt and shame, with a positive mindset associated with empathy, understanding and safety.
Psychological therapy can provide relief for the emotional and psychological aspects of pain to improve overall quality of life. This is done by processing emotions, learning new coping skills, and dealing with stressful events. Changing feelings of embarrassment can be difficult for anyone, especially when experiencing chronic pain. Psychological therapy, particularly when focused on negative emotions surrounding chronic pain, may help reduce feelings of embarrassment.