Several months ago a fellow blogger and I attended a lifestyle blogging conference that I really enjoyed. However, when a group would get together and ask each other what they blogged about, most answers would be fashion, or make up, or maybe something more serious like self-love. The groups would normally ooh and ah at everyone’s topics and discuss them for a minute or two. But when it got to me, and I said I blog about chronic pain, I got a way different response.
At first people would look a little surprised (which I couldn’t blame them for; I was following the girl who blogs about cupcakes after all) and then they would get a sort of blank look on their face. Last, they would scrunch up their nose and say, “Well that’s not very fun…” and then hurriedly move on to the next person. And this was not an isolated incident! Five, yes FIVE, people said that to me. And then there were the variations like, “Oh, I’m sorry honey.” I appreciated the sentiment, but I did not appreciate the immediate change of subject that followed. One woman even said to me, “Wow. Well, that’s morbid” and then walked off looking disgusted!
Throughout the day, I just smiled and made jokes and laughed it off. But you know what I was thinking the whole time? They are all absolutely right. Chronic pain is NOT very fun. It’s not fun to deal with, it’s not particularly pleasant to talk about, and most of the time it is difficult to write about. What these women failed failed to realize as they quickly dismissed my often harrowing topic, was that even though it’s not fun, it’s something that needs to be discussed. Because I HAVE to deal with it, I HAVE to talk about it, and it’s important to write about! Over 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, but because no one ever wants to talk about it, chraintims* like me get ignored and forgotten!
There is a desperate need for the general public to be educated on chronic pain and how it effects its victims. Because chances are, these people know someone who has chronic pain, but they wouldn’t know it because it so often goes unrecognized. My fellow spoonies know; how many times has someone asked you how you’re doing and you just smile and say, “Fine”? If I had a spoon for every time I said this, I wouldn’t be sick anymore!
The media has also attributed to people’s instinctive need to ignore chronic pain and its victims. I was recently watching an episode of Royal Pains on Netflix, which stars Mark Feuerstein. If you’re not familiar with the show, Feuerstein plays a doctor who moves to the Hamptons to become a concierge doctor after he gets fired from his job at a regular hospital in New York. His character, Hank, eventually has brain surgery and ends up with chronic pain for a while after the surgery. At one point he goes to a pain management clinic, and the way they portrayed the facility shocked and offended me. The receptionist was rude, and then Hank sits down next to a fellow patient in his 40s who acts like he’s in withdrawal and gives a little monologue about being an “Oxy guy” and that’s what he’s here for. Hank storms out of the clinic, but while he’s outside, he sees another patient (a girl in her 20s) leaving while shaking a bottle of pills at what appears to be her grinning boyfriend in the car. Really? REALLY?
First of all, the majority of pain management clinics don’t keep ANY medication at all in their offices, so no one comes in and tries to steal it all from them. Second, most pain management patients are the elderly. I’m the only young person at my pain management office. Many older people need pain management for pain they experience as a result of getting older. Like after a hip replacement or knee surgery. Third, they don’t just let anyone come in and then prescribe them medicine. It’s not like getting marijuana. The drugs they prescribe at pain management facilities are high dose narcotics with addictive qualities. There is quite a process to go through before they’ll prescribe you medication, and then they monitor you with appointments sometimes as frequent as every week.
But these are the kind of stereotypes that make people shut down when someone says chronic pain. Because when I say “chronic pain”, what they’re hearing is “drug addicted medical stuff”, and that’s even more “not fun” to talk about. So, this is me saying let’s get people educated. Let’s raise awareness. Let’s TALK ABOUT CHRONIC PAIN! It’s a real and serious problem around the world, and frankly, I’m not taking that it’s “not very fun” as an excuse any more.
Don’t know how to start a conversation about chronic pain? Share this post! Or leave me a comment letting me know how you feel down below. Let’s get people who normally wouldn’t even think about this topic talking about it!
Still want to learn more? Check out the American Chronic Pain Association here.
*Chraintim is a word I made up that abbreviates the phrase “chronic pain victim”, which I got tired of typing repeatedly. Plus, the word is kind of cool. You should try using it too! #chraintim