Having chronic pain changes you in ways other people can’t imagine. It changes your personality, your body, and maybe most importantly, your relationships with the people you love. Most people don’t understand how a family member being in pain could challenge the very foundation of their connection with you. However, I guarantee you it does.
If you think about it, it makes sense that a person’s personality doing a complete 180 would change the way their family relates to them because family members will obviously behave differently with a completely different person. I’ll use me as an example. Before my original surgery that caused all of my pain I was a straight A, incredibly driven, community involved, family oriented person. Each of those traits were slowly stolen from me throughout the years. The first thing to go was my drive. It turns out when you’re tired, depressed and in pain you don’t really feel like doing much. But it’s more than just that. I found myself having genuinely no interest in doing school work or anything that required effort for that matter. So I didn’t do the school work, or not until the last minute anyway. This, of course, effected my grades which then stole my identity as a straight A student.
When you can’t bring yourself to walk the five feet it takes to get your math book, you generally don’t get yourself all ready (which can be a tiring task on its own) to go volunteer at community events. Plus, I didn’t have the energy to prepare properly or be of much help once I got there. But mostly, I didn’t have the energy to get dressed to get there in the first place. Plus, it took way too much energy to keep the upbeat face on that people were used to, when all I wanted was to be in my recliner asleep. Which, eventually, is exactly what I spent all of my time doing.
I know what I just described isn’t everything that makes a person who they are, but I think it’s pretty clear I changed in a big way. That alone would make it hard for my family and I to relate to each other normally. Add to that being asleep all day everyday, and I missed out on daily interactions with my siblings. I didn’t know what was going on in their lives, I missed out on crucial information, and sometimes wouldn’t have a chance to notice for days if one of them got a haircut. This specifically affected my relationship with my twin brothers. Before the surgery I was already the annoying big sister who mothered them too much, after the surgery I just didn’t talk or spend any time with them.
Then I started getting too sick to go on family vacations. By the time I was 18 I wasn’t going to stop my family from going on a trip that had been planned months in advance. This meant my family spent a lot of special bonding time together that I wasn’t a part of. This got so bad that when my mom put together our family calendar (where she used a family picture for each month of the year), I wasn’t in them. This year I’m photo shopping myself into the family calendar photos partly to be funny, but mostly because I’m sad I missed out on so many family moments.
To add insult to injury, all of my medication made me pretty damn grumpy all the time. I was constantly peeved and annoyed. It would take next to nothing to make me snap at someone.
This year my brothers are a year older than I was when I had my original surgery and I can’t believe it. Next fall I’ll be leaving to go to a university and I don’t have that much longer to become close with them again. I’m really hoping that the healthier I get from this second surgery, the closer I’ll get to my family again.
Have you ever lost touch with family due to circumstances outside your control? Has medication caused a big shift in you or a loved one’s life? I’d love to hear about it, so please leave a comment!