Chronic Pain Awareness Is a Year Round Event!

Chronic Pain Awareness Is a Year Round Event!

By Joanna Mechlinski

Joanna Mechlinski

Joanna Mechlinski and friend

September is a big month for those of us who suffer from chronic pain. Since 2001, it’s been designated by the American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA) as four weeks dedicated to spreading awareness and removing stigma for the estimated 100 million people living with chronic pain.

Think about it. A hundred million people – that’s nearly a third of the American population! Individuals suffering from chronic pain – which is defined as lasting more than 3-6 months and severely affecting normal functions  – must struggle just to maintain some semblance of life quality.

As noble an effort as this campaign is, the truth remains that a great deal more needs to be done. A few mentions in the media are a step in the right direction, but they aren’t nearly enough to help the millions living with pain every day. Unfortunately for us, we don’t get to set aside our problems when September ends.

As a person with lupus, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and polymyositis – a rare neuromuscular disease – you can be assured I deal with more than my fair share of pain each day. I know that just about no one I’ve ever met has heard of polymyositis before (to be fair, neither did I, until I was forced to). I also know that despite knowing intellectually that conditions such as arthritis affect people of all ages, there is still a notion clinging stubbornly to people’s minds that it doesn’t happen until you’re eligible for AARP. When I mention suffering from arthritis to people who see me regularly, they seem shocked initially. Apparently people sporting ponytails and flip-flops are immune to this sort of thing. And thus I end up becoming a living audiovisual aid for many.

That’s why I like to use social media to advocate for the causes year-round. I often share links to articles about health-related news or graphics with facts about these diseases. Sometimes it’s just a ribbon with a statement such as “Lupus Awareness” or “It’s Chronic Pain Awareness Month.” I don’t do it too frequently; I don’t want people to roll their eyes when they see my name turn up. No one will learn anything if they start to feel pressured or overwhelmed.

To my way of thinking, I’m not simply being an advocate for these diseases. I also help others understand that a person living with chronic pain through illness or disability is just that – a real person. I regularly post about a wide variety of things, everything from my proverbial two cents on the latest news to funny little observations about random things I encounter in my everyday life. I share photos of my 5-year-old mini poodle Charlie (generally asleep, as any pet owner would fully expect) and cartoons relating to my Polish heritage. The bottom line here is, I’m just like anyone else you may meet. I have my likes and dislikes, a sense of humor that often borders on sarcastic, and a personal bucket list. The only difference is, I fight for my life to some extent each and every day – often just by getting out of bed.

But as previously mentioned, there are three of us with chronic pain in any gathering of ten, so while we may indeed be a minority, no one could call us rare. If someone is fortunate enough not to be suffering themselves, statistics indicate that someone close to them – parent, sibling, partner, child, friend – is, meaning they are still affected in some way. It’s time for chronic pain to speak up more loudly and more persistently. Just as it’s not going away for us, we in turn won’t back in sharing our struggles with others. We’re all in this together.

Joanna Mechlinski is a former newspaper reporter who now works in education. She is a chronic pain sufferer who lives in Connecticut and is a frequent contributor to the National Pain Report.

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Authored by: Joanna Mechlinski

There are 4 comments for this article
  1. Valerie at 5:29 pm

    I’m still struggling with my own embarrassment about myself. I know I need to do my part in chronic pain awareness. I really don’t know where to start.

  2. Kathy C at 12:59 pm

    I am so sick of words like “Awareness” a useless qualifier that is meaningless. Awareness is vapor, a diversion from any realistic improvement. The general Public has already been made aware, in the constant reporting about Opiate Abuse, the Stereotypical Back Pain Disability Scammer, that they refer to nightly.

    There are people who can’t read a bread label who are now “Experts” they read some Article in the local Paper, or they have a cousin, uncle brother who was a “Drug Addict.” The Mainstream Media does not show the Real Pain Patients or how their life has improved. I am suspicious of this “Awareness” perhaps it is a Marketing Scheme to draw us out, and make us look like a bunch of whiners, like the “Tell Your Story campaigns.” They don’t care about our Story, the Media Hysteria has already painted us as losers or “Drug Addicts” and as we can all tell from the latest News, once the Lie is out, it is impossible to challenge it.

  3. Angel at 7:52 am

    I really like your post it is essential that those of us suffering with chronic pain be viewed as people instead of our labels. I’m much more than my labels, I’m not just disabled or epileptic I’m a mother a wife an artist all of those labels can provide a picture of me but isn’t the definition. Thank you so much for your advocacy!

  4. Maureen at 7:18 am

    Joanna,
    Perfectly said and wonderfully written! I am at your side, I understand your every day.
    Keep strong Pain Warrior!! Maureen