By Liza Zoellick.
Always keep fighting, because you are not alone.
This is something I do not think enough of us hear. Chronic pain has an insidious way of making you feel ostracized because you find out, sooner or later, that you can’t do the things you once did or keep up with activities you did. It makes maintaining friendships difficult; it makes making new friends difficult and also makes family relationships difficult because people have such a hard time understanding that what you are going through is as much mental as it is physical. I do not think you can be in chronic pain for 6 months or longer and not feel depressed about your condition at some point. I have had people tell me that I just need to “get out of this funk.” How do you explain to someone who has no experience with chronic pain/illness, the incredible amount of motivation it takes to simply get out of bed some days? That this is far more than just having the blues and not having a good day. It’s day after day, hour after hour, pain that may vary in intensity, but is always there. So, what happens is that you begin to withdraw yourself from these people who do not understand, in favor of people, who while they might only be on social media, understand what you are going through. You isolate yourself because on top of hurting, who wants to be around people who only think it is your mental frame of mind and surely you can get past it?
I can’t even calculate the number of people who have messaged me with remarks relating to hope. I gave them hope. That they read something I wrote and where they had been hanging by a thread, ready to give up on things until they read my post and felt like they were not alone. When I read those messages they really get to me. I want to reach out and give a collective hug to everyone and reassure you that you are not alone. I know it can feel so very lonely in this place. Even before my chronic issues, my bipolar left me in some pretty dark places. Scary places. I am acutely aware of how that darkness can creep in and steal every shred of light and suffocate you until all you want is to die. And the truly horrible thing about that feeling is that it renders you numb, and you forget all the good things you have because there’s just this one giant microscope that is focused on the bad. Even if there’s a shred of you that wants to get back, that doesn’t want to die, you look up and that tunnel to get back seems interminably long. It’s almost as horrible as the darkness. I’ve clawed my way back a couple of times and here is what I will share with you about it. 1.) The guilt you feel over being inches away from leaving those you love is not worth it. Even after time has passed, the mark you left on their soul never goes away. There is always a lingering fear you might give up. 2.) You realize, that there is a world beyond you. You awaken to a clarity, a knowing, that people suffer everywhere. For some, it is a state of existence, and still they fight. Some people are staggeringly alone, and they fight too. Why do they fight? Because, every moment we are alive and taking part in this life, it is an honor. Which leads me to the last. 3.) Some people don’t get to live the entirety of their life. Whether they are taken too young by illness, or violence, they do not have the chance to live. I know it is difficult to think of our situation this way, but it is an honor and privilege to live this life.
The only thing I can offer as a means of something to hang on to, is that you are not alone. I would recommend reaching out to those in the pain community, reaching out to bloggers, such as myself who understand and can maybe offer some insight. I think keeping connected with people who live around you is also important. They may not understand, but I can guarantee you they do care. And sometimes, just talking to them and sharing with them how you feel can really open up the lines of communication. Those who do not live with pain every day are at a disadvantage when trying to see the pain someone else might be living in. Our perspectives have a whole lot to do with our experiences. If you do not have that experience, how can you understand? Not everyone can empathize as well as another, so try to forgive their limitations too, and maybe with conversation they can understand this is more than just something you will recover from- that this is life. It’s scary to think that someone we care about will never get better.
Keep fighting. I know the road is tough. But you are not alone. I am right there with you. An invisible warrior beside you. We can do it together.
Liza is a chronic pain warrior from Houston who has been chronicling her journey through chronic pain and illness on her blog: http://lovekarmafood.com. She is a frequent and valued contributor to the National Pain Report.