The Side Effects of Pain: More Than Just “Hurting”

The Side Effects of Pain: More Than Just “Hurting”

By Kristine “Krissy” Anderson

Kristine (Krissy) Anderson

Kristine (Krissy) Anderson

Those of us who live with chronic pain often have a hard time convincing others that it’s not just about the constant hurting, but there are side effects that add injury to insult, and can often be difficult to cope with.

After living with progressive, intractable pain for 30+ years, I’ve become so familiar with side effects, sometimes I forget what it was like to feel “normal.” So now and then I go back and imagine scenes of yesteryear and smile at the memories. (There is enough time spent feeling that I’ve been robbed of my “normal,” and ever-increasing “want-to-do” list and overflowing “bucket lists.”)

 I imagine going down a ski hill, excited and ready to tackle the hardest one, going as fast as possible. I’ve always liked speed, whether it be with fun cars, skiing or sailing, it’s a tremendous rush and feeling of freedom.

I was driving on a bridge over the ocean here in Florida the other day when all of a sudden I couldn’t see the front of my car nor the road in front of me because the bridge is built as a steep arch, so my surroundings made it feel like I was flying. With the vast ocean on both sides of me and only the sky ahead, I actually got that physical excitement I used to get when flying in a small plane or skiing down a big hill. It was a moment of thrill, something I miss so much.

Keeping it positive is great when you are having a day that works that way, but we also experience negative consequences of living in pain, and the stress of these side effects just add to the whole picture of misery on those “other days.”

Lack of energy is my public enemy number one. We blame ourselves for lack of energy because we aren’t “good enough” to get into shape and bolster our metabolism. The truth is, we can’t. Right now I am sitting in a motel room on a busy island full of fun things to do. I am on a business trip (about pain) and I’m fighting with my brain:

“You should go out and do something.”

“You can’t go out on a whim because you might get stuck.” (I get stuck if I walk too far.)

“You are wasting precious time, you may never be back here again.”

“I truly don’t have the energy to get ready. I will be tired and in pain if I try. Then it will just be another disappointment.”

Just drive somewhere, park the car and get the wheelchair out. You can walk it and hold onto it.”

“If I go too far I will need to wheel myself back and my arthritis can’t take that.”

“Where did your sense of adventure go? You are being a lazy idiot! There’s so much to see out there.”

I give up. I feel guilty now and I feel fearful of trying. I know how much it will hurt to do this. I know I will be bent over and in serious pain, panting, walking in a shuffle, if walking at all, and in tears when I get back.”

The dialog grows, and so does the time taken away.

Other side effects of any kind of chronic pain might include sleeping problems, poor concentration and memory, and for some, depression. Pain impacts mood as negative emotions can attack, which can then impact relationships of any kind.

I’ve noticed that if I am standing in a line or sitting and waiting, I will often get irritable. That’s not my normal kind of attitude, but when put in a position where the pain increases, those emotions can come on quickly. I might become impatient about something that I previously would have thought was a ridiculous reaction. Another example is when I am flying. I used to love it and it was a frequent part of my business before retiring. I could fall asleep before take-off and nap until the end of the flight. Now, because it is so uncomfortable to sit, I have a really hard time getting through a flight. That brings on irritability, which blossoms into more tiredness and more pain.

The side effects of pain are dealt with differently by everyone. Many people live near normal lives in spite of pain because they have been able to develop good coping skills. Others have a more difficult time accepting the dramatic changes pain has brought to the table.

I hope YOU have good coping skills and feel positive energy!

Krissy Anderson is an award-winning freelance writer who has several life-long pain conditions. Her work has been published for more than 30 years, and translated into 17 languages.

 

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Authored by: Krissy Anderson

There are 24 comments for this article
  1. Kristine at 6:32 am

    Having chronic pain 24/7 is so much more than just pain. Just like I’ve read in these responses, you loose family and friends. Life becomes so lonely and isolated. My adult kids are my rock. They support me where social security disability income can’t. They are my care takers. And the guilt, (wiping my tears), the guilt is overwhelming. My illnesses have not only stole my life, the also robbed my kids if theirs. I have nowhere to turn. My dad tells me to stop feeling so guilty, that it’s not my fault I got sick. In reality i am so suicidal everyday. This pain is unreal. In fact there are days I doubt myself, only to come to the reality that damn it, it is real.
    On good days (my best day is a 7 out of 10), I try to do as much as I can to make up for lost time, but then it’s like one step forward and ten steps back. I can’t function the next day, the next week.
    Some places aren’t handicap friendly (space to use my walker or wheelchair and set it by me at a restaurant), so I hold onto a son to walk. People stare, I’m sure they comment, I hear whispers. But damn it, I’m up, I’m out of bed, this is my moment to enjoy. I can’t let them ruin it. So I do my best to ignore them, and I try to put increasing pain aside to enjoy the moment.
    Life has definitely changed over the last 15 years that I’ve been sick. I don’t even have enough in me to put on makeup or do my hair. I have long, blonde, beautiful hair – in a ponytail or bun on top of my head!
    Well this is long enough. My point is, there are so many more struggles than just pain, and we are strong, and we are stronger together. Our voices need to be heard. We’re not complaining, were telling our life stories. Not everyone will understand, care or even bat an eye, but there are others in our situation that believe in us, and are in complete understanding, and I’m sorry they do. Because I wouldn’t wish chronic pain on my worst enemy (not that I have one!).

  2. Donna Mixon at 3:53 pm

    #EveryMinute
    #EveryHour
    #EveryDay
    #EveryWeek
    #EveryMonth
    #EverySeason
    #EveryYear

  3. Mel Shaw at 7:29 pm

    To read the column from Krissy and the comments that she was describing just resonates in my head. My chronic pain has taken a toll on me since the early nineties. Everyone says they end up having to beg off on an activity or suffer for one day or more. This is exactly like my chronic pain and I have lost friends or family because they don’t understand how bad my pain has gotten. I feel saddened by hearing all the similar stories and knowing, like Krissy’s, that there is not a good answer to all the chronic pain! My pain escalates just typing my response to her article. I just wish that there were better answers to chronic pain.

  4. Kurt WG Matthies at 1:51 pm

    Thank you Krissy, for your articulate piece.

    You describe one of the worst aspects of living with chronic intractable pain — the progressive physiological disability cause by underlying disease and under treated pain that limits our activities, and the seemingly endless loss that stresses our relationships and present endless challenge our mental health.

    Your ideas resonate with many of our readers — including me.

    Thank you for opening your heart on a subject that for many, causes much shame and grief for those of us who live with daily intractable pain.

  5. Sky at 1:12 pm

    I had an idea. This and all our stories need to go to every congress person, doctors, every stake holder in all our lives. just barrage them. As is is, only other pain patients understnd or care.. Doctors need info and support to push back too. Opinions such as addicts get their drugs regardless, etc. MUST BE MAINSTREAMED! The other thing missing is pain causes depression causes more pain causes depression…. This cycle needs to be broken. Until I got opiates i was unable to break the depression to do other things that helped me. Get the articles relevant to yourself, print, give to doctors everyone you come in contact with. That is something most all of us can do, I promise I am going to!

  6. Shari Geer at 10:30 am

    Wow I can really relate to this article

  7. Pain Sufferer at 9:17 am

    Lynne Howard

    All of us here on this web site care because all of us are in the same boat one way or another. Stay strong for not only yourself and husband, but for all of us who truley care.

  8. Alana at 4:19 am

    Thanks for this. I shared it on Facebook.
    I’d like to add a little something from personal experience; the consequences the next day. Getting stuck is aweful. Being in pain in a weird place is just about the most frustrating thing to go through… But for me, far worse is the next day. I can push and push and I have to. If I don’t I’d never get anything done. I can get through the next 5 mins if I fight hard enough, the next hour with some pain medication, the next few hours if i want it bad enough… But the next day, I pay for every step I took over my limit ten fold. The next day, I’ll be so tired, so sore, so grumpy and just so done, that I’ll have to spend that whole day in bed, and the next day to if I’m unlucky. I do it anyways, because I don’t always have a choice, and when I do it’s a choice between fun and pain, and boredom and regret… Sometimes I choose the latter… When I choose the former I pay for it. Sometimes it’s worth it, sometimes it’s a huge mistake… So it’s not even that we just have to worry about overdoing it today, getting stuck, and whatever, we also have to worry about tomorrow, and if we are needed to function that day or not.

  9. Lynne Howard at 4:16 am

    Moira, I am a 65 year old woman who was
    dx with fibromyalgia in 1990 after a years of unrelenting pain
    Dx with osteo arthris 2000
    Dx rheumatoid arthritis 2005
    1st knee replacement 2011
    Dx breast cancer 2011
    2nd knee replacement 2012
    And on it goes. My life is cr*p . Adult daughters ignore me. No friends any more . Only my husband . He is my rock. But the guilt I feel is overwhelming . I keep it hidden , but I wish I was dead. What is the point … . There is no point . If/when my husband dies I will have enough drugs to end my own life. There is no point . Everyday I struggle . Inside I am so lonely . Inside I feel worthless. There is no point . No one cares

  10. Jo Anna Tobey at 9:10 pm

    I’ve had both Fibromyalgia and polymyalgia rheumatica for 25 years. At the age of almost 70, I also have osteoarthritis. I want very much to try marijuana for the considerable chronic pain. It would be OK in Oregon, except that I live in HUD housing . We have been told by the management that anyone resorting to marijuana FOR ANY REASON will be kicked out of their apt as soon as management found out. I’m not stupid enough to go around telling anyone about it, but if the worst should happen, is there any group that would go to bat for me, to fight the ruling in court?

  11. steve m at 4:12 pm

    Krissy, enjoyed reading what we all go through. We all need more like you and a much needed spot to help others in understanding coping and taking opiods. We need to help others in understanding the half-life of a drug why there is a band curve in the release of the opiods and a much greater understanding of how to make it routine like any other health problem. The CDC clearly over stepped once again. We also need to help people that are being forced to come down on the amount of MME drug they are on. Understanding the MME table the CDC is using for a guideline. I was never really educated in all this till my chronic pain lesson to a great degree. Clearly the ILL-EQUIPPED playbook the medical industry is using for doctors writing the RX’s are clueless. The playbook has many errors and hope that I can explain that many other drugs are not needed. But to CYA type thinking they shove unwanted drugs down you. Hoping we all can make a difference and help others out. Thank you !

  12. Mary Lee Seibert at 9:28 am

    This is the first time I have read your article or any other about chronic pain from the personal perspective and when I read what you had to say I cried. You have expressed what I feel so well. I was always an athletic and just generally active person. I am 74 years old and have been suffering from chronic pain since 1988 when I had my first big back surgery. Add to that fibromyalgia, and arthritis with diabetes and a Mayo Clinic diagnosis of “tight fascia” (would you believe?) and I am a mess. But I never learn. I am a biker and I rode 20-25 miles 3 times a week until just recently when the pain just would not let me be me any longer. I am fortunate that my general practitioner does prescribe pain meds that keep me going most of the time, but when I pick up anything over 10 lbs. or walk more than a mile, the pain the next day is overwhelming. It is so hard to explain to others, so they don’t understand my mood swings. When my pain is over the top, my usual smiling and humorous persona is not evident. Reading the stories of others makes me feel like I am not alone and really helps. Keep up the good work, Krissy.

  13. Cyndi at 9:11 am

    Beautiful! I could have said every word myself. I try not to go back in time to remember my pain free days. Mostly because it puts a face on the fact I have suffered for many many years. As a teenager I loved the outdoors. I played any sport my mom could afford to put me in. I was in my 20’s when pain first came into my life. Seeing I am now in my 50’s, that’s over 30 years of painful days and lonely nights.

    Thank you

  14. Renee Mace at 6:59 pm

    Krissy GET OUT OF MY HEAD! You said it right, I too argue with my brain because I want so bad to have a life, but the side effects of having any kind isn’t worth the extra suffering. And as it is I don’t get enough pain medication to to make it out alive barely one day at a time with the new CDC Guidelines. Before I had one or two extra pills to plan something for a couple hours a month. For me, it was going to the Goodwill Store and finding that treasure, but now, I can’t even make it out of my home. Life is so hard, so so hard. I wish that when a doctor, friend and somebody who tells me just go do it, you’ll have fun, that I could touch them and they feel what I feel like, but just for the moment, I do have a heart and wouldn’t want anyone to suffer as I have. So Krissy thanks for writing what you go through, because I do the same thing you do.

  15. VeronaEllen at 5:41 pm

    You sound just like me except I can still walk a bit. Constant unending pain seems to have robbed me of my life. I seldom leave the house except for Dr appointments and an occasional fast shopping trip. No more going out to eat, movies, actually nothing except the essentials.

    My newest gripe is here in Oregon we not have only a 30 day script for pain. Mine is Tramadol. Now I have to make 120 mile trip just to pick it up…every month. This is difficult on a limited income and I don’t drive anymore. I’m so annoyed with the Government and Insurance companies trying to replace my Doctor. No wonder he is retiring and so now a new young doctor who doesn’t know my 71 year history.

    I should not complain as so many others have bigger problems. It is just nice to read someone else is fighting some of the same issues.

    Good thing I like to stay home.

  16. Danny at 5:28 pm

    I have the same type of mental “arguments”. With my severe head pain, it goes like this:

    Go to the local Minor League baseball game! Get out of the house!

    But what if a nearby toddler screams out of joy? Or someone blows a horn? Then, I’ll have to leave and ruin it for everyone!

    The pain’s not terrible today, so go see a movie!

    But what if I happen to be looking at a car and there’s a bright, sunlight reflection? Or my ear plugs don’t block out the explosion and I’m STUCK. Can’t drive anymore and have to call my wife or friend to come pick me up… AGAIN. I feel so guilty, asking them to help, even though they say “it’s not a problem”.

    Thanks for the spot-on column. You’ve hit the mark with a lot of us, I’m sure.

  17. Danny at 5:14 pm

    Krissy, I just want to say thank you. I’ve only suffered chronic pain since 2011 and am having a terrible time adjusting. Can’t seem to get anybody, including doctors to understand. What you said actually shows me you understand. Sometimes that is all I need.

  18. Anne Fuqua at 3:46 pm

    Oh Krissy, my first thought reading this was that it is exactly like something I’d say about how I feel!

  19. Lee at 11:35 am

    My husband just asked me to go on a motor car caravan that would involve sitting in the car for hours, then being charming and sociable for another hour or so before an hour long drive home. I’ve just recently stopped my RA med due to side effects, and the new pain medicine regimen does not work at all. Once again I will miss out on life, and my husband, who is very understanding, has to find a friend to accompany him. Meanwhile, a friend who lives in Ecuador has invited me and my daughter to visit, and a life long dream of seeing the Galapagos would be included. Everyone is excited, and now it’s time to make reservations, and all I can think of is how am I going to make it through all the trekking about, etc., with the chronic pain. My daughter knows, but doesn’t really comprehend the depths of my disease. She sees me as the mom who still tumbles, and goes constantly–super mom. Her frustration is obvious even at home; I dread what will happen on this trip, but don’t want to give up this opportunity. I don’t want to give in, but am so afraid my body will betray me. The grief is almost as unbearable as the pain.
    I have to work on acceptance and adaptation, things I taught others as a nurse, but need to heed as a patient.

  20. Lisa Nagy at 10:07 am

    There are different kinds of people, I think, that make the Journey Of Pain so much harder. The thrill seekers, the drive across the country types, there are do’ers and there are watcher’s. Us do’ers feel trapped, isolated, missing out. We pushed the limits before in life because everything we did, we did it with passion! Or we got bored. We set goals and we met them, then set bigger ones. Now reading your story Krissy, I smiled as you drove over your bridge, and I cried when you walked hunched back, getting stuck. For I also do the same. I would stomp up & down on my feet right now out of frustration, but I can’t. If I was a watcher, I think this would be just a tad (no insult here) easier…for I would not hear the wind call my name everyday. I close the doors & windows but I still hear it, urging me to come…come finish all the adventures I never got to do, people to laugh with I never met or nature’s beauty to look at & smile. Thank you for telling an Adventure’s Chronic Life Story, you told it very very well.

  21. Maureen at 8:29 am

    Hi Krissy, once again…you have hit the nail on the head with all that you wrote!
    At least for me you did!
    I get all that you described… 100%! It has taken me years to figure out how to re-adjust my life in chronic pain.
    Don’t get me wrong…I still end up pushing myself some days but… I ALWAYS suffer more when I do and waste the next day having to be in bed! I have had to work hard on learning how to manage myself better. It’s always on ongoing process.
    For a number of years, I now tell people that I cannot commit to a visit, a lunch together, a scheduled walk with them, or whatever it is…until the day of.
    Sometimes not until an hour before our planned meet up time. And still….4 out of 5x I end up not being able to do it. Therefore…
    I have lost friends due to this way of life since they just can’t understand it since…’I look fine’! and they just don’t get it. So, the invites stop.
    A few years ago an ‘out of state’ lifetime dear friend of mine couldn’t understand me when I told her that I can no longer drive the 2 hours to her home for weekend visits. It was all way too much and too painful for me. The last time I had done it…I was there 2 hours and got in my car and drove right back home to my bed. That was a wake-up call for myself.
    Her response was ‘Where’s the girl who once drove cross country?!’.
    Well, that was in the 80’s! long before my injury and many surgeries.
    I responded ‘that girl is long long gone’.
    It broke my heart to hear myself say that…and it broke my heart that my best friend, who has been through everything in my life with me since age 5, had no idea yet of how I lived my life in pain.
    That spun me into some ’emotional’ pain for sure, and therapy, but it also pushed me to work on being true to myself in my new life.
    And the fact that if people near and dear to me aren’t interested in learning about my new journey, then it’s time to change that relationship.
    I’ve learned a lot about humanity through this difficult journey of mine.
    My own daughter, my only child, whom I was always so very close to…has separated herself from me. She once said ‘I can’t deal with the fact that you are no longer ‘super mom’.
    Heart breaking…
    ONE day at a time folks! Keep focused on keeping positive for yourself first and connecting with folks of your kind for compassion and understanding.
    Every little bit helps 🙂

  22. Marty at 7:51 am

    After twenty five years of pain I would give anything to have one pain free hour. The years of pain takes a great toll on the body and mind which some could never understand. These years of never ending pain has taught me is to have compassion and empathy for everyone’s struggles no matter what those struggles are. Understanding, compassion, empathy and learning to being nonjudgmental would do us all a world of good.

  23. Moira Somerville at 5:49 am

    I need to know and. Hear information regarding pain voice, stories, needs that are relevant within Australia, Victoria
    To me there is a systemic problem that is relevant to a society.
    From what I have read, I feel the USA is more advanced than Australia in the recognition of how debiliting chronic, relentless pain is so damaging to the individual.
    If you know anything from an ignorant Australian policy regarding chronic pain, contacts, information, anything that I can advocate, utilise to ease people’s desperate needs in Australia, please inform me.
    I do have a feel to seriously address chronic pain triggered by Trauma.
    Please contact me