Hello, I’m Anne.
If being in pain for the last decade has taught me anything it’s that I’m not special. The world is full of people suffering from chronic pain and other invisible diseases, yet the population is mostly quiet (unless I’m missing a month out of the year where everyone wears colored ribbons and runs 5ks in support of this epidemic).
For a little while, I thought I was special. I was barely in my twenties and the only person I knew who had had several orthopedic surgeries. I visited doctors all over the state and participated in studies about my condition since it had only recently been identified. But once that narcissism faded, I looked up and saw a community of people just like me. Maybe they were older or had a different source of pain, but our lives looked more or less the same.
In spite of my realization of this wide-spread problem, I found living with chronic pain horribly isolating. Sure, there was that Facebook group I checked on, and there were those people at physical therapy with whom I could commiserate, but when I was home on a Saturday night and four hours into a Netflix binge, things were quite lonely.
I used to be a vibrant, extroverted person. I made friends wherever I went, always had a boyfriend, and had a packed social calendar. Now that I write that, it sounds obnoxious and braggy, so let me rephrase. I was never the popular person, but I was never short on friends. I didn’t have a list of endless invites every night, yet there was always something fun to do. But after years of consistent “no’s” and “I can’t’s” things changed.
As my pain got worse I could do less – no surprises there! It looked like I was on a permanent upswing following the first two surgeries until suddenly I was hurting even more than before. I tried everything I could to get better, but my level of functioning slipped, pulling my social life with it.
Below are the stages of that multi-year process, in a mere five bullet points:
- Suffer in silence : You can do a fairly decent job masking your increasing pain as you stand for hours at a cocktail party. You pay for it later, but at least you made it through the night!
- Making everyone around you uncomfortable : You hobble several feet behind your friends as you bar hop Downtown. You continue to insist that you’re fine, but everyone knows you’re lying. They try to walk more slowly to try to allow you to keep up and say things like “You look so miserable!”
- Realizing it’s just not worth it : You sit at the bar alone and watch your friends dance without you because you cannot stand any longer. You started the night in pain, and you’re going to end the night in pain. You wore comfortable shoes and rested all day in preparation for this evening of “fun,” but you just can’t make it work anymore.
- No : You know how the day is going to go before it starts, and you don’t want to put your body through that. You get a phone call asking if you want to watch a parade at their house and you start crying because you can’t, embarrassing yourself and making the person issuing the invitation uncomfortable.
- Radio silence : You’ve said “no” so many times people don’t want to ask you to do much of anything anymore. No one wants to bring up the topic of your pain (because there’s no way you’re thinking about it if someone isn’t talking about it, right?), and pretty much all attempts at social interaction stop. Sure, you still do things, but outside of your closest friends / family, no one understands why some activities are okay while others aren’t, so they just give up.
I realize that I’m writing from my personal experiences, but I know that they aren’t unique (which goes back to the whole me-not-being-special thing). At this point in my blogging journey, I have no intention of going into the specificities of my conditions because I don’t even feel it’s relevant. The purpose of writing, besides wanting to have a soapbox, is the possibility of reaching someone who feels the same way. We don’t have to hurt for the same reasons for us to have shared feelings, fears, and even experiences.
I do not wish to isolate anyone who feels pain, but because I am youngish my experiences might differ from someone who doesn’t identify as such. I feel that the community of young people who have chronic pain deserves its own attention because some of the struggles are different. I hope that people of all ages can relate to what I say, but be warned that this blog is targeted specifically for those who are young and dealing with chronic conditions.
So if you can deal with my sarcasm, frequent negativity, and sometimes disarming honesty, read on. If not, that’s your call!
You also need to be able to deal with a few typos from time to time, as my job dictates that I write in the evenings which is, incidentally, when I am least clear due to the pain medicines I take. I do return to each post and correct my errors, but I’ve usually already had a few reads by that point. Still, I’m feeling like my “audience” can forgive this shortcoming.