Seeing Is Not Always Believing: Perception and Chronic Pain

Gabe details how seeing is not always believing when it comes to chronic pain and perception. How do we ignore what others see?By Guest Blogger Gabe King

This blog was originally titled “Seeing Is Not Always Believing: How Chronic Pain Warriors Allow Others’ Perception To Shape Them.” As a chronic pain warrior, Gabe knows first hand how other people’s views of us can impact how we think about ourselves. What advice does he have to help us through?

“What you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing.” C.S. Lewis

Your hanging out with some friends and they decide to do something that you cannot physically do. You have told them over and over again about your condition and how you are not able to do certain activities that you could do in the past, like the one they are wanting to do now. Despite this, they insist on doing it and, not wanting to be the downer of the group, you relent and join them, spending the next few weeks paying for it.

Sound familiar?

I think I can safely say that we as chronic pain warriors have found ourselves in these circumstances way too many times to count. On the outside, we may seem normal to everyone around us, but the war wages within us, fighting for control of our very lives.

Robertson Davies put it best, “The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” The pain we experience on a daily basis is most times beyond normal human comprehension.

As a chronic pain warrior myself, I have learned, through trial and error, many difficult lessons. Let me share with you three pieces of advice, though difficult to hear, are actually simple things to do when around others.

  1. Say No. If you are like me, “no” has become like a four-letter word. But, believe me when I say that it can literally save you from a world of hurt. Discerning what your body can handle at any given juncture is key to fighting your pain.
  2. Educate them. Tell them everything about your illness and what you can and cannot do. You may have to constantly remind them, but that is okay. If they truly care about you, they will listen.
  3. Be Consistent. If you have already educated them, do not participate in things just to please them or fit in. You will just play into what so many think about our invisible fight, that what they do not see does not exist, that it is all in our head.

Do not let the perceptions of those around you make you hide behind a mask of “normalcy”.  Your pain does not define you, nor is it a crutch, but fueling it by doing stupid things just to please your friends is foolish. I hope that you find this advice helpful as you continue your everyday battles with chronic pain.

Stay the course.

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