Communication is critical to having a wonderful, fulfilling life. However, when you are stuck dealing with an invisible illness or symptoms it can leave you feeling alone and unloved. When you don’t outwardly show symptoms, those around you can end up saying things that are hurtful. Things like, “but you don’t act sick”, “you don’t look sick”, but you can still do all the things. These can cause emotional hurt that can develop into resentment or negative feelings towards the people you love.
The first thing to remember is they really don’t understand. When you are friends with those “pain-free” humans they might only understand acute pain. Other things that come up is a lack of understanding your illness. Remember you have done all the research, you have spent hours down the rabbit hole of Google and WebMD trying to figure out answers and all those things you will need to know to manage and kick this pain’s butt. They may have heard something simple somewhere and that is all they know as fact.
Here’s a story you might relate to. I had been friends with someone for years. I don’t normally open up too much about my health issues, as we know that complaining and explaining away our health stuff makes us stuck in the “condition” longer than we need to be. One day, I said, “My fibromyalgia is flaring up bad today. The brain fog and pain, has got me wanting to hide under a rock.”. The immediate response was, “I didn’t know you had fibromyalgia”. Followed quickly by, “You know that that isn’t a real disease as it can’t be tested for. It’s just a process of elimination of things and most of the time it’s all in the person’s head”. OMG, I almost lost my shit. I held my tongue the best I could and responded, “I know psychology is a big part of it, but it doesn’t make the pain or brain fog any less”. This friend, continued on telling me about all she knew about how it was connected to psychology and I just needed a good shrink. So, I clammed up and crawled into my shell.
What I should have done was use a communications tool and told her something like. I am so glad you are able to provide feedback. Thank you. I feel like I can research finding another therapist to help me with this. I feel that my condition is not completely understood but know my pain is real. It hurts my feelings to have someone close to me believe this is all in my head. My symptoms are real and I would love for you to validate that this is not all black and white if possible in the future. I value our friendship and your assistance in this matter. I love you. Please give me a little more understanding if possible.
The power of connection
So, if these “non-pain” people in our life can be so hard on us emotionally, why don’t we just ditch them? The best medicine is the power of connection, that’s why. We are human and meant to be in contact with other humans. We aren’t meant to be alone. Having someone in your corner to support you is an important part of your healing journey. It’s just critical to know how to communicate with them so you don’t get stuck in resentment or wanting to be alone all the time. That’s when chronic pain gets so lonely and actually makes the pain worse. Emotions do play a huge role in your pain. How do we strengthen our commination power? Let me share a few ways.
One tool to communicate without getting stuck in explaining is the magnet tool. I love this one!
Magnets for the Win
One situation is having to explain the same thing every day. You wake up in the morning, feeling like crap. Your pain kept you up and in turn, the lack of sleep has made your pain worse. The first thing you wake up to after that rude alarm clock is. “Good morning Babe, how did you sleep”. For some reason, this infuriates you and you want to just start screaming at you love, “Shut up, you know I was up most of the night. No, I didn’t sleep well. Jerk.” But somehow you muster up, “Fine, what about you” as you limp your way to the bathroom. You feel your jaw tense up as you hold back the rest of the words that are just wanting to flow off your tongue. Ouch, now my neck and jaw hurt too. Thanks. But you know this response is keeping the love in your relationship.
After this happens for years, you finally decide to talk to your lover about this. Here’s how the conversation can go down.
Hey honey, can we talk about mornings? As you know I have sleeping issues and pain issues. This makes sleep really hard for me. You asking me every morning how I slept is really hard for me. As soon as those words have to pass my lips it makes the way I’m feeling burn further into my reality and I just don’t really want to talk about it. Is it possible to change or morning conversation? Can we start with just “Good morning, I’m excited to get the day started” or “Good morning,” followed by a kiss?
As soon as you talk to them about how this conversation makes you feel and gets you more stuck in your pain. They are able to change it. You don’t have to resent that conversation any longer. Now you not only don’t have to tense up at that conversation you get to enjoy that first moment with the power of a kiss and smile.
Now, as the caretaker, this might not be a good thing for them. They want to know how you are doing and how you are feeling and if they can help. So, after taking many classes this was the tool I found the most helpful. You know those magnetic letters and numbers stuck to your fridge as a kid or that your kids have? Use the number 0-9, every morning as I make my first steps into the kitchen I put my number on the fridge. This isn’t always my pain level. It could be I’m in a foggy mood, moody, or just in pain. But these magnets give my loved ones some idea of what’s going on with me at that moment. My love, also knows when I’m ready I will tell him about what is going on or if I feel like I need help I will tell him. We made an agreement to communicate about everything, but with pain and illness over talking about it sinks you deeper into the illness.
It seems so simple but it really can create huge benefits in your life and the way that you manage your chronic pain. It’s one of the tools to help you take it out of the driver’s seat in your life and lock that bad boy up in the trunk so you can start living WELL despite your chronic pain.
If you want to learn more about chronic pain management or want another FREE tool for your tools kit to check out the Power of Two Exercise and join the FREE Healthy Habits Party where we can make managing chronic pain and getting healthy fun and put the power back into your hands. You deserve to Thrive no survive, despite your chronic pain