I often feel like the physical pain I regularly experience acts like a filter to the rest of the world that goes on around me. If you habitually deal with chronic pain on any level, then you probably already know what I mean by this, but if you don’t, let me explain.
Have you ever had the flu? Or some nasty virus that lasted for a short bit of time? Ever got a sinus infection that was overly painful? Or for simplistic purposes, what about a bad cold, ever got one of those? I’m sure that most of you can say yes to at least one of those and if so, then take a moment and remember how you truly felt the last time you were in the midst of any one of them.
I’d venture to say you probably didn’t like to be around others when it was going on. And I’m sure your patience level was much less with everyone and everything during those times too. Now continue to imagine yourself during your last sickness. Did you still go out to a movie, or take a stroll in nature, or dine at a restaurant, or hang out with friends, or do anything that might normally bring you some happiness when you’re not ill? If you did, I’d venture to say it was extremely challenging for you to enjoy, wasn’t it?
You see, that’s what makes it so hard for people like me who continue to deal with chronic pain. We can’t ever escape it; thus, we only have two choices. We can either remain in our homes becoming hermits or we can force ourselves to go out and attempt to do some of the things that normally would bring a person not in pain, a little happiness and joy. In my case, I have continued to do the latter, which seems to frequently go against what my mind actually wants these days, that being to remain a hermit.
Case in point, anytime I attend my men’s social group on Tuesday nights where everyone is usually laughing, joking, and connecting, I’m usually shifting uncomfortably in my seat over and over again in pain, missing out on so many of those jokes, failing to laugh, and feeling like I’m not even part of the group. That’s the pain filter I’m speaking of.
A few other good examples of this pain filter are when I go to the movies and keep having to get up and go to the bathroom or stretch, which only causes me to miss out on ever becoming fully engrossed in the film. Or when a group of friends choose to go dancing, bowling, or some other type of physical activity, where the best I can do if I go with them is watch from a bench while I ache. Or when I go to one of my many recovery meetings and fail to absorb most of what people are saying, instead hearing “blah blah blah” because I’m screaming inside my body over the level of pain I’m going through.
This is the pain filter I’m talking about and it’s like having the flu all the time. It disseminates most of the joy away from me, preventing me from ever really having a good time with anything. What’s even worse is when people tell me to smile when they see me out and about, while they themselves are living in a body that’s either medicated to numb their pain enough so that it doesn’t bother them or they’re not dealing with any pain at all. They have no concept of the pain filter I go through just to be present in the world.
Thus, I write this with the hope of providing a little education to people who aren’t having to deal with this pain filter, who don’t know what it feels like to go out and be social in the midst of having chronic pain. It’s not easy, and having fun, enjoying life, or experiencing happiness, sometimes feels next to impossible for us.
So, until you walk a day in our shoes, you’ll never truly know what the pain filter feels like, that is unless you choose to go out and be social the next time you get the flu or some other type of temporary illness. As I’m sure if you do, you’ll most likely then finally understand this pain filter we go through every day, just to step outside our homes and try to experience life like everyone else.
Try and remember that the next time you tell someone to smile at a social event who says they’re in pain, because that pain filter might not be so easy for them as it is for you. Instead, tell them you’re glad they’re there. Give them a hug. Stay away from offering advice. And really listen to what they’re going through. As there’s a good chance if you do that their pain filter might just get a little less, and they’re joy a little more…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson