A friend of mine privately messaged me recently to inquire on the details of the pain I go through on a daily basis after he read one of my articles titled “The Pain Filter”, which spoke about what it’s like to live life through the eyes of chronic pain. When I messaged him back, I said I’d rather talk about it in person, but the more I thought about it in all the days since, that really wasn’t the truth. The real truth is I that actually don’t like talking about my health issues at all anymore, unless it’s with my therapist, my partner, or my best friend from Massachusetts.
You see, with each of them, they know the lengths I’ve gone to, to take care of myself, to foster a healthy mind and soul, and all the exasperation I’ve endured through it all seeing little to no results manifest as of yet, which in turn helps them to know how to respond in a way that makes me feel supported and loved. But for those general bystanders, casual friends, acquaintances, and others who haven’t known me for years and years, or spent enough time talking with me to get to know all that I’ve been through already in my attempts to heal, I tend to receive responses that only lead me to greater frustration.
I know I’ve written about this subject before in a multitude of ways, but it’s something that continues to repeat itself in my life from time to time and is worth mentioning again in a slightly different way. Here are the top 11 responses I normally receive after opening up about my chronic pain to someone who’s not my therapist, partner, or best friend from Massachusetts:
- “I have a cousin, friend, mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, etc., who has that same condition. They’ve been suffering from it for years…man that sucks!”
- “Hey, I just read an article the other day about what you’re going through and did you know that the such-n-such medicine, therapy, healing modality, etc., have helped with that?” (Yoga is probably the number one suggestion I receive.)
- “Oh, I have this great book that will change your life and deals specifically with that, have you read it yet, if you haven’t, you need to?!”
- “Have you considered that maybe God isn’t happy with your same-sex relationship and that you’re suffering because of it?” (Yes, this indeed has been said to me.)
- “How much are you getting out of yourself to help others, maybe you should go volunteer some more, sponsor a few more people, or get out to more recovery meetings, as that might help alleviate some of your pain?”
- “You know what your problem is, you have too much free time on your hands, you need to get a job, as that will probably fix most of your pain!”
- “Well you are growing older, and you aren’t a spring chicken anymore, maybe some of your pain is coming from that?”
- “Have you been checked out this disease, this illness, this disorder, etc. yet? It kind of sounds like you have some of the symptoms of that?” (This is probably the worst thing to say to me, especially being that I’ve suffered from hypochondria quite a bit in recent years.)
- “So, what if this never goes away, what are you going to do? Or what if this is God’s plan for you to suffer the rest of your life?”
- “You need to dive deeper in the Word brother, it sounds like you aren’t trusting God enough, don’t know you that God can and will take care of this for you? You probably aren’t turning it over enough. Surrender brother!”
- “It sounds like you aren’t accepting it enough and practicing enough gratitude, maybe you should start working harder on that?”
While each of these statements may feel supportive to the speaker of them, they tend to affect me quite the opposite each time I receive them. The reality is that when I share about my pain, it’s not because I’m looking for suggestions, advice, knowledge of someone else that has the same pains or similar, or told I’m not doing good enough in my attempts to heal, or that I’m the cause of my own problem, or anything similar. None of those responses are truly being unconditionally loving and supportive. They aren’t holding space for me to feel safe to open up further either. Instead, it generally causes me to shut down.
The fact is, most people who are in chronic pain like me, simply just want to be heard and told by the person they’re talking to, that they are loved, because with the depth of pain we go through, we often feel so unloved. And if that conversation is held in person and not over a phone by some chance, having a reassuring touch or a hand held comfortingly are also great ways to respond as well. But most people aren’t programmed to answer like that. Rather, most people are programmed to offer comments that frequently seem like they’re coming from a good place, yet their impact typically doesn’t feel that way to the person in chronic pain.
So, the point I’m trying to make here is that if you ever have someone with chronic pain open up and bare their soul to you about what they’re going through, just listen to them and when they’re done, only offer them compassion through your loving touch, your tears, or your gentle words with things like “I’m there for you” or “I will pray for you” or “I will be sending you positive healing energy and light.”
Because anything else, is frequently just the ego trying to either fix them or come up with something that it thinks is comforting, when in reality it often isn’t. What’s comforting to me is the thought of Jesus’s love, as in His case, I’m pretty sure if I bared my soul to Him, I’d receive tears and a loving embrace and that alone would be enough to make it through one more day of this…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson