Rhetorical question: How many of us suffer from chronic pain?
I don’t. When I think about it, I consider myself lucky and figure my luck could run out at any time. I should think about it more. I should be ever mindful about how lucky (blessed, if that is how you lean) I am.
Those of you who suffer from chronic pain know that it affects every aspect of life.
There’s nothing that you cannot do, but there are many things that you avoid doing, or do differently, so as to keep your level of pain from being aggravated beyond a manageable level.
It is psychologically destructive to focus on those limitations, though. A “cup half full” outlook is important to keep from spiraling into depression. You are hopefully able to adjust to your new reality.
To an objective observer, you are fine. No-one would know that you are carrying a burden. You have modified your activities to keep your pain below that threshold that it would become noticeable. You may be taking anti-depression medication which masks your low mood.
You have also learned from experience that no-one wants to know about your pain. You have learned to say you’re doing fine when you’re not.
Nobody wants to spend time with a complainer. We tend to associate ourselves with people who make us feel happy; not with people who make us feel sad.
Years ago I learned about a counseling method called “co-counseling” where participants provide counseling sessions to each other. It is based on each participant having equal time. There was no room for one participant having more counseling time than another.
That’s the way our social “system” works generally. You share something about yourself with the full expectation that the person you are sharing with will immediately return with something about himself or herself. If you don’t believe me, look for it during your next conversation.
A person suffering from chronic pain learns quickly to suffer in silence.
I have come to learn about chronic pain through my personal injury legal practice. My clients are suffering from chronic pain because of injuries sustained, for the most part, in motor vehicle collisions.
On the one hand, there’s an added psychological element to deal with. There’s the nagging reality that the development of chronic pain would never have occurred if the offending driver had simply given his or her driving the level of care and responsibility that it deserved.
On the other hand, at least our legal system provides for the right to pursue fair compensation for that pain. Of course, compensation is never “fair” in the sense of balancing out chronic pain. Every one of my clients would return their settlements in a heartbeat if it meant returning to a pain free life.
The pursuit of fair compensation requires proving that pain and those innumerable ways it impacts on your life.
Consider the challenge of doing that when you have learned to modify your life in such a way that your pain is hidden from the world around you.
Consider that your own descriptions of that pain and of those impacts are likely to be looked at very critically because there is a general perception that those making injury claims are trying to screw the insurance company.
If only medical science had progressed to the point that pain could be detected, measured and proven by a machine.
This is where witnesses become absolutely critical for injury claims. I don’t mean witnesses to the collision itself – liability is seldom at issue. I mean people who have known you since before the collision, who are close enough to you that they have cared to notice the changes that you have struggled to keep hidden.
Has someone close to you been injured in a collision? I encourage you to given them all the support you can in their recovery, to help minimize the long term effects of the injuries.
I also encourage you to support them in a different way – to be mindful that at some point justice will require you to validate their losses. To do so effectively, you will need to notice the indicators of pain, the clues that the person close to you is unable to hide. You will need to notice the changes in that person’s activities or ways of doing things, however subtle, that he or she is unable to avoid.
Published June 28, 2012 in the Kelowna Capital News