Hello, my name is Natalie, and I live with chronic pain. To be fair, I live with several chronic conditions, and pain is only one of them. Recently, I’ve come to realized how skewed my pool of friends, loved ones and associates is toward those who share this living situation.
I’ve only been in the job I currently have for just shy of two years. It’s the first job in a while where a fair number of my coworkers are as much as twenty years younger than I am, which doesn’t necessarily protect them from chronic pain, it just makes it less likely to have encountered it.
Several times in the last week or so, a coworker has asked me if I was “all better now” and I wasn’t sure how to answer them. I am definitely better than I was in October when I got sidelined by the flare up of a pinched nerve, or better than I was in January when I had a cold, a sinus infection, a chest infection, etc, which knocked my sugar out of whack.
One coworker said, “You haven’t complained about X in a while, so you must not be in pain anymore.”
I laughed (you know, that laugh of the “have you met me?” variety) and joked that if I were ever not in some pain, I would assume I was dead. He was baffled and horrified. I tried to explain that my lower back, my knee, my wrists, elbows and shoulders, and my neck where all victims of various chronic conditions, which meant they would be calm for a while, but then something would cause them to flare up…that they were never gone, and that at any given moment, I am in pain somewhere. That my normal status is this certain level of pain, which I can tolerate and function with.
He made this face, the kind people make when you tell them you’re ill. I see it a lot. But the thing is, they don’t comprehend that I’m not complaining, I’m not upset…I’m not asking for sympathy and I don’t need them to do anything.
I get it from others too. This weird look, like a scared sympathetic, please god not me sort of thing that irritates me. And even when I explain what these chronic conditions mean, that they will never be gone, the next time I come in limping because my lower back has decided to send an invading nerve impulse through my hip and into my leg, or I’m favoring my right arm, or what have you, they will act all surprised again and want to know what I’ve done to injure myself now.
But, you know what? For all my aches and pains, I am a pretty happy person and I have a pretty amazing life. I certainly wouldn’t trade any of my experiences for anything. And now, it’s time for a second cup of coffee and to get this work day on it’s feet.
Happy Wednesday, Readers!