September is International Pain Awareness Month. Now, I know that sounds like a bit of an unnecessary one. We all know pain is real, we know it exists, why does it need a month? Well, as someone living with chronic pain, there’s a lot that people DON’T KNOW, or assume instead of actually finding out. So, the hope of this International Pain Awareness Month is to inform, to educate and to hopefully bring a greater understanding to the larger population lucky enough to not directly experience chronic pain as to what we’re going through.
As someone who lives with chronic pain and chronic illness, I’ve got a fair bit of downtime. I’m currently out of work as managing full time employment when your pelvis screams at you for sitting down isn’t exactly the easiest proposition. However, the child is in Montessori all day, so I have had to find something to keep my mind busy or I’ll go completely demented (there is only so much The Good Wife re-runs a woman can manage). And so, my latest creation is this: The Chronic Pain/Chronic Illness Alphabet – an A-Z guide to Chronic Life. Hopefully it will ring a bell with others who are living with chronic conditions, and bring some more understanding to those lucky enough to not interact with it.
Over the last few years, I’ve tried my hand at a fair amount of chronic illness interventions. Various exercises. Many, many medications. Physiotherapy. Interventions that included big scary needles which hurt like a mo-fo. CBT. Therapy. And throw a few more medications in there. You name it, I’ve probably tried it in my search to end the cycle of chronic pain and depression. It’s been a journey, to use a word that I’m not a particularly big fan of. I’ve tried everything mentioned to me, in the hopes of waking up and having a day with no pain, or a day without thinking dark things. And as far as the depression has gone, it’s mostly been positive. It’s taken some tinkering around with dosages and doctors and therapy but it’s manageable. Chronic pain is a wholly different beast. In my search to find the cure for my pain, I’ve found some halfway fixes, but also discovered some rather awful side effects.
If you’re active on social media, or have an interest in public health, you may be aware of Orla Tinsley, a Cystic Fibrosis patient who has written extensively about her life with Cystic Fibrosis. Orla is a journalist and activist campaigning for many health issues, including the rights of transgender people to gain gender recognition, as well as gaining essential health care resources for cystic fibrosis patients. This December, a few days before Christmas, Orla underwent surgery for a double lung transplant. Seeing her tweet about it made me well up. I don’t know this woman at all. I know of her, I follow her on Twitter, but we’ve never met nor conversed. But seeing the power of what one person’s actions in life and death, by being an organ donor, can do to affect another affected me more than I thought it could.
A picture tells 1000 words, right? With some topics that can be hard to discuss properly, pictures and memes can do a lot of the talking. This is definitely something I’ve found with chronic pain and mental illness – it’s easier to laugh from the outside than talk from the inside. I follow a lot of other Chronic Illness warriors on social media, Instagram in particular. Their sharing of memes and funny pictures, as well as inspiring quotes, keeps me going on rough days. I share them with fellow pain sufferer friends. As well as telling 1000 words, they open up conversation lines in ways that we normally can’t. So I’ve grouped together a few to give as examples of memes that describe life with chronic pain. If you’re a sufferer, or love someone who is, then you may relate.