By Kai Morris – Psychologist, Mental Notes Sport and Performance Psychology, Consultant at Allsports Physiotherapy Parkwood
There are a lot of blogs with tips on how to manage chronic/persistent pain and the truth is, I do not know what it is like to be in pain consistently. I chose to write this article to help normalise your experiences, the difficulties, the triumphs, and just how exhausting and tough it is to live with pain for you and those around you. I sincerely hope it helps.
Living with Chronic Pain Can Affect Everything in Your Life
Living with chronic/persistent pain can have a significant impact, not only on your physical health, but on all areas of your life. For those that have injured themselves at work, a frequent comment I hear is “I wish people would understand that it is not just my work that it affects”, and “People do not understand what it is like”.
Living with pain can impact your social life, your key relationships, your hobbies, and how you identify with yourself. The things you were once able to do, can now be a struggle. It is common to feel irritable, anxious, low, frustrated, fed up, annoyed, and so on. It is important to understand how chronic pain can impact all areas of someone’s life, both for the person who has the pain and those that are close to them. Although pain is not something we can physically see, it is an extremely difficult thing to manage for those experiencing it and not something that they are ‘choosing’ to live with. Which is why it is so important to seek help, if you feel like the pain is controlling your day-to-day life.
Chronic Pain is Not All in Your Head
“They tell me the pain is all in my head” – I want to make it extremely clear. YOUR PAIN IS NOT IMAGINED OR MADE UP. People often feel as though they are ‘crazy’ especially after scans and medical tests do not show a clear diagnosis. Technically, all pain is derived from the brain but it does not mean that pain is somehow imagined or made up. Your pain is real and the difficulties associated with it are real. You are not crazy, nor do you need to toughen up to get through – as stated above going through pain is already tough enough, without feeling like we are making it all up.
You Are More Than Your Pain
Living with pain can often feel like pain is controlling your life. It intrudes on personal moments, it can stop you from doing things you were once able to do, you have multiple doctors, physiotherapy, psychology appointments etc. Your conversations with loved ones are often dominated by your recovery and pain. It can feel overwhelming.
But you are more than your pain. You are a person first, who is experiencing a persistent pain condition. You are not weak, not any less of a person or any less deserving because of your pain. Try and connect with the aspects of you other than your pain and problem solve ways to head towards those things, in a realistic way. It might be different than before, but you can still be that person. One way to do this is by connecting with your core values, values are True North for us and can guide our behaviours going forward. For example, you might have valued ‘adventure’ and you enjoyed going for bush walks and long rides. You may not be able to go for bush walks anymore, but you may be able to go for a drive through nature, or sit on your deck and listen to birds, or watch a documentary.
How Working with a Psychologist Can Assist with Your Chronic Pain
Using an analogy of a radio (with ‘sound’ meaning pain) nothing you do with a psychologist will turn the radio off or on (eliminate the pain) but what you can do is work on ways to decrease the volume of the radio. Working with a psychologist will not directly eliminate your pain but can assist you in managing the difficulties you are having and help you in living a life you value and find meaningful, despite being in pain at the present moment.
Caring for Someone with Chronic/Persistent Pain
This blog is intended to help normalise and validate the difficulties that you may be experiencing when living with chronic/persistent pain. Alternatively, if you know someone experiencing pain it might help you understand the difficulties that the person may be experiencing and to help you understand how best to assist them.
Try making your conversations centred on other things, albeit still ask how they are going from time to time. Help your loved one understand they are more than their pain, but also understand how difficult it can be for them to realise this.
If you or someone you know is living with chronic/persistent pain and would like to schedule an appointment with a psychologist, please contact us here or contact me directly at: