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Acknowledging Chronic Pain

November 11, 2021 3 min read 1 Comment

Acknowledging Chronic Pain

I suffer from chronic pain.

I can't remember when it first started or when it progressed from an occasional painful moment to a chronic, continual pain with only brief periods of relief.

Regardless of the progression, I now recognize that it's chronic and continual with some days being more tolerable than other days.

I don't yet understand, nor am I able to pinpoint what caused the initial pain, what the source of pain continues to be, or why it is worse on certain days. I only know that the days of severe pain have been coming more frequently and last longer than ever before.

I think I learned, or decided, or was somehow bestowed the ability to tolerate pain at an early age. Over the years I have developed such a tolerance to it that I manage, albeit poorly, to continue functioning on days when the pain is severe.

For many years I was able to distract myself from the pain with obligations, responsibilities, and a sense of duty to others. I do not know why I feel a sense of responsibility to care for others greater than a sense of responsibility to care for myself.  Distractions became a hiding place from myself.

In addition, I think a contributing factor to my pain tolerance is my sense of curiosity that leads me to learn and experiment with fixing things on my own. It has always seemed reasonable to me that if I can just tolerate the pain I will eventually notice a pattern of what causes it, how long does it last, what exacerbates it, what eases it, and eventually how to stop it.

Even worse is my sense of "I can do it myself and don't need help". This may be the worst trait I have for dealing with chronic pain. Although, in close second (or maybe first) is my lack of trust - or better defined as a terrible, unflinching fear to trust anyone. It has become irrational and I don't know when it started. Did it start before the pain, or as a result of the pain?

The severity and duration of the pain has now increased to the level that I can no longer tolerate it or function normally.  I suspect that what I considered as 'functioning normally' was never normal but likely tolerable to others, justified as "Keith is just extra grouchy today".

I can no longer push through, make it one more day, wait for the pattern to emerge so I can fix it myself, or do anything except ask for help.  Most importantly, I don't want to continue living this way.

I have called the doctor and confirmed with my insurance plan that I have coverage. Another excuse has been "it'll cost too much to get help", which is another long held belief that I should fix things myself instead of paying a professional.  At this point, even without insurance I would go to the doctor for treatment. 

So, what have I learned that might be useful to someone else?

Another person cannot help you if you cannot express you need help. There may be some people who are intuitive enough and love you enough to suspect you are hurting but if you do not confirm their concerns, they can't help.

Tolerating pain is not helpful.

A hiding place is not the same as a safe place. I was more comfortable in my hiding place than in my safe place.

Asking for help if you are not accustomed to it can be difficult. For me it can be as physically difficult as hard exercise when I am not in good condition. I've heard the saying "ask a trusted, safe person for help" but this can be difficult for some. I am more conditioned to hide from pain rather than to ask for help. So, asking for help only happened when my pain became intolerable.

The longer you wait the worse the pain and the more difficult treatment will be. I can now see and compare it to something as simple as a sore or blister. If you continue to ignore the painful warning sign from whatever is causing the pain the cause will only get worse and take longer to treat.

I will go to the doctor, ask for help and do my best to trust in the advice and treatment.  I will go to the doctor even though I might not be in severe pain the day of my appointment. I have confided in my trusted, safe person (even though I did not want to burden her) that I am in intolerable pain and need a doctor's help. 

I feel closer than ever before to my safe person, closer than I've ever felt to anyone.  This is a good start to a long journey.

1 Response


November 21, 2021

I’m proud of you. Asking for help can take as much courage as acknowledging the problem in the first place. May they help you find some relief ❤️

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