Here is a thoughtful essay from a retired professor of sociology on the social impact of chronic pain. She points out that chronic pain takes us into a different reality that we and those around us must adjust to.
My life journey has taken me to the new world. I have accepted this new world, my new reality. I am going to do my very best to be a productive and healthy person in this new reality. BUT – WHO IS THIS NEW PERSON? And how do I understand the new “normal” for this person?
We watch a documentary recording the life of a wounded warrior, struggling to make sense of his changed body and mind and find new meaning in his life.
But what if that warrior is my spouse, parent, or sibling? The change in my own life must accommodate the changes in the life of the warrior in many ways.
The family, individually and as a unit, must “reinvent” itself to achieve a new wholeness.
the psyche of the wounded themselves may require more support than the medical and family community is able to provide.
[Pain] patients are subject to unwritten rules and expectations that include:
- A willingness to get well;
- Compliance with medical treatment and with family expectations of same;
- A positive attitude about life and their new place in it; and
- They should not suffer too loudly, or too often [keep suffering hidden, ed.]
The first 3 points are truly necessary to avoid sinking into despair, while the last seems to be more for the comfort of those around us. However, by openly expressing our pain and suffering and making it obvious to others, we are also reinforcing our own perception of ourselves as suffering individuals.
It turns out that the voice we listen to most and believe most is our own. When we engage in rumination and internal conversation over how miserable we are, this in itself reinforces and keeps us stuck in our negative feelings.
We must not obsess about our difficulties, focus on our pain, or bemoan our fate, even to ourselves, because listening to our own negative self-talk can convince us even more how truly terrible our situation is. A negative view is rarely productive, whether real or not, and is best left unexpressed, both to ourselves or or others.
Instead, we must move forward, come to terms with new situations we find ourselves in – through no choice of our own. We did nothing to cause or deserve our pain, yet we are the only ones that have the power to make a life with chronic pain bearable.
There is more, but of course each wounded person and each family will be both unique and yet have much in common with others in similar situations.
At this point, let us enlarge our wounded warrior status to include, as we have, members of the family and community. These are wounded warriors whose injuries did not occur on the battlefield, and whose wounds may not be visible.
while we may understand and sympathize with the outwardly evident wounds of these pain warriors, we understand too little of the inward journey they are making
disease processes may over time become too overwhelming for both body and mind, and there is a loss of ability, loss of productivity, loss of independence, loss of financial status, loss of mental acuity—too many losses to support the former persona. Too many losses to grieve, to accept, to overcome easily in the effort to restore a sense of self, of worthiness, of place in a different world.
Some wounded never return to us as independent, self-sufficient persons.
The huge problem of “Who am I going to be, now that I have lost who I always used to be?” remains unrecognized, and if actually voiced, bulldozed over by the well-meaning advice that boils down to GOIAMO. Get over it, and move on.
It is not that easy. Yes, I have completed the grieving process. Yes, I have accepted that this is my new world, my new reality. Yes, I am going to do my very best to be a productive and healthy person in this new reality. BUT – WHO IS THIS NEW PERSON?
focus in the past is healing, but eventually may be stunting to the growth process.
In the end, if we persevere, we begin to focus on the future, and what we will bring to it.
It may not be the future we have intended, and for some of us that is truly an entirely new concept and challenge.
Whether the life changing wounds are our own, or those of a loved one, the change is both an outward and inward journey.