I think it’s probably difficult for people around us to know what to say when we tell them we’re suffering. Before I suffered with headache and neck pain, I probably said a few of the wrong (well-meaning-but-annoying) things myself.
I am selective about who I share my pain with. Sometimes, I feel like I’m being boring if I talk about my health. Sometimes, I worry that people will think I’m whining. And an annoying comment can really get to me when I’m not feeling at my strongest.
Generally, I just grit my teeth – and remind myself that ignorance was bliss – when I hear any of the following;
I don’t appreciate it when someone remarks that because I’m smiling and happy, that I’m ‘better’. Being happy is something that I work at in spite of having a headache or a neck pain. It doesn’t mean that the pain has magically disappeared, it just means either that I’m having one of my better days, I’m coping better or that – through the miracle of make-up! – I look pretty good today. I hate feeling that I need to be and look miserable in order to ‘prove’ that I’m “ill”!!
It gets me down when it’s suggested that if I took my mind off the pain / got out and did something else / “took myself out of myself” (wtf?), I’d feel better. It’s true that my social life has taken a bit of a nose-dive since The Headache began, but one thing I have learnt is that I need to do what’s right for me – if I feel like being sociable, I’ll be sociable – if I don’t, it’ll only wind up making me feel more isolated and unhappy than if I had been alone.
Some people seem very confident that based on maybe one or two words describing my condition, they are sure of what I “need” – perhaps the magic cure that their aunt’s cat’s previous owner’s sister used that’s bound to work for me! I certainly don’t mind discussing treatments that I could look in to – it’s wonderful to know that someone else has suffered with something similar and found something that helped – as long as I feel that they have taken at least a little time to listen to what’s actually happening to me first.
I would advise anyone in pain to do their own research, to connect with others in pain and to learn about what works for them. But in the first instance, whenever I come across a friend in pain in future, I’ll do what I appreciate most – to simply accept that sometimes we aren’t supposed to speak to “fix the situation” for them, to recognize with that person that the situation is horrible and to let them know that it’s ok to be sad / mad about it.
Pain is lonely, and when you have someone who can just be with you, who can just be understanding, who can even have a laugh at the situation along with you, it’s worth all the gold in the world.
What would you say? And what do you most appreciate hearing?