I have chronic pain and i’m not afraid to say it!

Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, Pain Management

I have Chronic Pain and I’m Not Afraid to Say It: Dealing with Shame and Stigma

If you suffer from a chronic pain condition, chances are you’ve had to fend off some pretty judgemental comments at times.

‘You don’t look sick.’ 

‘How does that stop you going to work?’ 

‘We all have pain, just get on with it!’ 

Sound familiar? It certainly does to me! And that’s because, unfortunately, chronic pain is stigmatised. Lack of knowledge and understanding and an inability to physically see the problem mean that those of us living with chronic pain can be perceived negatively through no fault of our own.

Attention-seeking, lazy, druggie just wants painkillers – we’ve heard it all!

If you’re struggling with chronic pain stigma, here’s what to look out for and how to manage it.

Types of Chronic Pain Stigma 

Chronic pain stigma can feel like it’s coming at you from all angles:

  • Personal Life – Friends and relatives who haven’t taken the time to understand your condition may feel frustrated with the changes they see in you.
  • Workplace – Colleagues may have something to say about your working arrangements if you work from home or may assume that you’re lazy or taking advantage if you take more sick days than others do.
  • Medical Settings – Perhaps more surprisingly, stigma can also be a problem in medical settings. You may find that your concerns about your chronic pain aren’t taken seriously, and it may take you longer to get a diagnosis or receive treatment.

Chronic pain stigma can pop up all over the place, even when you least expect it.

Chronic Pain Stigma Doesn’t Define You

The good news is, stigma is the problem of the perpetrator, not the person on the other end of it! I have chronic pain and I am in no way ashamed to shout it from the rooftops, and you shouldn’t be either.

Here’s why:

  • Chronic pain is valid and legitimate and, most importantly, scientifically proven. Being sure in this knowledge can help you ignore some of the comments that might come your way.
  • You are not defined by your chronic pain, despite what people may think. Making changes to plans with friends because of your condition doesn’t make you flaky or unreliable. Missing a day of work due to a flare-up doesn’t make you lazy. Hold on to who you are at your core, and the stigma won’t penetrate.
  • Chronic pain is nothing to be ashamed of. Stigma comes from a lack of understanding and isn’t a representation of you as a person but rather a representation of issues in society.

Dealing with Shame and Stigma of Chronic Pain 

Dealing with the stigma chronic pain brings can be incredibly difficult. To help you manage it:

  • Get knowledgeable about your condition so you can hold your own in medical settings
  • Be open and honest about your condition and how you feel with family and friends
  • Surround yourself with people who do understand what you’re going through, rather than worry about those who don’t – those who matter won’t mind and those who mind, well, they won’t matter!
  • Get in touch via my website for further chronic pain support

References

https://www.painscale.com/article/what-types-of-stigma-surround-chronic-pain

https://www.instituteforchronicpain.org/understanding-chronic-pain/healthcare-system-failings/how-to-end-the-stigma-of-pain

https://familymedicine.uw.edu/improvingopioidcare/wp-content/uploads/sites/9/2021/01/Stigma-and-Chronic-Pain_2021-01-12-1.pdf

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