September is Pain Awareness Month and I want to change the way we view chronic pain.
This is my spine. It happened from no injury, accident or sports. Due to EDS, my bone density is lower and daily life eventually took it’s toll on my vertebrae. Gravity is my biggest enemy, as the pressure of it can make my vertebrae feel like someone is smashing them together. I get nerve pain in my leg from the slipped vertebra, and my muscles spasm from being overworked. I’ve been told it’s unlikely I’ll ever sit without pain again. This is life with chronic pain.
My PT at Gillette today told me “your smile is so genuine, despite the pain you so obviously feel”, as we discussed my activities/abilities while I fidgeted relentlessly trying to get my spine comfortable while seated. Her message resonated with me, in that I don’t believe smiling while also feeling pain makes the smile any less authentic. A smile through pain is a conscious choice to choose joy, however fleeting, in that moment.
It’s a common phrase in the chronic pain community to say that you paste on a “fake smile” to get through the pain while out in public, but I don’t find anything “fake” about a warrior carrying on through their battle and enjoying life despite the rain.
I want you to understand that people with chronic pain look like me. Pain is confusing and often awkward to talk about because it makes people sad and uncomfortable. However, this is my life and I am happy. Pain has been with me since I was a young child and I adapt. Chronic pain is this thing that lurks in the shadows some moments and other moments it jumps in front of you and DEMANDS attention. Pain will accompany me whether I’m running/walking or just sitting, so I often choose to be active. Others may choose differently and both are okay, but the pain is real and our smiles are genuine.