It’s not unusual to see healthcare articles about the treatment of chronic pain in adults. I have thought about the subject of pain quite a bit recently, due to reading some online discussions of that topic. Adults and children differ in their ability to handle pain, in my opinion.
I imagine a child who climbs a tree, but falls out of it and breaks her arm. Obviously, she’s going to hurt from that! She would cry, run to the house and look for her mommy (or other parental figure) for comfort, and have to go to the doctor. “Bless her heart,” is what we Southerners would say. The child would get treated at the doctor’s office, get some pain medication, and get a big ol’ cast on her arm. She would also get a lot of attention from the doctor, nurse, parents, grandparents and friends. The child would obviously feel actual physical pain from this fall and subsequent break of her arm. Her crying is most likely due to the actual physical pain of the event so treating the pain is straightforward. She probably isn’t going to think, “Oh, no, I’ll never get a date to the prom in ten years because I’ll have a crooked arm from now on.” She probably won’t worry about the cost of the pain meds, cast and sling and doctor’s visits. I doubt she’ll think, “I’ll never be able to get a summer job working at the Myrtle Beach Putt Putt because this arm will never be the same. My job options are now limited.” She’s a kid—she just feels the physical pain of falling out of that tree and breaking her arm. The only emotion she might attach to this event is a short term fear that her mom is going to be really ticked off that she climbed that tree against her mother’s wishes. That fear will probably dissipate once she sees that her mother is going to comfort her and take care of her rather than bawl her out for disobedience. (That will come later.)
This isn’t usually true for adults. With physical pain, especially chronic pain, there comes a huge range of emotions. I believe that this is the main reason why doctors simply cannot treat adult pain effectively. All the pain meds in the world won’t stop an adult from worrying about what this pain they’re dealing with means for their future health and financial status. Adults don’t just feel the physical pain—they worry about it affecting their quality of life. Young adults, with diseases and disorders that cause debilitating pain, worry about things that most people take for granted. “How will I work and feed my children? How will I hold my child or pick up my child?” Pain is not just a simple problem that can be “fixed” with some pills, a doctor’s visit and a hug and a kiss from mommy. Middle-aged adults with chronic and/or debilitating pain worry about many things—losing their independence, becoming disabled, not being able to find meaningful work, not being able to walk their dogs or pick up their grandchildren. Single adults with chronic and/or debilitating pain might fear that they’ll never find a date or a spouse because of their physical limitations. Let’s face it—people who can ski, bungee jump, and run marathons are way more exciting and make better life partners, right? Right.
A while back, a friend wrote to me to tell me she was going through a very rough time. She told me that she had decided to tell two people what she was going through. I was one of the two she chose to tell. At first, I questioned the wisdom of her only telling two people. I worried that maybe she should tell more than two people, thinking that telling more than two would give her more support. More is better, right?
However, within 12 hours of my friend telling me what she was going through, I happened to mention to a person a little bit about my XLH. I normally don’t discuss it but I did, casually and mostly in medical and scientific terms. This opened the door for this person to respond with a very stupid comment, stated with great confidence, which made the comment even stupider. (Is that a word? No? It is now.) It left me feeling very vulnerable and irritated.
Suddenly, I realized my friend was right. Tell two people. That’s it. Are you feeling like crap? Are you in pain (physical and/or emotional)? Tell two people. That’s it. That’s plenty. Don’t add to your pain by telling so many people that your chances of getting a stupid or insensitive response are increased tenfold.
Be selective. Tell your spouse or best friend or a clergyperson or a professional therapist. Tell your online support group if you have one (yeah, I know that’s more than two people, but it’s only one “telling” of it.) You can also tell God. If you don’t believe in God, then find yourself a “Wilson” to tell. (Watch the movie “Castaway” if you don’t know who Wilson is.) Even if you tell just two humans, there’s still a chance that someone might give you a stupid response. (My friend told me, and she knows I am capable of stupid responses, but I’m glad she trusted me anyway.) The last thing you need to do is feel even more vulnerable in addition to the physical and/or emotional pain that you’re already experiencing.
So, my “advice” (which should always be taken with a grain of salt, remembering that I’m not a therapist or doctor, merely a blogger with XLH) is to treat your pain (physical and emotional) in a multifaceted way. Medication might not completely take away physical pain in adults, in my opinion. We have to deal with the emotions that come with it—the worries, fears, sadness, grief, loss, etc. Tell someone or two (okay, three for you extroverts) about it either in person or by writing, if you’re a part of an online support group. There are people who will be compassionate listeners.
And, just because I like to throw in a photograph or two in my posts, I’ll tell you another thing my friend told me. She said she doesn’t like to look at herself in the mirror when she’s had a crying spell. I sure know that feeling! My face looks like I fell into a bee’s nest when I cry—red and splotchy and puffy. I really try to avoid low hanging mirrors when I cry, which is about twice a year, so I won’t see my splotchy face. And next time I cry, I have found just the place to do it—a recently renovated restroom at a college where I work. Eat your heart out, tall people.
Just for your information: this mirror goes all the way up to the ceiling in this bathroom, but the bottom edge is, obviously, too high for me to see my face. It’s a good thing I’m not vain. Who designs these bathrooms? Why does the mirror extend all the way up to the ceiling but not down to the sink? For the life of me, I don’t recall ever seeing a 7’ or 8’ tall person at this college, who might need a mirror like this.
Copyright 2014-2019, S.G. Hunter and Banjogrrldiaries