It seems so cliché. The concept of suffering in silence. But to the chronically ill, sometimes the only way to get through the day is to do it quietly. People get tired of hearing, “I’m tired,” and “I’m sore.” Because these generalized statements sound like nothing but lame complaints over and over. Why bother telling someone that you are hurting if they really don’t care, or if they really don’t understand the depth of the hurting? Even in the attempt of trying to explain the pain and the fatigue, we sound whiney or exaggerating. I may be the first to tell you that the chronically ill don’t exaggerate. They don’t have to. The chronically ill have been in pain for so long that it takes significant pain even to admit that something hurts.
My entire life has been pain. Migraines, knee pains, back pain, wrist pain, finger pain, even throat pain. But when you are in constant pain, every day pain becomes your zero on the pain scale. Because to you, that pain must be what everyone feels. It must not count. One day someone finally tells you that pain is important. That pain that you haven’t mentioned all these years for fear of looking whiney or weak, it is significant. You really aren’t supposed to be in constant pain. That moment when it sinks in; When you finally understand the reason for the pain, for the exhaustion, for the struggles: Relief. Finally, you don’t feel so crazy. You don’t feel like you need to hide and suppress every feeling. I began to talk more about my pain to those closest to me, but still they don’t understand and I am back to silence. Because now they think that I make it up since being diagnosed. That I go to the list of possible symptoms and just list them off for fun, or out of laziness, or out of craziness.
Even with doctors telling me there are things in my body that are broken, that don’t work properly or that are more damaged than should be at my age, I find it very hard to get those that are not chronically ill to understand. So I stay silent. To friends. To my children. To my spouse. Online support groups and my beautiful sisters, also chronically ill are my only places I don’t feel alone. On especially hard days, I look for someone to understand. How sad is it that those closest to me can’t understand, and in some cases, won’t even try.
You have a friend out there. Even if you are like me with little help or understanding around you. You have me. I will be your friend.