Health

Loving Someone with Chronic Pain

There are an estimated 100 million Americans who live with chronic pain, so you can only imagine how many there are across the world. Let’s say that for every person who lives with it there is one who loves that person – whether it’s a spouse, a parent, a child, or a friend. That’s another 100 million. Now, you can’t know what it’s like living with it unless you do, and understanding what it’s like living with chronic pain dramatically affects how you treat someone who lives with it. This is one reason why I wanted to write this post: to help those of you who love someone with it know a bit more about what our lives are like and what you can do to help us, or at least don’t make us feel worse than we already do.

Loving Someone with Chronic Pain: What You Should Know

What You Should Know about Living with Chronic Pain

Chronic Pain: What You Should Know

Living with pain is not straight forward: Every day is not the same. One day (or hour, even) we’re walking down the street completely fine, and the next we can hardly get out of bed. Sometimes we know exactly why it happens, and others we have no idea.

Pain affects how much energy we have in a day: It takes a lot of energy to be in pain all the time, and doing normal things takes more out of us than it does for a healthy person.

How is chronic pain different from acute pain?

We hate how our pain affects our lives (and yours): I hate that I need a wheelchair if I’m going to go to a museum or somewhere similar not only because that’s frustrating but also because that usually means that you have to push it. I hate that I often have to cancel plans, and even more so if that means that they’re with you or you’re affected by them.

So someone you know was diagnosed with inflammatory arthritis

It can be incredibly upsetting how much our lives are not like those of our age: When I was in college, most of my friends went out at least once a weekend, if not twice. I went out once a month, and even less frequently some semesters. I couldn’t drink for most of my college career, and can’t now, either. I never go out now, and I usually don’t go to events that start after 4. I live with my parents not just because I’m paying for grad school but also because I’m not healthy enough to live alone. My life is nowhere near equal to other 24 year olds.

What you should know about living with chronic pain Click To Tweet

What You Can Do if You Love Someone with Chronic Pain

Chronic Pain: What You Can Do for Someone Who Has It

Keep inviting us to things: Even if we can’t go, and you know we can’t go, we like to be invited.

Offer to come over and just watch Netflix: That way we can hang out with you without feeling the pressure to be “on”

Offer specific ways to help us (make dinner, run errands, etc.): If you just say, “Let me know how I can help!” we may feel uncomfortable asking for things. Offering specific ways you can help makes it more likely for us to accept your help.

Vocalize that we’re not a burden: I know this seems unnecessary, but it is so easy for us to think that we’re a burden on you if you don’t say it every now and then.

Tell us that you love us: Because everyone likes to hear this.

What you can do if you love someone with chronic pain Click To Tweet

For those with chronic pain, what else do you want people to know? For those who love someone with it, what questions to you have?

Loving someone with chronic pain: what you should know and what you can do Click To Tweet

Like this post? Check out:

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19 Comments

  • Reply Ashley McCarthy

    As someone that doesn’t struggle with chronic pain, this guide was super helpful and informative! Sometimes, it is hard to emphasize until we truly understand on some scale, what others are dealing with. Thank you for making me a little bit more empathetic 🙂 I love your space!

    January 5, 2016 at 2:35 am
    • Reply Kate Mitchell

      I’m so glad! I hope it helps. The real thing to do is to understand what you don’t understand and ask questions.

      January 11, 2016 at 12:16 pm
  • Reply Tayler

    I have a husband who has MS…he doesn’t have chronic pain, but it is a chronic disease. It is hard some days, but I just try to be available to him those hard days.

    January 6, 2016 at 2:59 pm
    • Reply Kate Mitchell

      That’s really the best thing you can do. Be available, offer specific ways to help, and love him as much as possible.

      January 11, 2016 at 12:15 pm
  • Reply Sky

    Thanks for posting this. I have fibromyalgia, so all of this resonates with me. I especially loved how you mentioned that people could offer to come watch Netflix. Watching things with people is a way I can hang out with them while making sure I conserve my energy. And, like you said, I don’t have to be “on,” which is such a relief. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who does this. Thank you SO much for the entire post as well. I’m going to keep it around to share with my friends and family. 🙂

    Words aren’t coming easily at the moment, I really appreciate this post and the fact that you’re writing about chronic illness (which is something that’s super hard for me to do). It means a lot to me that you’re out there reminding people, like myself, that we’re not alone with our illness. So thank you tons. ♥

    January 15, 2016 at 3:30 am
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  • Reply Dave Shrein

    Kate, this is incredibly helpful.

    I have been fortunate to live a peachy life as it relates to health and wellness. No one has died in my family of anything earlier than 65. None of my family has lived with chronic pain. I have never had any significant health issues.

    When I encounter a situation that has been foreign to me that requires sensitivity and intentionality, I often don’t know how to respond or react – though I desperately want to serve and honor those who are impacted by the situation.

    Your post has equipped me with tips to help and that’s great. But more than that, you’ve given me permission to interact in difficult to understand situations with confidence. That is huge!!!

    Thank you. I continue to follow your writings to become a better man and I pray you’ll continue to overcome the battle to equip the rest of us with permission to love with confidence.

    January 24, 2016 at 10:47 am
  • Reply Kenz @ Life According to Kenz

    Another excellent post on chronic pain, Kate! Thank you for sharing your suggestions so vulnerably and straightforwardly. It is so appreciated and helpful! I love sharing your posts with friends/family members because you literally take the words right out of my mouth!

    February 2, 2016 at 3:13 pm
  • Reply Shellyyum

    I have Bipolar Disorder Type 2 and the such, and while this is more of a mental illness, some physical aspects do exist, and so I understand this post. I wish my husband could read this, but regardless, I think he’s doing good for me, but it’s always good to remember these things. Thanks for posting!

    February 3, 2016 at 8:26 am
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