Pain changes your perspective

April 20, 2011

sickle cell

If you wake up every morning pain-free, it’s easy to take that for granted. Having never experienced a pain problem that kept you from doing what you love to do or a pain problem that skews your perspective, its easy to underestimate it. It’s easy to sit back and judge those who experience that sort of pain and don’t quite measure up to your expectation. It saddens me when I see people judging patients on disability or using unorthodox pain relief methods to get through their day. For some reason some people think they have a right to judge others. They think they know what’s best for themselves and everyone around them. But this attitude is self-righteous. The truth is pain disables. It steals a persons livelihood. It affects families and friendships. It changes the patients perspective on life in general.

Sometimes there are feelings of hopelessness, despair and loneliness. So when he finds relief that allows him to lead somewhat of a normal life, he seizes the moment. Socializing with friends and family becomes a treat for pain sufferers because they don’t do it often. Pain in public is, gently put, undesirable and humiliating because the patient has no control over what’s happening to them. And if the pain is strong enough to cause an emotional and physical reaction, all eyes are on them. So now he’s embarrassed and concerned about his image. He becomes desperate to take back some of that control, desperate to manage what he can about his situation. So, he does what he can to create some normalcy. If taking a narcotic relieves the pain long enough for him to go out and enjoy a movie, he does and he should go for it. Take the pain medication, I say! If an alcoholic beverage makes it easier to cope with pain while you attend your child’s school play, have a glass. Have two and worry less about what people think while you enjoy watching your child perform. Who cares what other people think while your son or daughter relishes the fact that you made it to this one. Family is too important.

What about intimacy? The truth is, the easiest thing to do is to fall into a place of isolation. To block everyone out and lie in bed all day when pain is at its worse. But the best advice I can give is to seek companionship. A best friend, relative, spouse or partner are a great distraction. I recently posted an article about having more sex. The article was written with a light heart hoping to just let readers know that sex can help with pain. But, the reality is, sickle cell patients need this closeness and intimacy for several reasons:  1. to combat the tendency to want to isolate themselves 2. to maintain healthy relationships 3. to boost energy and the immune system (sickle cell patients immune system is often compromised) 4. to have as much of a normal existence as everyone else around them.

No human wakes up in the morning and decides to become a drug addict but if drugs offer some relief, you may decide to take them. No one aspires to become an alcoholic, but when pain comes so often and so severe, you might seek solace in a bottle. Until you’ve experienced this sort of unbearable pain, you can’t judge those who have. Don’t tell patients what you would and wouldn’t do if it were you because its impossible for you to know what you would do. Compassion is the only humane way to help a loved one cope with a life long debilitating condition. If there is no compassion within you, the best thing you can do is stay away from the patient. Being of no help is worse than causing the pain yourself because you’ve rendered yourself useless. Behave lovingly especially when you disagree with decisions they make. Understand they have choices and you don’t have to agree with all of them.

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