I just came out of a major three-week flare. I was moving very slowly, and in constant pain that fluctuated from a six to a 9. I was, quite frankly, miserable.
This lastest experience really opened my eyes to what people w/chronic pain experience on a daily basis. There is a lack of understanding and compassion in this world that is absolutely appalling.
People are so wrapped up in their own lives and their own "issues". For instance, I saw and "felt" the impatient stares of people behind me in the check-out line at the grocery store and at Wal-mart. It took me longer than ususal to swipe my debit card and put my wallet back into my purse, etc. I couldn't go any faster. If I tried to go faster, I stumbled even more.
I have endured the mother-in-law w/the opinion I was a hypochondriac. It was so bad for a while that I made my husband promise to never tell her anything about me, especially if I was sick. This has gone on for almost ten years. We saw my mother-in-law a little over a week ago. I couldn't hide my pain this time. I was using my cane. She asked about me, and I told her I was fine. I just had a little arthritis. I didn't want her understanding. I was so used to hiding my pain from her because I didn't want to be belittled. Later, I did explain a little to her, and she was not unkind, and she genuinely seemed shocked. Why do we have to be visably ill for people to show any compassion?
Then there are the family members that think you are exagerating your pain. You just need to "suck it up" and get on with it. Just don't think about it and it will go away. My elderly folks live w/me and have very little understanding or compassion for my pain. Lately, they have been a lot better. I guess when they noticed I had to basically crawl up the stairs to our bedroom, that I might really have a problem. Geeezzzzz. Again, why couldn't they have shown some understanding earlier?
I may have part of the answer to my own question. I am the eldest, and have always been the strong, stable child in their eyes. I was dependable. I didn't complain. They could always depend on me. Maybe that is why they have so much trouble believing I am in pain. Maybe they are afraid. They don't want it to be true. ( I wonder how many people with RA are the eldest child. Probably no connection to RA, but it is an interesting thought)
I don't know the answer, but I do know one thing. Since I have experienced this health issue, I am now very aware of others around me who are handicapped in any way. I was never callous toward anyone in pain, visible or not; however, my senses have been heightened. I am even more aware than I was before. I try very diligently to show patience and understanding to everyone, not just those who are obviously ill. Who knows? Maybe it will catch on.
Published On: March 23, 2011