A Social Life Preserver
Imagine yourself on the cruise ship of life. Everything is sailing along nicely until chronic pain throws you overboard. Yikes While everyone else is having a grand time onboard eating, drinking and being merry, you are floating in a sea of pain, isolated and scared. What should you do? Should you shout for help, telling everyone that you are in pain? Or should you float away? Should you reach for the social life-preserving ring that is thrown your way? Or should you just keep floating away towards some distant island? Let’s take a three minute tour of your social life.
You might be very introverted and private. When pain strikes, an introvert might have the tendency to dive deep into a self-chasm. Or you might be extroverted and outgoing. An extrovert might try to hide the pain in order to continue to be the “life of the party.” In both scenarios, you are choosing not to tell friends and family that you are in pain. This choice may not be the best choice. What if your unknowing acquaintance, not realizing you are in pain, takes offense to your sudden cancelation of social plans or lack of engagement? Hiding the truth of pain does not protect you or your friends from the impact of pain, plus the false pretenses could make matters worse. If your friend or family member knows that you are in pain, then sudden cancelations and mood changes can be better accepted. Besides, if people know you are in pain, they might just throw you a social life preserver.
What if someone asks you to go out for a little social fun? Would you grab a hold of that offer or would you let it float away? It is your choice. It is your life. Maybe you think that you will drag everyone else down with you and the pain. Maybe you do not have the strength to seize the opportunity for fun. Either way, you are feeling helpless and are choosing not to try. If you do not try to maintain contact with the rest of the world, the cruise ship of life will keep on going, leaving you behind. Maybe the social life-preserving opportunity is not the right one for you. Then, ask for a different life-saving device like a life boat. Or ask for a hand. Or ask for the Coast Guard. The point is to ask for the type of help that you need in order to maintain contact with the cruise ship of life. Once contact is lost, the loneliness and isolation will certainly drag you down into a depressive chasm. And that is a street car that you do not want to board. Grab a hold of your social life and don’t let go.
By this time some of you may be asking: What does she know? Before you discredit me, I will tell you about my experience with pain and its impact on my social life. At one point in my life, I was unable to do much of anything because of severe back pain. I quit working and quit going out. My living room got very, very small. The only social life preserver that I was able to hold onto was my car club because, by golly, I could still go out for a drive even though I was a little sore afterwards. I was safe and still able to enjoy life.
Yes, there are times when you can’t enjoy life to the fullest. But, even when you are thrown overboard, it is still important to enjoy life as best as you can. Just let people know that you have pain, you need help and ask for the type of help you need. Ultimately, it is your life to live. You only got shot, one opportunity and opportunity comes once in a lifetime. Lose yourself in the moment.
Christina Lasich, M.D., wrote about chronic pain and osteoarthritis for HealthCentral. She is physiatrist in Grass Valley, California. She specializes in pain management and spine rehabilitation.