Monday, October 3, 2011

Sometimes It's Invisible

I mentioned last month that September was Pain Awareness Month. I had said at the time that I thought I would "be sharing a few pain-related things with you this month." That was totally the plan. But because the universe loves irony, I was too consumed with getting through the days and dealing with my own pain to worry about blogging.

But when it comes to pain awareness, there is one thing that I have to share, because in my experience it's the one thing that so many people seem to forget: You can't see pain.

I can't tell you how many times, particularly when I was younger, that people accused me (sometimes to my face, and sometimes behind my back) of faking my illness. Because on the outside there was nothing physically wrong with me. So apparently people figured that if they couldn't see anything wrong, there must not be anything wrong.

Trust me when I say how wrong that logic is. None of the things that are wrong with me have any noticeable physical symptoms, but that doesn't make them any less real. And it doesn't change the fact that I have very real, constant pain in several parts of my body.

Be honest - have you ever seen someone get out of the car after parking in a handicapped space and thought, "he doesn't look handicapped." I've actually been stopped and yelled at, more than once, by someone who thought I had no business taking up one of those spaces. I'm sure they meant well, but the fact is they were judging me based on their perception, without making any attempt to understand the true nature of the situation.

I guess the point is that you never really can know what is going on inside of another person. But you can try. I have been very fortunate over the years to have an incredible support system. If it wasn't for my friends and family, I'm not sure that I would have made it through the past 18 years. Living with pain is frustrating, and it's depressing, and it can make it feel like everything else in life is just too much to deal with. But with love, and support, and understanding, I was able to live through what I sincerely hope was the worst of it, and begin the healing process.

Living in pain is difficult enough. And the last thing someone in pain needs is to be judged unfairly. Please, please keep that in mind if you are ever tempted to make assumptions based on outward appearances.


  1. God bless you, Melissa! As a Fibromyalgia survivor, I know exactly what you are talking about! And to top it off, I hear, "My sister has that but she still does yard work." Good for her. I'm not that lucky. Don't judge my symptoms by someone else's. Best of luck in the challenge.

  2. Thank you, Dena. That's an excellent point. Not only can we not judge pain by how someone looks, but we also can't judge by how it affects other people. Or even by how it affects the same person from day to day. That person may be able to do yard work one day, but she might be in so much pain the next day that she can't get out of bed.

    My mother also has fibromyalgia, and unfortunately for her she was suffering from it before people began to understand what it was. So she went through the same thing that I went through in the early years of my CRPS, with people thinking that it was all in her head.

    Hang in there, and never forget that there are people out there who DO understand what you're going through, even when others don't. :)