We’re continuing our discussion on chronic pain and anger, and this time, instead of ME doing all the talking, I’ve asked my friends and family to relay their own thoughts on the subject.
My cousin Jeri Ann shared the following: “I am not sure people really understand (this fight). I mention pain in one area after another, or being sick ‘again,’ and I believe sometimes they think I’m being dramatic. I had a medical procedure 35 years ago which helped, yes, but didn’t ‘fix me.’ I feel like others think I shouldn’t hurt as much as I say I do, like maybe I’m dreaming it up or exaggerating. I’m not!”
She goes on to say: “My husband works 10 hours a day, then comes home to cook and do most of the cleaning. Not being able to help makes me feel worthless and sad. I am believing that God will restore and heal in His name. Everyone who reads Rob’s blog, God has a plan for us, too!”
“It’s exhausting,” my buddy Jerrod told me, “and that exhaustion comes out sounding very angry sometimes. So now my pain has hurt the ones I love the most. And it comes without warning because how can someone who hasn’t dealt with chronic pain comprehend that things as basic as standing, shopping, or folding laundry can be torture? Then there’s the feeling of judgment, whether real or imagined, which comes when you can’t just pitch in and help, or the neighbors see my wife doing yard work while I’m forced to just watch (I feel that one to my bones, and it’s so humiliating — Rob). It takes its toll psychologically and emotionally. And yes, there are days when the joy of the Lord is absolutely my strength, and when the pain is ‘manageable.’ I have good days, and then I have cry-out-to-Jesus days.”
The anger caused by pain is real, and some people “react to the pain in the same way we react to emotional wounds.” **
My friend and sister in the Lord, Kate, had much to say about pain and anger:
“For me pain is relative. They ask me to rate my pain on their ‘pain scale’ every time I go to the doctor and I never know what to say. I can tell them I’m a seven on a ten scale, and they raise an eyebrow because I’m not crying in agony. Most medical professionals don’t realize chronic pain sufferers rate pain differently and tolerate pain differently than other people. So my straight-faced seven may be somebody else’s crying-in-agony 10. You live your life differently when your pain never goes below a four, if you can figure out what a four is.
“Pain is loud. For me pain is like noise in my head. Most of the time it’s humming in the background with loud frequent intermittent crescendos. But there are days when the noise becomes so loud it drowns out almost everything and it feels like it won’t end. It’s so loud I can’t think or function. I lose perspective on life. On those days even a few decibels can
make a difference to bring a reprieve. But sometimes it seems like that reprieve is just toying with you, dangling a carrot I’ll never get to eat.
“Pain is like debt. It’s currency borrowed from the budget of your body. The longer you have a deficit in that budget, the deeper the hole goes. The bigger the debt the more damage to your life, and the further away life’s goals seem. The bigger the debt the more unattainable dreams get. The thing with debt is that it can always get worse and the interest kills you. It’s hard to get out, so you struggle with the anxiety of knowing every new diagnosis or failed treatment will lead to new depths of permanent pain. The chances of repayment of this debt, ‘recovery,’ gets slimmer and more daunting.”
“When someone suffers from pain for an extended period, this can affect their mood negatively,” Dr. David Cosio (2020) explains. “These mood changes can negatively impact their levels of activity. People begin to engage in more unhealthy behaviors and less in healthy ones.” *
“This is my last story, I promise!” Kate continues. “I had a difficult pregnancy in my own way. The closer things got the more pain I was in. By the time they decided to intervene I could barely walk. Because I didn’t have a justifiable medical condition to induce early, they had me wait until 39 weeks, which isn’t really considered early. When I went into the hospital at 7:00 pm on Wednesday my pain level was very high. (Finally, after much suffering) by 4 pm Friday I was allowed to get an epidural and they decided to do a C-section. That’s when something happened I never thought possible: When the epidural took effect it slowly dawned on me that I couldn’t feel pain. I began to cry and my friends who were with me while I was waiting to be taken in for the surgery wondered what was up. I told them it was the first time I had been without pain in many years. I almost couldn’t process it. It felt as foreign to me as seeing color for the first time. They were as happy to be with me for that moment as the birth of my son at 7 pm on Friday. It was miraculous to me and something I will never forget. It doesn’t take away from the beauty of meeting my son, but it was just as amazing.
“Most studies indicate that patients with chronic pain tend to be angry,” says Dr. Gadi Gilam (2020). “Understandably, they are dealing with a lot of challenges, frustrations, and with the feeling that their suffering is unjust and unfair. However, their anger and the way they express their anger can worsen their chronic pain.” *
“I am a 57-year-old chronic pain sufferer,” another of my cousins, Paula, explains. “I am also a type-2 diabetic. I have been dealing with this for about 10 years. I have arthritis in my lower back and in my hips, more than likely. I worked in retail for over 15 years and just being on the concrete, standing and walking caused a lot of pain. It hurt so bad sometimes I would have to stop for 10 to 20 minutes so it would ease up. I really have the flare-ups when the weather is gonna change. When it’s gonna rain you can feel it all over, and not much helps with that kind of pain, so you just have to sit and/or sleep to relieve it, but sometimes that doesn’t even help.
Paula continues: “I have neuropathy, which I can feel in my legs, feet and hands. My hands really hurt a lot; they feel numb and tingling all the time, and let me tell you, that is a different kind of chronic pain. Cooking, driving and just about everything you do with your hands is hard when they’re numb.
“I hope and pray all you chronic pain sufferers out there find relief somehow and share your stories with everyone, because we all suffer in our own way and having someone to talk to about it might bring you some relief.
“STAY STRONG, STAY BLESSED AND STAY POSITIVE.”
Thanks, Paula, for those encouraging words!
“(Chronic pain sufferers) have to figure out a way to process the loss of their former life and to reconnect with their world and realize there is still a path for quality of life to be achieved,” Dr. Michael Clark (2020) says. “It’s a matter of doing an inventory of a person’s strengths and weaknesses and helping them to fit into something they can succeed at.” *
As previously stated, my friend Kate is wonderful at expressing her feelings about pain and anger. She concluded her comments: “I feel so much guilt as a person with chronic illness and pain. There is always a message to adapt and overcome. Anything less makes you less than human, WEAK. Not worth the goodwill and help of society. There’s this expectation we should just be able to suck it up and do stuff we can’t do. So there is guilt and shame which makes our mental health issues infinitely worse. We’re made to feel like burdens to society, which contributes to a distorted sense of self and adds to suicidal ideation and attempts. There is a constant battle between pushing yourself to do more and doing too much, which leads to a viscous cycle of over-exertion, then recovery. I could go on and on about this topic for a long time, but I won’t. It’s a frustrating one.”
Amen to that, sister.
I pray these two blogs, which featured my friends’ and family’s thoughts and stories about the frustration from living with chronic pain, have touched you in some way. If you can relate, I pray this has been a reminder that you are not alone. If you love someone who struggles with chronic pain, I pray this has opened your mind a bit to their suffering. If not, my hope is that you were, at the very least, enlightened somehow. May God richly bless you, and remember…
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 NKJV).
* Black, Rosemary. When Chronic Pain Leads to Chronic Anger. Practical Pain Management. May 2020. https://patient.practicalpainmanagement.com/chronic-pain-anger-strategies. (Accessed May 13, 2022)
** Golden, Bernard. What Is the Link Between Anger and Physical Pain? Psychology Today. July 2021. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/overcoming-destructive-anger/202107/what-is-the–between-anger-and-physical-pain (Accessed May 12, 2022)