Living with constant pain can be extremely frustrating. When you don’t feel comfortable, you might develop some habits designed to make things more manageable. You might have back pain that makes it hard to sit in certain chairs. You could potentially have widespread pain that makes it difficult to stay still. Your pain could make you seem angry and irritable.
Whatever it is you might be doing, the people in your life just might not get it. Chronic pain is usually invisible to others so they can’t “see” why you need to use a certain chair, don’t want to go to places with cramped seating options or spend long periods of time in the cold, which exacerbates your pain. You may be worried others are judging you or feel self-conscious about your actions. But you’re not alone in your chronic pain “habits.”
In order to learn more about the tendencies people have due to constantly being in pain, we asked our Mighty community what they do to help manage. We wanted to learn what they feel first-hand. If you live in constant pain and can relate, share this list with the people in your life so they can have a better understanding of what you’re going through. And if you’re struggling with coping with your chronic pain, talk to someone you trust.
Here’s what our community shared with us:
1. You can’t sit still.
“When I sit, I rock back and forth. It annoys a lot of people and I was asked many times if I’m autistic. But it helps distract from the pain and the soft constant movement helps.” — Melanie C.
“I’m constantly finding ways to move my limbs and muscles (even when sitting there talking to you) in an attempt to stretch out some of the pain that makes it hard to move those areas. I can find a way to stretch just about any muscle in the body. I have also hurt myself at times stretching too far or in too awkward of a position. But sitting still without stretching a spot that is nagging badly is hard sometimes.” — Teresa H.
“I constantly fidget in my seat because I’m trying to find the most comfortable position. That’s difficult to do when most of your pain generates from your SI joint/hip region and inactivity causes even more pain.” — Melissa C.
2. You pretend you’re fine even though you’re not.
“I smile a lot. Like, most of the time, if I leave my house, that is. Why? If I don’t look like something’s bothering me, then people don’t ask me what’s wrong. As long as people aren’t constantly asking me what’s wrong, since it’s a long list of things that make me feel regularly lousy, it’s easier to fake it through my day and not completely lose my shit because I feel so terrible.” – Erin P.
“I say I’m fine and smile even when I want to lay down and cry.” – @burdle09
3. You push people away.
“I push people away (unintentionally) and at the same time, I want them to remain my friend or spouse. It’s a constant mental battle. It seems to be more of a protection mechanism for yourself and also for them, but deep down, you just want to be there for them too.” – Rachel A.
4. You don’t sleep as often as you should.
“Refusing sleep because it is too much pain laying down, even when I am not in much pain. The thought of possible pain makes me not lay down to sleep.” – Madi N.
“[I used to] sleep a lot. It used to be the only thing that brought me relief, but now, even lying in bed until I fall asleep is painful.” – Allison M.
5. You avoid socializing.
“Not going anywhere, not working and not socializing with people because I can’t focus on having a conversation with anyone when my pain is out of control.” – Cassie K.
“I go AWOL with friends and family, trying to dodge phone calls (responding by SMS), invites or sudden appearances of people at my front door.” – Min L.
6. You choose what you wear carefully.
“Deciding what to wear based on how stable I am feeling, how much pain I am in and what kind support my ankles need. If I have to wear my support sneakers, I usually wear pants or jeans. If I am having a bad pain day, a skirt and flowy top may just be easier to get on in the morning.” – @emjaydraonfly
“I can’t wear pretty bras or panties anymore. The pressure they create can cause pain above my rib cage and around my waist for days. I have to wear ‘granny panties’ and wireless bras. I miss feeling sexy.” – @AmateurNerd
7. You talk a lot.
“I talk a lot and faster. It seems like I am excited and feeling good, but again trying to avoid focusing on the pain.” – Liz B.
8. You hold onto tension.
“I clench my teeth/jaw all the time in pain and in all these years, only one person has noticed this. During the last two years, I have broken and lost five teeth, but it was ingrained in me as a child to ‘go out there with a smile no matter what’ that I still do.” – Geraldine C.
9. You don’t drink often.
“Not drinking. Everywhere I go, people want wine! I barely drink because of meds and because of how it will make me feel. I always feel left out or people think I’m boring or I have to explain that I’m on medication. I hate making excuses for not loving wine as much as everyone else.” – Tracy G.
10. You scope out a place before going there.
“My back only lets me sit in certain types of chairs, so I will spend up to 30 minutes looking at pictures of different restaurants and coffee shops before picking one. [I do it] to weigh my odds on if I can sit without pain.” – Katie M.
11. You shower a day ahead of time before going somewhere.
“I shower a day ahead of appointments because I can’t do both.” – @toria1876
“I have to shower the day before an appointment because it hurts and wears me out. That’s my ‘thing’ for the day. I expended all my effort in taking a shower.” – Sonya H.
“Taking a shower the day before I’m going anywhere. I can’t do both in one day.” – @my4wheels
12. You zone out.
“Sometimes I just sit and ‘zone out’ and stare off into space. Be it intentional or not, I think it’s my way of taking a break from myself and the pain. It’s a way to ignore everything for just a little while, until someone calls me back into myself.” – Molly D.
“Sometimes I stare into space because pain makes it hard to focus.” – Abbi H.
“I actively force myself to focus on what people are saying to stay engaged. Often, I ask people questions because if they are talking, that’s less effort for me. Stringing coherent sentences together can be a lot when you’re in pain.” – @chaostheory
13. You say ‘no’ more often.
“I say no to people. I’m actually a people pleaser. I want to do everything I can to make others’ lives easier and better. Recently, over the past year, I’ve started saying no to people and telling the ones who can’t accept my limits to hit the road. I’ve recently developed MPS and my limits have changed again. Those who understand me putting my foot down can stick around as long as they like.” – Shayla F.
14. You have ‘resting pain face.’
“Sometimes I look miserable or annoyed when really it’s because I am in a lot of pain and I am not always able to hide it.” – Claire S.
15. You make alternative plans.
“I am constantly making contingency plans just in case I’m in too much pain for the things I have to do. If I’m in a lot of pain, I leave earlier to get my kids from school so I can park closer. I spend all day alternating pain treatments while still doing chores and caring for my kids.” – Rebecca A.
16. You become angry easily.
“[I have] chronic anger issues. Even small things irritate a lot when you have constant pain in different areas every day. But people won’t understand the real thing [about] what’s going on inside us as we look normal on the outside.” – Devi R.
“[I become] snippy or short. When I’m in pain it’s all I can focus on and I’m short and irritable with friends, family and coworkers. I feel terrible afterwards.” – Stephanie W.
If you are struggling emotionally with your chronic pain, please reach out to someone you trust for support. Know you’re not alone. You can also post on The Mighty using the hashtag #CheckInWithMe to give and get support from other people in similar situations and share your own experience.
To learn more about constant pain, check out these Mighty articles:
- 27 Things Chronic Pain Is Not
- What I Wish Others Knew About Living With Chronic Pain
- 25 Unexpected Things That Happen When Chronic Pain Becomes Your ‘Normal’
- When You Live in a Constant State of Pain