By: Trevor McDonald
If you love someone who is suffering from chronic pain, there’s one thing you need to understand. You will never fully know their struggle. Everyone’s situation and pain tolerance is different, and there’s no way for you to understand without living a day in that person’s body. But that doesn’t mean you’re helpless. There are plenty of ways you can support your loved one who suffers from chronic pain.
As someone who struggles with chronic pain daily, I can tell you that it can be difficult to make plans in advance. Something as simple as a party invitation can be extremely stressful for someone who suffers from chronic pain. I usually want to say yes and follow through, but there are times when I have to cancel at the last minute. You won’t want me at your party if I’m doubled over in pain anyway. Please understand that your loved one probably isn’t making excuses. They are simply trying to get through their day.
Steer clear of simple fixes
When you love someone, you want nothing more than to solve their problems. The last thing you want is to see your loved one hurting, so you may want to offer your suggestions. Although you’re coming from a good place, you want to be careful about implying that there’s a quick fix to the problem. It’s true that you can pop a pill to help make the pain go away, but that comes with a great number of risks. Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes for chronic pain.
With the understanding that there aren’t any quick fixes, you may want to research alternative therapies to what your loved one is currently doing. If your loved one is willing, you may find a treatment that works. Even something that seems simple can have a profound impact on pain. Meditation is a great example of such a thing. At least one study has found that meditation can change the way we perceive pain. It may not fix the problem, but it can help alleviate some of the painful sensations. As you research, you may find that there are plenty of alternative therapies your loved one can try.
Help where you can
Your loved one may have tasks that are difficult or impossible to accomplish due to pain. Ask what you can do to help. And if you can think of something specific, ask about that thing directly. Maybe you can offer to clean the house or mow the lawn once a week. Nothing shows love more than your actions, so this is a great way to let someone know you truly care.
Encourage social activity
When you’re in constant pain, it’s easy to isolate yourself from the outside world. But this type of isolation can quickly lead to depression. So if you notice your loved one hiding away instead of living life, encourage him or her to come out and play. Even if it’s just a weekly coffee date between the two of you, it’s important that your loved one get out and experience the world.
Understand what is going on physically
Being informed about what is happening on a physical level may help you to understand what your loved one is going through. Learn about the general symptoms of disease and chronic pain conditions and specifically the one that they suffer from. You will discover that these are often more far reaching than just generalised pain and include a variety of accompanying health issues to deal with. Next try to imagine feeling and facing these on a daily basis. Doing so will help you to be mindful of what they are experiencing, and increase your empathy levels.
Try to understand the emotional impact
It’s true that you may never really know what it’s like to live with chronic pain, but you can still be empathetic to your loved one’s plight. Someone who is often in pain may show often signs of anger, frustration and/or irritability. When you’re on the receiving end of this type of outburst, it can be difficult not to take it personally. But it’s important to remember that your loved one is in pain. They don’t mean to be irritable, but they may be at their wits end or dealing with a flare up. Try to understand where they’re coming from before you respond in anger.
At times, it may seem difficult to love someone with chronic pain, but remember that this is the same person you’ve always loved. And if you can get involved in researching alternative treatments, there may be an end in sight. At the very least, your loved one will know that you’re on his or her side. You want nothing more than to improve their quality of life – and get your friend back in the process.