3 Ways For Pain Sufferers to Reclaim Social Life
Almost every chronic pain sufferer will tell you that their condition at one time or another has affected their social life. The new reality for them is that they stopped doing the things they used to do. Instead of having a big S on their chest or being Wonder Woman, they felt frustrated.
Some even became the very things that they despised in others:
Ice Queen—cold and mean with no regard to how their angry bitter outbursts affected people around them.
Fortunately this doesn’t have to happen to you. You can live a fulfilling life despite your pain. You can learn to direct your energy to participating in things that you enjoy while living with pain. Here are 3 ways for pain sufferers to reclaim social life.
Who I’m I to Speak on The Subject?
I am someone who is a caregiver for a mother with chronic back pain. As a result I have spent years immersed in the subject and I have seen up front the challenges of dealing with daily pain. I know what it feels like when you are unable to stand for too long. So you use the grocery cart as a walker when shopping, like my mom. Or have to ask help vacuuming the house because of the pressure it puts on the spine. Yes, the light weight vacuuming machines make things a bit easier. But that pressure is still there from all that bending and moving.
My mom at 88 is still blessed with long hair that has withstood medication that often thins and in some cases prevents hair from growing. That said, washing that glorious hair is exhausting for her. It takes so much out of her that she has to plan an event a day or two after she washes her hair, after she has regained her energy.
Nevertheless pain sufferers to the extent possible want to engage in social life. The tips I give here are not by some out of touch “means well but doesn’t get it” friend. I know how frustrating that can be.
I give these tips from a place of acknowledgement. I also understand that you lost most of your social life when the pain entered your life. However, you might now feel that you want to reclaim some of that social life back. This are some of the ways that you can do it.
- Cross-Activities: In previous posts I have talked about Cross-Training. As I explained, Cross-training is alternating between two or more activities to stay fit. For example, a typical cross-training routine would be to run one day, swim the next, and bicycle another. Some competitive runners, for instance, run in place in water and swim to stay fit while nursing shin splints or other injuries.
The same concept can be applied to pain sufferers. For example, one may not go to the movies anymore because the seats are uncomfortable. Instead, one can go to the local theater where management can always make arrangement for special seating. Also a lot of doctors discourage drinking while taking pain medication. Thus if one used to spend most of her or his relaxing time at the pubs, they can replace bar hopping with football games.
Also, let’s remember why athletes cross train. They want to stay fit doing other sports that don’t require the use of the same muscles needed for their main sport.
A runner with knee problems will use swimming until his or her knees are healed. Pain sufferers can transform their skills the same way. Let’s say you’re a wiz at persuading others to accept your point of view. Why not take those skills and leverage them into a part time position as an advocate? Through out your life, as I stated in an earlier post about adult learners, you have gained skills which you can now transfer into another field of study.
2.Form a Posse of Friends. Some chronic pain conditions can leave the person with uncontrollable spasms that can hit anytime. Consider the experiences of this man:
“…one incident was in a supermarket and I got a severe spasm, muscle spasm, and I fell, well I actually collapsed, in the supermarket and like I was pretty about my pain and one of the assistants called the manager and they actually took me for a drunk.” 
Friends will give you a peace of mind. You’ll have the comfort of know that if you have a flare-up, someone will be there to explain your condition. Or drive you home. The point is that there’s no need to sink into a depression. You got friends who care. You would be surprised of how many are willing to spend time with you. All you need to do is ask. Do it!
3.Use a Power Wheel Chair to Save Energy For Social Life.
To most people, a wheel chair means dependency, but some pain sufferers have found wheel chairs to give them the independence to pursue a social life. As one chronic pain sufferer puts it:
“…the wheel chair is an extension of my car, so it means I can drive into town and park and then get out and carry on driving around the shops, which seems very sensible to me, it means I can spend the whole day going shopping by myself because I’ve got a power wheel chair, so I can whiz around, do all my own shopping, be completely independent….”  Another woman says she uses her power wheel chair to save her “walking energy for going out socially in the evening.
Sometimes I look into the face of my mother and marvel at how fresh is the pain of loss. It has been years now since her accident, and still at times theres is no sense of release, no closing of the wound that I feel for her.
Time heals all wounds seems to be a big lie. My grief for the life she can no longer go back to could have grown into anger over the years. But she never let that happen. Instead, she has inspired me by her bravery and grit. She has lived a good deal of her life in pain and yet is the same kind caring woman who is moved by the plight of others, and is determined to live a life as full as possible.
I am inspired by mom to make sure that every pain sufferer knows that I believe them. Yes, I know you’re not lazy.
It’s the pain that stops you from keeping the house as clean as you would like. I also know that you’re not looking for someone to tell you that they have found the Holy Grail that will cure your chronic illness. You have heard that before. No, you’re looking for someone who understands what you’re going through. I do. I also know that you might need a nudge to go out there and enjoy some social life and reconnect to your community. Consider this post that nudge.
I like to hear from the readers so please leave me a comment below to let me know if this post helped you or if you have any questions.
Diabetes Forecast. 42.8 (Aug. 1989): p58.