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3 Ways For Pain Sufferers to Reclaim Social Life

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.

A Man Unbuttons His Shirt and Reveals A Big Superman S on His Chest
How to Feel Like SuperMan
A Photo of Wonder Woman Dressed For Battle
Introducing The New Wonder Woman

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.

Photo Of The Movie Version Of The Ice Queen
Meet The Ice Queen

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.

A Light Weight Vacuuming Machine Being Used on a Rug
Introducing The Light Weight Vacuuming Machine

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.

  1. 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.
A Woman Wearing tights and Red Sneakers is Running on a Sunny Day
A Woman Running in The Sun

 

A Man is Working Out By Taking A Lap in The Pool
A Swim WorkOut

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.” [1]

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….” [3] Another woman says she uses her power wheel chair to save her “walking energy for going out socially in the evening.

Conclusion

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.

References

1

Paula Harper

Diabetes Forecast. 42.8 (Aug. 1989): p58.

2 http://www.healthtalk.org/peoples-experiences/long-term-conditions/chronic-pain/coming-terms-pain#ixzz55LSLmWQc

3 Ibid

2 thoughts on “3 Ways For Pain Sufferers to Reclaim Social Life

  1. I am one of those unfortunate people who got their butt kicked by the flu. It really sucked. Thank God I’m feeling a lot better. Your post, though, made me think about what it would be like if there was no end to the horrible feeling I had. I know it’s not the same as having relentless pain that must make some days feel like hell. But I think I got a sense of what it would feel like if every day you felt so exhausted and drained that doing even the simplest thing took a lot out of you.

    It has made me more emphatic to pain sufferers than before. But as you have so cleverly demonstrated, one doesn’t have to get a bout of the flu to learn to be more emphatic to our fellow human beings who experience daily pain every day. Now once we have the empathy we can appreciate your suggestions on how those pain sufferers with our help–I like the idea of being part of a posse to help out a friend who may not be sure if his or her pain won’t flare up–can still enjoy a social life.

    1. Hi Arielle,
      I just got over a nasty bout of the flu myself. Yap, it wasn’t fun. I want to thank you for your heart felt comment. I think something like chronic pain can be a tricky thing for non-sufferers to deal with because we can’t see it the way we can see a scar. Yet, make no mistake. The emotional scars can be even more devastating for the pain sufferer. This may cause them to withdraw and live in isolation. This is the last thing that they should do. It’s up to non-pain sufferers to help them engage in a satisfying social life. This post was a way of doing my small part.

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