It seems that I have been having more and more clients come to me due to chronic pain. Sadly, each has a story that is essential the same. There is intense pain that has been going on for years, decades, and even multiple decades. Doctors are not really sure why the pain is there, but they prescribe one medication after another. These medications help just enough to keep taking the but never enough to stop the pain. So, my clients go back to the doctor and the doctor throws their hands up and suggests they see a specialist. This cycle goes on and on. Pretty soon, they are on a list of medication a mile long, have multiple diagnosis, and are no closer to getting relief.
That is the medical end. Now enter into the work world. Work is difficult because of the pain. Flare ups are unpredictable so there are days when you can not get out of bed. Work wants you to take sick days or perhaps FMLA. Next thing you know you are gone from work more than you are there and then they fire you. The loss of job brings on financial hardship and potentially a loss of insurance.
Socially there are issues too. The chronic pain is not visible to anyone. Other people think you must be exaggerating. They wonder why you don’t just toughen up and push through. Other people are quick to offer that thing they heard about that will fix everything (as if you have not tried every possible remedy.)
All of this leads a person dealing with chronic pain to feel helpless and hopeless. The stress associated with chronic pain, social stigma, and feelings of hopelessness can be overwhelming, sometimes leading a person to feel that life is no longer worth living.
What can you do?
•You can start by just being there for the person. What I hear most is that they want someone to come along side of them and just be there. Listen. No suggestions, advice, and quick fixes needed or wanted.
•Step up and offer to drive them to appointments. Just knowing they do not have to drive to stressful appointments helps so much. Offer to come to them instead of making them come to you.
•Be mindful of your expectations. They do not need to be treated like babies, but they do need to be cut some slack. Family party…do not expect them to prepare many things, set up, and stay for along time. That is too much. So when they leave early, support them.
Until next time….
Change. Discover. Transform.
Carla Carter, Ed.D., LCPC, CMPC, EMDR Certified