I had outpatient surgery last week and was required by my doctor to quit taking any sort of blood-thinning, anti-inflammatory drugs a week before surgery. After five days off my meds, people were steering clear of me. You’d think I stopped smoking or something.
If you’re north of 50, you probably know that these particular pills shield you from true knowledge about your body. After going cold turkey, I felt muscles, bones, and joints that I didn’t know existed. I know that moaning and groaning about it doesn’t help the symptoms disappear. It can, however, make most of your friends disappear.
I know a woman with rheumatoid arthritis who is absolutely stoic about her pain. She never complains. The only way you know she has severe arthritis is because she twirls and dances her fingers around to keep them loose. I also know a woman who, when she corners you (and I always try to remain elusive), can go on and on about her pain. I have no doubt she’s in pain; she’s bent crooked from it, but I don’t want to spend 30 minutes listening to her talk about it.
And that’s ironic. Because I like to moan about my pain, too. I have found a friend who lets me groan if I let her groan. I guess this person could be considered a pain partner. Prayer partners share prayers; pain partners trade stories of their pain. We make jokes about it. We commiserate about it. We predict the weather by it.
“I know exactly how you feel,” we whimper to each other. “The weather must be changing because my (fill in the blank here) is killing me!” It’s nice to know somebody else really understands.
Most importantly, a pain partner does not try to fix the other’s ailments.
When I complain to my pain partner, I don’t have to complain to my husband, or my family, or my other friends, or my dogs. I get it out of my system and I get on with my day. Physically, I don’t feel any better, but I bet my spouse does.
Do you live with chronic pain? How do you cope? Do you have a friend who listens and supports you?
Terri Lackey is managing editor of Gathermagazine.