Chronic Pain And Friendship – Can They Co-Exist?
Chronic Pain And Friendship – Can They Co-Exist? – How many times have you had to cancel a social arrangement at the last-minute? How many times have your friends asked you to do something together but you have been unable to commit because you just don’t know how you will be on the day? How many times have you been looking forward to a social activity only to wake up on the day in unbearable pain, stiffness and unable to move?
I’m sure that those suffering with chronic pain will both recognize and understand these situations.
Family get-togethers, holidays, cinema, parties; all affected by our limitations and chronic pain.
It is hard enough managing a ‘normal’ day and using up all of our stored energy to get through the day never mind doing anything extra which can totally deplete any energy left and take extra out of us too.
On occasions where we do commit, 9 out of 10 times we pay the price heavily – severe pain follows as well feeling unwell and it can last a day or many days after the event. Many of us suffer with Post-exertional malaise which means we suffer extremely after any extra exertion – physical, emotional or mental. Even if you don’t have this, you will still feel the after effects of the exertion and you end up wondering why you committed in the first place!
We do enjoy a social life and company of good, true, loyal and understanding friends; friends who understand what chronic pain actually means; the impact of this pain; the struggles we face; the limitations of our condition and most of all they are prepared to hear the words ‘no, today I can’t’ from us. These are the friends who stand by you. These are the friends who will re-arrange plans happily or are willing to arrange a more relaxed activity like a DVD movie night with a blanket on the sofa with take-away Pizza!!!!
I, unfortunately have had a few unpleasant experiences with ‘friends’ over the years…. When I was in the early stages of my chronic illness and having medical tests done to give me a diagnosis of what was going on, I always pushed myself to make these ‘friends’ happy. We continued with social activities, parties, holidays and after each time I would suffer for days, sometimes weeks. I was always there to talk, share or solve a problem and I tried my best to be a friend – but then my health quickly deteriorated and these ‘friends’ disappeared almost instantly! They were nowhere….
I became bedbound in 2014 following an operation: I soon found out who my true friends were. It was a very difficult and lonely time, getting used to life in a bed 24 hours a day and being dependent on others for everything…. It was a time when I needed the most support to adapt to a different type of lifestyle and true friends would have supported and helped in this situation….but I adjusted with the help of my family and soon got used to this new chapter of my life and the challenges it brought.
It has been a wonderful journey – almost enlightening – I saw how much my family cared for me and loved me – I also valued the few good and sincere friends I have who weren’t afraid of the bleak and hard times I was going through….being bedbound has taught me a lot and it has taught me to be so grateful for everything you have in life!
So for all of you who have had bad experiences with friendship and have had such friends leave you at the first sign of illness; they are not even worth thinking about – we have enough to deal with on a daily basis with our chronic illnesses and chronic pain – we are living with it 24 hours a day – we are not weak in fact I believe we are very strong both physically and mentally and if we can ‘battle’ this pain by ourselves we can overcome any obstacle – even a futile friendship!
So for all those of us who have had any friends affect us, upset us or leave us due to our illness and pain, I have dedicated the following poem to you…
THE TRUE FACES OF FRIENDSHIP
Faces known then unknown,
Friends first then strangers
Handshakes first then invisible goodbyes
By your side when laughter and fun
Deserted and gone when sadness and illness
Food, fun, parties when times are lively and good
Not even a hello, how are you, when times are tough and hard
These are humans, who can change like the weather
Starting in Spring, blossoming as friends
Through to warm, wonderful, happy Summer
Then arrives Autumn when things are beginning to get bleak and overcast with illness
Ending up in Winter, days that are long and dark, cold and difficult.
These are ‘humans’ with labels for every relationship,
You are my friend, my best friend, my this, my that….
Yet the biggest label called humanity is gone.
But these are just the minority, there are the others, the group of ‘humane’ humans
The ones who have the time and understanding
Who stand by you through ‘thick and thin’
The ones who are not afraid of the dull, dark moments
The ones who are there even when you don’t laugh: or when you are not feeling your best
These are the humane humans who rise above culture, faith and ethnicity
These are the ones you can truly rely on in moments of need
These are the faces you know and can trust, the faces of loyalty and friendship
These are the true friends – faces known then unknown
These are the hellos and handshakes you will want to hold onto
From Spring through to Summer leading to Autumn and even through long, dark Winter,
They will hold on, they will be there, whenever you fall they will be strong
As these are the true faces of friendship….
Mrs. Aida Ali
About the Author, Aida Ali:
I am 45 years old and am retired on ill-health grounds since 2014. I am a mum to 4 children; ages 24 to 7 and wife to a loving, caring husband. I live with a whole range of health conditions and disabilities which include: Spinal nerve root irritation, Fibromyalgia, Thoracic Lumbar Scoliosis, Asthma, Chondromalacia Patella grade 3, Arthritis, GERD, Bile Malabsorption, Rhinitis, Allergies, Chronic Migrane, Chronic pain, to name a few!! I have been in a wheelchair since 2012 and since 2014 I have been bedbound following my Gallbladder removal due to all my problems and allergies; my muscles are affected after the operation; my body isn’t functioning properly and my recovery has been tediously slow and limited so I am unable to feed, dress, wash or care for myself and I am hoisted with a machine in and out of bed – I am unable to sit more than 40 – 45 minutes and that is only on a good day – which are far and few in between! I spend my time actively involved in the daily running of the household from my bed, as well as learning about my different medical conditions, medications, and self-help tips as well as reading on my tablet and home schooling the 2 younger ones. As a retired teacher this comes naturally to me despite being unwell most of the time. If I can still use my brain then I will – if my body has let me down at least I still have my mind. Hence the passion for writing – some people paint, some dance – I like to write.