(c) 2018 "Pain" Photo by L. M. Neas
In this blog, we have explored the meaning of many words. We have discussed how words touch us; how they can heal and hurt. We have even looked at the power of words; their use and popularity.
Sometimes, words that were once powerful, become almost inert. They simply sit in the consciousness, failing to trigger the correct synapsis for a reaction. Or, should I say, for the reaction that is typical to the words.
Two such words are "chronic pain." Let's look at their meaning and origin, first.
Chronic comes to us from, as many words used in the realm of science, the Greek language. Khronos, which means "time," is the root to words such as chronical, chronology, and chronically. In English, the word "chronic" means repetitive, occurring constantly.
Pain has a dual nationality, coming from both Latin and Greek - poena/poine, respectively - both meaning "penalty." (Is it any wonder that we think of pain as being a punishment for doing something wrong?) This word has multiple meanings in English, ranging from physical distress to something that is annoying.
Together, "chronic pain" is a term used to describe a multifold of conditions, syndromes, and disease. Quite literally, this term means pain that does not go away.
For people without chronic pain, it is difficult to understand what it means to be in chronic pain. Some people have never really had severe pain. Others have heard the term bandied about so much that it no longer has any meaning to them. However, let me assure you, chronic pain is real.
Let me put it this way. Think of the worse pain you have ever felt. Now, think of that pain being felt all over your body. Some days are better than others and only one or two places hurt. But, when you least expect it, something inside your brain explodes and every joint, every muscle is screaming - pulsating with pain.
The most insidious part of all this is that the person in pain looks "fine." There is no rash or other phenomenon that helps someone "see" that the person is in pain. This is especially true for those who have had chronic pain most of their lives. Living with pain from early on causes the person to develop certain coping skills. Some people are able to disassociate themselves from the pain, in order to live their lives as normal as possible. This works until the pain gets so bad that the person with chronic pain suddenly cannot move. Then, those around them, often want to know why the pain sufferer is "acting like that."
Of course, there are medications that help relieve pain. The only thing is, if you are someone with the addiction gene running through your family, this is not an option that works well for you. In addition, pain medications have side effects or, the person with chronic pain needs too high a dosage in order to get mild relief, let alone, be pain free.
I share all this because since just before the holidays, I have witnessed a higher than usual number of people in chronic pain and seen/heard others respond negatively to their inability to do things, go places, work, play, etc. When people heard the words, chronic pain, some rolled their eyes, some made comments like, "S/he acts like this every year at this time." Still others, became angry and apathetic.
With regard to the "it happens every year," comment - yes, this is often the truth. People with chronic pain suffer flair-ups around traumatic anniversaries, such as deaths, job loss, and moves. This is because the body can only do so much. When life is on a somewhat even keel, pain levels are low enough not to be noticed. On the other hand, when the weather becomes severe, when there are duties that must be done, when the anniversaries of trauma roll by, the pain levels rise.
In short, chronic pain is real. The person suffering from chronic pain is not imagining it or pretending. They are hurting more than you could ever comprehend.
Be thoughtful. Compassion can go a long way to helping the sufferer feel better.