A couple years later I wanted to peacefully close the door on my ex. I still had love in my heart for my ex, but considering everything that happened, I just wanted a quiet closure. So I sent a note saying that I was sorry for any hurt that I caused and I truly wished my ex happiness. That was it. I got a response saying that my ex hoped we could be friends. I sat on that for days and eventually started a correspondence of trying to understand what happened. We eventually found our way back to friendship.
Unfortunately the wounds of that experience still persist, especially when my pain gets bad and my mind turns to those terrible days. Last year I was forced into a position where I had to deal with Michelle again. She cornered me when I was alone and made a point of apologizing, “she should not have done that publicly,” implying that the note itself, interjecting herself into a break up, was acceptable had she been kind enough to do it privately. I don’t for one second believe that apology was for me. I think that it was two fold to her benefit, she looked like a better person in my ex’s eyes, and it absolved her of the damage she caused. Well life doesn’t work that way. There are no take backs in the real world. We all have to live with our actions.
There will be people you have to cut out of your life because of chronic pain and that is perfectly alright. Chances are you are better off for it.
I learned a lot from the whole experience and have taken those lessons, both good and bad, with me since. During that terrible time I had a small group of friends that rallied around me. It really showed everyone’s true colors and I have since limited my friendships to those I truly trust and love, leaving everything else behind. I now know who will stand with me no matter what and that is something not many people ever really know. I will never again waste my time and energy on anyone I doubt. I don’t trust easily, but those I do, many of which have been in my life over 20 years, I hold on to with both hands. Knowing there is nothing I wouldn’t do for them and nothing they wouldn’t do for me. They are what keep me going at the best and worst of times.
Chances are good that if someone you know was recently diagnosed with a chronic illness or pain you will find that their behavior changes. This is not out of anger or spite, it is more likely a survival mechanism. For as strange as their behavior may seem to you, it is most likely the only way they have found to survive the situation. If you feel that they are making poor choices or mistakes and feel the need to inform them there are some things you should consider. The first is whether or not you have all the information. Chances are you do not. So instead of informing them that they are wrong, ask questions, get clarification, try to understand their reasoning. If after getting all the information you still disagree with their decisions ask yourself if expressing your dissenting opinion has the possibility of being productive. If they have already made up their mind. If it is already done, then expressing your dissenting opinion is unlikely to be productive. It is more likely to cause hurt feelings and create problems.
If you think expressing your opinion can be helpful be sure that you don’t state your opinion, or belief as fact. For one, it isn’t a fact. Stating it as such is a good way to start a fight. Instead be sure that you say “I think,” “I believe,” “In my opinion,” or “I feel,” in front of whatever opinion you want to share. This gives room for the two of you to disagree without either of you being “wrong.” While having any conversation that has the possibility of becoming combative always keep in mind that you love and support this person. You are on the same side. Don’t get lost in the desire to be “right,” get lost in the desire to be loving. Listen to their words and their inflection. Try to hear the things they don’t know how to say. And remember, they love you too.
Finally, knowledge is power. For both those living with chronic pain and those supporting someone with it, research chronic pain. There are tons of information out there on the psychological effects of chronic pain, on the biological changes that occur in the body and brain due to chronic pain, on the effects of the medications and treatments for chronic pain, and even on techniques for coping with chronic pain. This information will give you insight into what is going on in the body and mind of you or your loved one. Insight that will help you understand your/their actions and reactions. Ideas in how to deal with the changes and the information will help you to empathize with the situation. The more you know, the better you understand, and the better you understand the easier it will be to navigate a complicated situation. The one thing those in chronic pain crave the most is understanding and compassion. It’s not an easy thing to give sometimes, but it is possible, and it is a great gift to someone suffering.
When all this happened I didn’t really understand what pain was doing to me and my life. If I or my loved ones researched chronic pain we would have been prepared. But it never occurred to any of us. This is a large part of why I now write about chronic pain, both so the people around me better understand me and those also trying to navigate surviving chronic pain have a way to share and express their experience even when they don’t have the words. I hope that by writing about both my experiences and the general experience of chronic pain that someone else won’t have to suffer the hard lessons that I did. I always hope that some good can come out of my darkest days.