All of us moms have dealt with various levels of this pain at different times in our lives. From menstrual cramps to migraines, you can think of at least two times that you have dealt with pain that you had to take medication for. You could not simply wait for it to fade away on its own. Now imagine dealing with pain every day of your life. Pain that medication cannot free you of. Living with chronic pain is an entirely separate story that not many people would understand.
Being a mom with chronic pain
You are likely to be having to explain your symptoms over and over again to the same people. Not only to strangers but repeatedly to family and friends who seem to constantly forget how big a deal these pains are in your life. You will likely be met with inconsistent help from people close to you who offer to help you out in different ways. Not only because they might keep forgetting but also simply because if they have completely separate lives from you, they might just not be able to be consistent with their help. Also, and sadly, you may have people implying that you are plain lazy when it seems you are unable to do various things. Yes, even people who are very near and dear to you and who know your situation perfectly well.
As moms, we are supposed to be these awesome humans who can handle any amount of work or responsibility without complaint. We are usually supposed to be able to cook, tidy, clean, raise the children, contribute financially, spiritually lead the family, be the perfect wives and care for our families when everyone else is unwell. We are supposed to be able to do a lot of these things at the same time.
That is what society expects of us but sometimes the burden of expectation is greatest when it comes from ourselves. Particularly when we know it is physically impossible to achieve. When you are living with chronic pain as a mom, the simplest of tasks can feel like the biggest hurdles. Obviously then, any of the above mentioned “duties” do not happen as easily for you as they would for other moms. The mom guilt that comes with that is very painful.
“Those of us with chronic pain have something unique to offer, not in spite of our pain, but because of it. It’s okay to grieve the losses of chronic illness. It’s okay to be broken; everyone is in some way. Just because we’re unfixable doesn’t mean we’re worthless.” – Allison Alexander, Super Sick: Making Peace with Chronic IllnessChronic pain quote
Having a parent with chronic pain
Having a parent with chronic pain means that your children, depending on how old they are and as they get older, will start to notice all the ways in which their parent is different from other parents. They will unavoidably realize that their parent is unable to do the same things with them that other parents do with their children. Research has found that children of parents living with chronic pain will sometimes complain of pain as well. This may come from them trying to understand their parent better or trying to relate to them.
It is important that the parent is clear about why things are different. Do not let your child guess or come up with their own theories.
As a person who struggles with daily pain, it is difficult to explain this to anyone who is not experiencing the same thing that you are. Even your children. How do you describe the effects of living with constant pain?
What is chronic pain?
I would define chronic pain as any kind of ache that varies in intensity from person to person and sometimes from day to day and carries on for a long period. It cannot be relieved by any medication. Indeed, the definition of chronic pain from a doctor would be any pain that goes on for three to six months or more.
Chronic pain is not to be confused with acute pain although acute pain can become chronic pain.
Chronic pain vs. Acute pain
Well, to start with, while chronic illnesses develop over a prolonged period of time, acute ones come on suddenly and do not last very long. The biggest difference between chronic pain and acute pain is that while acute pain has an identifiable and treatable cause, the cause for chronic pain is often a mystery and it is therefore often untreatable.
Things that only a mom with chronic pain might understand
There are some feelings or emotions you probably have as a mom when you live with chronic pain that other people are unable to understand.
- Occasional breakdowns into tears at feelings of sheer helplessness at not being able to take away the pain
- People believing you are just plain lazy
- Feelings of uselessness when you are not physically able to do things with your children that other moms can easily do
- Waking up each day and dreading consciously managing the pain while tackling all your responsibilities
- A reluctance to explain to people what is going on in your body
- Feeling like you are failing as a wife and there is nothing you can do about it
- A lack of energy to do so much as cry
- Depression and/or anxiety building up from the expectation of what you are to face each day
- Knowing that no matter how much you try to describe your pain to people (even your most loved ones), they will never truly understand how you feel everyday
Chronic pain management as a mom
“The stigma of chronic pain is one of the most difficult aspects of living with chronic pain. If you have chronic pain, people can sometimes judge you for it. Specifically, they can sometimes disapprovingly judge you for how you are coping with it. If you rest or nap because of the pain, they think you rest or nap too much. If they catch you crying, they become impatient and think you cry too much. If you don’t work because of the pain, you face scrutiny over why you don’t. If you go to your healthcare provider, they ask, “Are you going to the doctor again?” Maybe, they think that you take too many medications. In any of these ways, they disapprove of how you are coping with pain. These disapproving judgments are the stigma of living with chronic pain.” – Murray J. McAlisterChronic pain quote
Some of the ways that chronic pain can be managed includes Pilates, acupuncture, painkillers, various types of physical therapy and warm baths in Epsom salts. As a mom trying to manage chronic pain, it is also important to keep the following in mind as you fight to get through each day.
- Show up. You might not be able to do the things with your kids that they would like you to but you can show up and be present for as much of what they get up to as possible. Just knowing you are interested in them and their own interests will mean so much to them.
- You need all the rest you can get. Sleep as early in the evening or night as you are able to.
- Simply lay down and relax whenever you get the chance even if you do not think you can sleep.
- Do not be afraid to explain things in detail to your children. They need to clearly hear from you that you are not able to do certain things with them not because you do not want to, but because you cannot.
- You will feel judged. You might feel judged for needing to rest or lay down in the middle of the day. It could be by your spouse, your best friend or a stranger. Either way, it will happen. Acknowledge the judgement but do not let it stop you from caring for yourself and being able to make it through to the next day for your children.
- If you do not manage to finish up every bit of housework every day, the world will not end. Space your responsibilities out throughout the day. Do not try to do everything at once, as tempting as it may be to try to push yourself hard within a short period of time.
- Remind yourself frequently that you are not alone and that you are doing a great job even though it may not feel like that today. There are other moms out there who are facing daily pain with courage just like you. Hopefully, they are cutting themselves slack. You should too.
“The trouble with chronic pain is that it is so easy to become accustomed to it, both mentally and physically. At first it’s absolutely agonizing; it’s the only thing you think about, like a rock in your shoe that rubs your foot raw with every step. Then the constant rubbing, the pain and the limp all become part of the status quo, the occasional stabbing pain just a reminder.Chronic pain quote
You are so set to endure, hunched against it – and when it starts to ease, you don’t really notice, until the absence washes over you like a balm.” – Robert J. Wiersema
Please do not succumb. While you do everything you can to manage the pain, also continue to do everything you can to find permanent relief from chronic pain. Try everything that your resources will allow you to try.