How to comfort someone with chronic pain? A guide for caregiving men…
How to comfort someone with chronic pain?
Your partner isn’t just a number in the medical system, she’s a person who gives you love and wonderful memories. But doctors don’t see her that way. How to comfort someone with chronic pain if you’re not an expert in the medical field?
When two chronic illnesses stood in the way of my wife’s physical health, they impacted her mental health.
Several years ago I was given an opportunity to show how much I love my partner. “M”, as I call her, was attempting to commit suicide.
At the time I didn’t know why would she think of that, let alone commit to it.
A woman who I deeply loved felt like she had no way out of symptoms that caused her a lot of physical, psychological, emotional, and mental pain.
Her family wasn’t understanding and M felt like she had no one to rely on.
Many women suffer in silence. My wife was one of them. But unlike most people, I wasn’t there to ignore her cry for help.
M tried to hide her emotions but the pain and her dark thoughts were unbearable enough they lead her to suicidal attempts on more than one occasion.
I felt helpless but I haven’t given up on her. I asked myself, how to comfort someone with chronic pain if you don’t know what is the cause of it?
That was really hard to crack because my wife tried to figure it out for 5 years already going to countless doctor’s appointments.
Things only began to change when I decided to attempt her doctor’s appointments with her.
My personal story…
Remember when I said that your partner isn’t just a number in the medical system? She was treated as one. Furthermore, most female patients are.
Women aren’t treated fairly. Female issues are often marginalized by male doctors and bosses.
I found it to be true for hundreds of women I’ve spoken to over the years, and from my personal experience.
This is what drove my M to become suicidal, the lack of support and understanding.
Did I want to know why? I decided to research and do something about this. I started to educate myself, I began to read and to write.
It was the time when my wife felt so helpless, I took two months of work to support her through this difficult period of time.
I had nothing to do with my free time but I had to keep an eye on the love of my life. I began to write my thoughts down, which later on evolved into a blog.
Worry Head was born.
Trauma and pain.
According to Gabor Maté, the chronic illness usually originates from childhood trauma. Unresolved psychological, emotional issues impact mental wellbeing, and that affects physical health.
He describes it in his book “When the Body Says No – The Cost of Hidden Stress” and I totally agree with his observation.
My M experienced a lot of psychological trauma in her childhood and developed a chronic illness that was hidden behind antidepressants, that doctors wrongly put her on for 18 years.
She did not have a chance to be free in her mind because the pills made her feel like a zombie.
Her doctors were useless and blamed the trauma she experienced on her mindset, instead of getting to the source of the problem – an abusive family member.
When we met, she decided to get off Prozac to feel like a human being. She felt ashamed even though it didn’t matter to me.
M wanted to come of it only for her but also for me, and before our wedding day, she took the last pill. I was proud of her, she’s such a fighter!
The constant worry of something that didn’t feel right drove her to depression and then suicidal thoughts, which she tried to commit on more than one occasion. It was a difficult time for both of us.
Being a professional dancer since her teenage years, as an adult woman of 35 years, M began to experience pain.
We knew it was the nature of us as dancers to get injured and ache from time to time. But this was different, this pain never seems to let go…
After a while, my wife’s pain became chronic and more severe.
My optimism could not help much as regardless of what I said, trying to reassure her that it was probably injuries that haunted her, I was wrong, it even aggravated her at times because I could not see her pain.
Back then, I really didn’t know how to comfort her. How to comfort someone with chronic pain if you aren’t going through it yourself? Her pain was invisible, and yet, it was real…
I had to understand what was going on, what was the cause of her pain. Little to I knew, two chronic conditions were going to be revealed.
When your partner suffers from a chronic illness it can be really hard to cope with the chronic pain that is caused by the condition.
But when you suffer from more than one illness, your partner may feel like her life is not worth living anymore.
That was the case with my wife. Her unexplained for years symptoms, the disbelief of her family, friends, her boss, and the doctors, led my wife to emotional breakdowns, which resulted in her suicide attempts.
She still experiences severe chronic pain today, but knowing the source of it, helps us manage it better than before.
I won’t lie, it’s still incredibly hard for her, as on average, her pain varies from 20 to 25 days per month. Only 5, maybe 10 days a month her pain is low enough to function.
For the majority of the month trying to manage pain to simply feel good is a full-time job.
On top of that, she has to work and do things she normally would, like simple daily chores, although there are days when having a shower is an effort, let alone work, even though from home.
Getting to the point, my wife has severe stage IV deep infiltrating endometriosis. But that’s not all…
After the diagnosis of endometriosis brought an explanation to her pelvic pain, it couldn’t explain widespread body pain.
The physical and emotional shock brought by the endometriosis caused my wife to develop fibromyalgia disorder.
Having multimorbidity means having chronic pain that never goes away.
Like I said, only a few days a month my wife is to some extent free of pain, however, sometimes it doesn’t go away, the pain has lower volume, but it’s still there.
So, knowing how to comfort someone with chronic pain when it never goes away can be very tricky.
How to comfort someone with chronic pain?
Someone who has never experienced chronic pain will have difficulty understanding the complexity of it.
When someone has a family member who suffers from chronic illness, they often don’t know how best to support them.
Even though you may feel helpless, bear in mind that your presence and support are enough to make your partner feel better.
Stress is one of the triggers for pain, especially chronic. The stress-pain cycle is hard to break.
Being there for your loved one is big support already, as she feels safe knowing that she can rely on you if anything was to happen. Knowing that keeps her calm instead of worry.
Chronic pain is very isolating, as people may feel they aren’t able to get out and about or their symptoms limit their ability to go out and make connections.
Living with chronic pain can be emotionally very draining and definitely has an impact on mood.
Maintaining connections and even having a chat with you allows your loved one to feel less alone, and to feel loved which reduces her stress. That, in turn, reduces pain and the other symptoms.
Understanding more about your partner’s pain and what she faces daily helps you to develop empathy.
By being empathetic, it shows that you make an effort to understand her behaviors and feelings and that you try to look at the world through her perspective.
It shows her that you respect the efforts she takes to achieve her tasks despite chronic pain.
You show her that while she’s coping with her chronic pain, she’s simultaneously trying to look normal and sound by the chronic condition she suffers from.
And even though she may not be as active as she once was, she lives her life to the best of her ability.
By noticing all these efforts you help her relieve the emotional pain, which in turn reduces the physical pain.
So if you find yourself asking the same question again, how to comfort someone with chronic pain, you’ll know that the best thing you can do is to show her that you are there.
You can do it by:
- Active and honest listening.
- Educating yourself about her illness.
- Helping with daily chores.
- Respecting her physical limitations.
- Being aware of the mental impact.
- Providing emotional support.
- Asking her what she needs help with.
- Accompanying her doctor’s appointments.
- Encouraging healthy eating.
- Encouraging positive thinking.
- Putting therapy techniques into action.
- Inviting her out socially.
- Respecting her boundaries.
I hope you enjoyed it. It’s what I do to support my wife in her battle with endometriosis, fibromyalgia, and chronic pain caused by them.
Take care of yourself and your partner!
Hi, I’m Lucjan! The reason why I decided to create this blog was my beautiful wife, who experienced a lot of pain in life, but also the lack of information about endometriosis and fibromyalgia for men…