dating with chronic pain
June 26, 2014 5:56 PM   Subscribe

I have chronic crippling body pain that can strike at any time. I am doing all the things I can to learn to live with it and ease it when it strikes but I have a hard time being with people sometimes because I get snappy when I feel like they don't understand how much energy it takes. Now I have a new girlfriend and it is going to cause problems. Have you lived with pain and relationships?

I tried explaining the spoon theory and it helped somewhat but sometimes she just forgets. I want to lead a normal life and not let my pain limit me but when it is really bad it feels like anyone asking me to do things for them or even someone talking to me is them trying to steal the last bit of energy I have. I snap and then feel bad. And then they feel bad and no one is happy.

It especially affects my new girlfriend. She has told me she doesn't have much experience with physical pain so it is hard for her to be as empathetic as she wants to be. She really wants to do something to help and is kind and caring and even though it had been just a bit in terms of time she and I have a closeness and connection that we both admit is rare for us with people and scary good! . She has seen me bent over crying in pain and it is hard for her. I try and protect her from most of it so it isn't a focus of our relationship but it leaks in. I get quiet if it is really bad and then snap and feel like hell.

I don't know how to deal with the anger that arises from it when I say that I am having a bad body pain day and she asks me to help her with something. It makes me feel she doesn't care but at the same time I know she does. The relationship can't be all about me. I want to be supportive of her too but I don't know how when I have no energy and want to just crawl into a ball and cry from the pain.

Am I approaching this wrong by not telling her more about how horrific it is? I don't need her to be my care giver. She asks me a lot if there is anything she can do but I can't really think of anything. I can't expect her to be psychic and know when it is a bad body pain day and I still can do things and when it is a day I can't. I hardly know myself until I start to do stuff and my energy goes. And then I feel like I am disappointing her if I have to say midway through our afternoon that I can't do that super fun thing you were looking forward to because I am so sore. And I feel disappointed too because I want to make her happy and do these fun things with her too.

A rambling way of a lot of questions that basically amount to how do you have a relationship when you have chronic pain and don't want it to rule your life.
posted by kanata to Human Relations (19 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Just be honest, "I don't want you to be my caregiver, but I need you to understand that if I'm having a bad day, that I'm not really going to be good for much. Can you deal with this?"

Then just be really good about communicating what's going on with you. "My pain levels are at 10 today, I'm not going to be able to do anything. I'll be in bed all day. I'll call you if I feel better."

If she asks you to help with something, and you can't, just say, "I can't today."

Be honest and don't get too ambitious. With my parents, who are in their seventies, we joke that they're good for one thing and lunch. So approach it like that. "Let's get lunch, and a movie and see where we are after that."

If there's something like a concert, don't try to meet her friends for dinner and drinks and then go. Let her go for dinner and drinks, you meet them at the concert. Or, skip it all together.

Do realize that it takes a special person to deal with someone who is in chronic pain. It may take her awhile to get it, and to deal with it, and the reality is, it may be too much for her.

I'm sorry you're going through this, it's a tough row to hoe. I've been there, but I was able to get relief. I pray you'll be able to as well.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:07 PM on June 26, 2014 [13 favorites]

I don't have to deal with chronic pain very much (so far at least, I'm diabetic) so this is just a thought: could you try initially responding in a goofy manner, like: "My pain, my special pain, won't let me!" Perhaps just setting a tone of silliness to start off with could defuse tension for both of you, if she also understands that you're her Huckleberry when you're able.
posted by XMLicious at 6:14 PM on June 26, 2014

Broken back here. I get you.

Thing is, pain is utterly invisible. It is inexplicable to the outside. It is impossible to describe the way it subtracts and divides who you are. Please, for your sake and hers, don't burden yourself with doing that.

Just be who you are, in the moment. If you can't do something, just say: I can't do that right now. When you can do other things, do them. Don't try to hard to explain the overall pattern; let it speak for itself, and let her sense and perceive it for herself. Be honest and true to yourself - even in the snappy moments.

Like any other aspect of a relationship, she can't read your mind, so it will be important to note 'today's not such a good day' when you can. I hate doing that myself, I hate talking about my pain. Hate. But things are better when I do communicate it. So I do, then move on to 'and how are you?' but it is noted and it is worthwhile.
posted by Dashy at 6:21 PM on June 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

My 6yo daughter has actually been a pretty good coach for me. She taped a sign on my bedroom door: LIE DOWN MUM YOU ARE TIRED -- as a reminder: when I am doing too much and starting to get crabby from pain, well, yes -- I am tired -- I should lie down -- it's okay to do that.

For me to have a good relationship with my kid I have to communicate things clearly: "Today is a sick day for me because," etc, "I need to [...] so I don't feel worse," and, since she is a little kid, keep any irritations etc in check. This is my issue to solve, not hers; kinda the same with you -- snapping is your issue, try to fix it. You've tagged this with PTSD -- is that being treated?

On the whole this kinda sounds not like a relationship problem so much as a medical one. You sound like you're having a rough time coping with the practical limitations -- "I want to lead a normal life" is not on; you want some help and time and maybe therapy and maybe even medications to help you adjust to your new normal. Because that is a much, much more pleasant existence, where you accept that you have these limits instead of being frustrated by them, where you're cool with asking for help and with reminding people of the limitations when they forget, etc. Trying to push ahead with "normal" is just going to...well, I'd be snappy too. It is when I am in a mental space of this shit is awesome because it is never going to kill me! that I am most cheerful and productive and as far away from wallowing in self-pity as one can get.

Do speak with your care providers about the things you're mentioning here. Having to bail on planned fun stuff...would you benefit from occasional use of a wheelchair? Are there medication adjustments possible? Have you tried marijuana? Is your girlfriend open to reading more about chronic pain issues; would it help to bring her with you to some appointments?

It is a vastly different quality of life to adjust to, but it does not have to be diminished. My knee-jerk here is that once you stop trying to fight it and start accepting and even embracing it, you'll end up snapping a lot less.
posted by kmennie at 6:36 PM on June 26, 2014 [15 favorites]

She has seen me bent over crying in pain and it is hard for her. I try and protect her from most of it so it isn't a focus of our relationship but it leaks in. I get quiet if it is really bad and then snap and feel like hell.

When you get quiet, is it because you're in too much pain to speak, or because you're afraid to tell her you're in pain and want to keep it hidden? If it's the former, than try to have some kind of hand signal so that she knows what's going on, and if it's the latter, then tell her you just hit your limit and are in a lot of pain, and need to rest for a bit.

If you don't create some space in your life to accommodate this pain, it won't go away, it'll just bleed into all areas of your life. It's better to set up lines of communication and routines to acknowledge and deal with the pain when it comes than to deny that it exists, because then maybe it doesn't have to be this big deal thing that ruins everything, it can just (well, at least most/some of the time, hopefully) be a fact of life that you guys take in stride as well as possible.

You might want to make and communicate a plan ahead of time for how you'll signal to her that you're in pain (if it's hard for you to speak when you're in intense pain, or even if it's just hard for you to admit to her when you're in pain), what you want her go-to response to be, and what your go-to needs will be. For her go-to response, it doesn't have to be anything big if that doesn't seem comfortable to you (can just be squeezing your hand or something like that), but have something worked out so that she has a clear way to acknowledge that she understood your signal and knows that you're in pain in the moment. It sounds like her acknowledging that she knows you're in pain will be reassuring and comforting to you, and, probably, having a clear way to do that will make her feel more at ease.

You're setting yourself up to fail if you just try to pretend that this pain doesn't exist whenever you're in her company, because obviously at the point when you're feeling that pain you've hit your limit and do need to actually take a break, and trying to push through is going to force you to collapse/snap. So let yourself take that break. It's OK to take a break. You're also setting her up to fail if you don't tell her about the pain and then nevertheless expect her to react as though you're in a lot of pain, and that will just cause her to walk on eggshells around you. So just be direct with her about it, so she doesn't have to walk on eggshells.

Try to be communicative in general and try to put those lines of communication and routines in place when you're feeling relatively well, so when you're in a huge amount of pain you can just make use of them and not waste your time or energy reinventing that wheel. It's terrible that you're in pain, but it's not something you need to be ashamed about, and right now it seems like you're acting ashamed? Your pain isn't a shameful secret that you have to protect your gf from, it's just a fact of your life right now. It's OK to be real with her about it.
posted by rue72 at 6:39 PM on June 26, 2014

I think you're expecting too much if you think she's ever going to know exactly what you're going through. She is allowed to be disappointed about broken promises, or your failure to participate in xyz, or whatever. Sometimes people with chronic pain are really self-focused. Do you make sure to show her you still care even if you had to cancel your plans yesterday? Do you relate everything back to your condition? It's okay to talk about what's wrong but it can suck the life out of a relationship when you are the only topic of conversation. Only you can decide what is the right level of disclosure because hearing you feel shitty everyday can really be annoying after a while.

But maybe she doesn't know the full extant of your condition (which is different and simpler than true understanding). Maybe tell her now you can't fully be there for her because you're disabled and she will have to find others because you simply can't help her at times. This may seem mean, but my point is maybe she doesn't know what she's in for, and her expectations of you are too high. If you lower her expectations, she can see the reality of the situation for what it is.
posted by Aranquis at 7:03 PM on June 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

So there are people out there who are specifically pain psychologists who help people deal with the mental side of pain and boy does chronic pain start to rewire you mentally! Anyway I know one who as part of therapy has her patients wear a red yellow or green button indicating how they are doing that day. That is to track progress but it could also be a great way to gently let your girlfriend know what kind of day you're having and what to expect without hashing it out and making you both feel worse. It doesn't have to be buttons it could be any really visible signal you choose. Good luck chronic pain is as tough battle.
posted by Skadi at 7:20 PM on June 26, 2014

I dated someone with a chronic illness and it was something we really struggled with in our relationship. At the beginning, he would get angry with me for not understanding his limitations or not being able to fully understand what it meant when he said "I feel tired." In the end, we got to a good place of dealing with it together, as a team. But it was a process, it's not something that would have been possible to do over the course of a month or even three. In thinking about that process, you may want to remember back to your first experiences with your condition - you probably felt confusion, anger, denial. She may have to go through some of those processes too. With someone who's new in your life, it may not even be ideal to go too deeply into this. But just like learning about your other quirks, it's something she'll need to gradually begin to understand better if she's in a relationship with you. So think of it as a gradual process, not something you can fix with a single conversation.

Eventually, this is what it looked like when my ex and I got to a good place in dealing with the illness - we were a team, fighting against this illness together. We were only able to get to that point because he very clearly communicated what he was going through, in detail. He did so in a kind of clinical way, just talking me through each piece from both a medical and personal angle. Over months I began to understand triggers, as well as better read his body language and responses. Eventually we had our own little language about it - certain words meant "I might be able to think about going out in 3-4 hours, but right now I just need to lie down," while others meant "I'm done for the day." Establishing a sort of ad hoc language about his illness was one of the most important steps we took as a couple. I think you can get there too...but you have to let it take the time it takes.
posted by leitmotif at 7:40 PM on June 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yeah, communication was key with my boyfriend (now husband), clearly telling him when I felt like shit and couldn't do anything, clearly telling him when I was feeling short tempered as a heads up with a pre-emptive apology if I realized before I snapped, or as an immediate apology with brief explanation if I snapped before I realized, and occasionally (depending on the stage of your relationship and comfort level) letting him see the full emotional impact it had on me.

Also, for our overall happiness, I had to learn to accept my limitations (as best I could) and not constantly fight them. I also tried to focus largely on non-illness/pain related things with him, and to always remember that just because my pain and my problems were so so much worse (objectively) it didn't make his difficulties any less real or less worthy of sympathy and attention. I could often be there for him emotionally even if I was unable to move. I hope that makes sense. This worked for us because he was so supportive and understanding, but it sounds like your lady is too.

Good luck. I hope you find some relief.
posted by pennypiper at 7:42 PM on June 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have lived with chronic pain, and in my experience no, there is nothing you can do or say that will make people really understand; and yes, they will care less over time as your illness becomes normalised.

However, and this is a big however, you can still have totally fulfilling relationships, romantic and. otherwise.

You have to always remember that she cannot understand your pain, nor sense its relative scale. So you have to communicate, and you have to do it nicely. She may never understand your pain but she can understand the limitations it puts on you, and accommodate towards them.

However hard it might be, you don't get a free pass to act like an asshole, even when you're hurting. It's grossly unfair and will grow huge resentments on both sides. This is your burden to bear, and that's unfair - but making it hers too on an emotional level is even more unfair.

So you have to flag your needs, early, often, and in nicest way possible. You two will probably develop a style that works for you, or break up, so it is self resolving in a way.

Also try to stay aware that you're not limiting her, or expecting her to limit herself. It's easy to slip into that and take it for granted.

For me, when I was in pain i tried make it problem, not my partner's. If they could help, great, if not that's okay.

You should not expect her to boot ask you for help, and you should not get angry when telling her you can't. That's how it's supposed to go. You might feel shame, frustration etc, but if you let those colour clarifying conversations like that, you will be in a world of trouble.

Best of luck,
posted by smoke at 7:46 PM on June 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

I have a pain problem too, and it's been a tough road re-learning how to do relationships and friendships. The pattern of "I'm hurting and I don't want it to be your problem/don't want pity, so I'll be quiet and not say anything...but then snap at you for not knowing but I'm really more upset with myself than you" is...familiar. It sounds like you're stuck in a place where you have to explain what's going on and your preferences every time you have a flare-up/bad body pain day. This is the worst thing. Try to avoid this thing.

In my relationship, I use "bad pain day" as my phrase for "I can't do that" because it's easier for me to admit, and doesn't lead to the same kind of emotional upset and uncertainty that "I can't" sometimes does (which, for me, means I can avoid "quiet so I don't snap--> (s)he doesn't know --> SNAP"). It also might be worth taking some time on a day when things are less terrible to draw up a list with your girlfriend of what that means for you--do you usually want company or to be alone? Are offers of ice packs/heating packs/tea/food helpful or not? I know you said you don't want her to be your caretaker, but this lower-key kind of help will probably make her feel better while making you be less miserable.

As you know, you'll probably have to spend a while gritting your teeth through multiple daily reminders of "not today; everything hurts." It does pay off, though, both in this relationship and in re-learning how to make and maintain friendships with healthy people going forwards.

It will be a tough adjustment period for both of you, and she might not ever really understand, but a relationship between a chronic pain person and a healthy person is definitely possible.
posted by mismatched at 8:31 PM on June 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

I am a significant other to someone with a chronic health condition, and this was something we struggled with a lot at the beginning. He would put on a face about it when we were dating, and then when we loved in together, I was a little unprepared. Here are some ground rules that helped us get things manageable:

1) I am not a mind-reader. Your GF is not either. My guy has learned that chivalrously trying to 'protect' me and not tell me what is going on can actually be more harmful than if he just had been up front with me about it. It damages me far more to have him snap and blow up at me because I Didn't Know. A big thing for us was when he finally got comfortable enough to ask for help with a shot he takes every week or so. He got super-sick because he was squeamish about doing it himself but felt it wasn't fair to ask me, so he wasn't taking it. I explained to him that it is far easier for me to suck it up for five minutes and give him the shot, then to deal with him being sick for weeks on end because he was trying to 'protect' me...

2) He has also learned---with the help of a therapist---that it truly is not fair for it to be 100% about him. When it's bad, I get it. He can't help it, he's in pain, and his needs come first. So, when he is having a flare-up, it can be 99% about him. But the 1% that's about me is him pausing for one second to tell me "I'm sorry. This isn't about you." Because when he's quiet and snippy and won't talk to me, that is where my mind goes. And I can deal with sick-him once I know it's about him and not about something I did. It can be 99% about him, but he has to take that second and un-freak me out so I can deal with what's coming next. And it's fair of me to ask him to do that.

3) We have also made a distinction between Sick-Him and Healthy-Him. He sometimes gets irrational and says scary things when he's hurting. I had to learn not to take those to heart. So when he starts going on about the stuff that freaks me out, my only question has to be 'Am I talking to Sick-You right now?' If the answer is yes, I am free to disregard everything that comes out of his mouth from there onward.

4) Remember, too, that there are things about her that you will never understand! It can be hard for me sometimes to talk about something that really affected me in my life, and have him dismiss it with 'well, at least you didn't have XYZ like I do!' That is not fair. He has things he went through that I didn't, and I have things I went through that he didn't. She doesn't understand your pain, but there are pains she has had that you don't understand. When you are sick, you are sick. But when you are well, be there for her too.

It CAN work! You just need to have some good boundaries and make sure you both look out for each other. One of the revelations to him was being there for me when my grandmother died. Realizing that he could give in the relationship too and help another person was big for him. We've been together almost three years and we have some hard moments with his illness sometimes, but we are in a good place together and love each other a lot.
posted by JoannaC at 9:24 PM on June 26, 2014 [25 favorites]

Since you want to share your medical info with might be a good idea to bring her with you to your doctor.

They are way better at explaining things, and don't get all offended if someone doesn't understand. They will help her to understand.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:49 AM on June 27, 2014

It has been my unhappy experience that unless people have endured a cripplingly painful illness themselves, most of the time they just can't deal with you when you are really hurting. This is not to say that people can't be truly compassionate unless they've known great pain. But it's going to be kind of abstract to them, this idea of terrible pain that lasts, or terrible pain that comes and goes at random. The hear the words you're saying, but usually they don't feel it.

If your girlfriend has seen you hurting and she wants to stick around anyway, that's a big mark in her favor. You know that at the very least, she's willing to try to work with you on this. Don't take that for granted.

Beyond that, I'd say, be honest with her, but pay attention to her limits. If you can see her starting to crumble because you're ranting too much, pull out of that dive. Maybe make it clear to her that there are times when you just hurt too much, and need a time-out.

Sometimes it helps to come up with examples of pain that people can relate to. You can tell her that today you're hurting like you have the worst sunburn ever, or an ice cream headache that won't fucking stop. You can say it's like that moment when you badly stub your toe, except the pain just goes on and on. She may not know chronic pain, but she's human and she's experienced plenty of briefer pains you can use as points of reference.

Try to find fun things you can do even when you're feeling crappy. I've always read books aloud with my girlfriends. There's something really bonding about sharing a story like that, and it's something you can do even if you're half-blind with pain.

Resist the urge to become a depressed, depressing bore. Resist the urge to let the pain take over your relationship, or your life. If she's willing to work with you, work with her.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:21 AM on June 27, 2014

I don't know what was wrong with Sartre, but he said once, "I have a dog called Pain." I like that a lot. As somebody with chronic pain, I see it as a dog that is sometimes jumping all over me and licking my face and maybe standing on my stomach because when it's really bad, I tend to start holding my breath.

There's also Frieda Kahlo's relationship with pain; given her art and her history (impaled by steel bar during trolley accident as young women) one can see how big her Pain Dog was.

The way I think of it is that I have a special power, refined over now ten years of feeling excruciating pain quite often. It's becoming a bad ass, essentially. That, and the empathy that you are bringing to the relationship. Empathy in general, and also boy are you going to be a good boyfriend when your girl is unwell.

Finally, managing your pain is so important to your psychological health and your relationships. I hope you can stay away from opiods; I smoke marijuana twice a day. No, it doesn't kill the pain, but it helps me live with the pain (and also not be the drooling vegetable I was on opiods). Moreover, opiods brought out my temper in bad ways. More of a, 'fuck everyone, I am suffering, so fuck you and you and you and you.' So, weed good in terms of getting along with non-pain people, opiods bad.

I get that being in a relationship with a person with chronic pain -- or any disability, for that matter -- means that the health problems are going to affect more than just you (that being said I have never been able to swallow the 'it's not all about you' line, because, why yes, it is in my body, nobody else's, so come on). On the other hand, living with pain/disability/whatever brings about a certain kind of enlightenment, if one endures it long enough. I guess what I'm saying is, you may be bringing wonderful things into your relationship as a result of how you have struggled.
posted by angrycat at 4:23 AM on June 27, 2014 [5 favorites]

This may be silly and not your style at all, but who knows.
Could you think of a way to let her know how you are feeling, without having to use your words? Could you design a pain scale that works for you (words, numbers or colours or what have you) and show her the appropriate status, in a way that does not require her to ask, or you to reply at that moment?
For example, you could set a card in front of a webcam that she has access to.

It would probably be important to let her know in advance what the statuses mean, not just the corresponding pain level, but also how you would prefer her to respond; she would then know whether to stay away, keep you company but not expect you to do anything, try to distract you, or take you dancing.
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:23 AM on June 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

What is the source of the pain? As stated above pain is invisible to everybody else. If you've been diagnosed with Fibro or whatever I think it helps the other party because they can put a name to what you are going through. I know it sounds weird, but I just went through this last year with my wife and the diagnosis, although it changed nothing immediately, relieved a lot of the stress of her 6+ months of chronic pain. Also, if it is Fibro they've made pretty good strides recently in treating the symptoms. My wife is mostly pain free these days. So if you gave up on treatment at some point it might be time for another try.
posted by COD at 4:52 AM on June 27, 2014

So there's this lovely essay about access intimacy, which never ceases to make the room all dusty. As a disabled person, it's always going to be another facet of how close you can be to somebody: how well they understand, accept and honor your body's needs and limitations. Of course it's this way in every human encounter, but it's amplified for us: the stakes are higher and our needs are assumed to be up for round tabling (or, if you're really in with the wrong crowd, created to impinge on others). We've got a society that so often paints chronic pain (particularly women's chronic pain) as a psychological symptom, a manipulation. I think you can create access intimacy with people who truly love you.

There's a lot in the way! Even though a goodly amount of illness is the chronic (and manage it the rest of your life) kind, our culture has the narrow bandwidth for defeating [disease] or tragic death. Which leaves us out, not to speak of trying to edge us out: you want a relationship to be a sacred place, because it's so damn hard. I get that it's hard. I have a passel of autoimmune diseases that arose from a birth defect. I'm treated for Rheumatoid Arthritis now and the deformities in my feet suggest that I had Juvenile RA (nobody noticed because I was dealing with orthopedic problems as a kid). I have been in so much pain all my life that when it was first treated, I was ANGRY. I could not believe what I had grown up to know as normal. I had never known non-agony. My whole childhood I was been ridiculed for making everyone stay in, being the home body, told I had "anxiety" about leaving the house: I was a little girl with deforming arthritis in my feet. It's ok to feel angry at our shitty culture. I don't know you but I know that if you are in chronic pain, you deserve more compassion than you are getting.

I also get being indignant at having to explain this stuff to people, particularly over and over again. But if you don't figure out your personal limits and what you need (and what you won't put up with) from other people, all your relationships will suck. Ruthless Bunny knows a lot about what's up. Also? The moment somebody can't stand the heat? Having been fully informed about the heat and given a chance to adjust to the heat? Escort them from the kitchen. My last relationship with an ablebodied person (she was well meaning and steeped in tumblr politics) was a nightmare because of this. Every time I needed to cancel an evening out because of my arthritis meant that the entire world knew that I was DYING OMG THE STRESSSSSSSSSSSS. I should have life guarded her out immediately when it became clear that chronic illness was too much for her to handle, long before I spent lots of time comforting her because I had to stay in (a salient point to make to yr gf - you shouldn't have to take care of her when your pain is why you have to stay in). The people who hang around you long enough to be patient with your ups and downs and who give you the benefit of the doubt, those are the people who understand. I hope you've got a lot of them.
posted by sweltering at 6:29 AM on June 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

I deal with chronic pain too, and hoo boy, how it wrecks with the feedback loop of self-care, self-confidence, mental health is really fun (not). It's one of the biggest things that have defined the past four years of my life, and up to this date, I still deal with a lot of anger and resentment, feeling like my youth and health has been stolen away from me. And often times, I just feel really, really broken.

My chronic pain is also invisible, and I get incredibly frustrated and emotional when loved ones don't recognize that I am in pain, and act like they're minimizing it just because they're used to it.

I don't think my pain is as bad as yours (not that it's a contest), but I can understand the anger, the frustration, and desire to wrestle your day closer to what it was prior to the pain, instead of having your entire day ruled by it.

So I think the answer comes in two parts.

1. As everyone else said, communication.

Since you're seeing this woman regularly, I think you should tell her the details. You don't have to do it in one fell swoop as a Mega Serious Conversation... you can just incorporate it into your conversations as you get to know each other. You can also talk about how it developed as just another life anecdote from the past.

But yeah, you definitely should let her know what she can expect of you for the day, and how at some times, you just have some self-care to attend to that has to take priority.

Pretty silly but, I like the pain scale from Hyperbole and A Half. Maybe you can humorously point out to her where you're at each day.

I think when she has a better understanding of your situation, you'll be surprised by how much more supportive and accommodating she could be.

2. I think you have to deal with the anger within yourself independently.

This anger probably exists independently of her, and it just gets directed at her when she's misunderstanding you. If our experiences are similar, the anger is coming from anger at the situation, and anger at being helpless and crippled compared to who we were in the past.

You need to diffuse this anger, because it's like Buddha's second arrow of sorrow. You're already in pain, why do you need more anger to cause you even more pain? Even when its justified, anger is often like shooting ourselves in the foot.

Again, disclaimer, it's still not an issue I've completely fixed. But one thing that has helped was giving me reminders that *yes*, this Hawk V in 2014 is not the same Hawk V pre-chronic pain, so my expectations has to be adjusted. It's like, my brain feels entitled to being the person I was, and gets angry at being not that person anymore.

I drew a little self-portrait, listing all of my physical and mental health conditions, and the things I need to do to manage it. I have it hung up in a place where I can easily see it.

So whenever I get angry because of my pain, or my day isn't going along as planned because of Pain, I feel a little bit better when I see this reminder, because it's basically my road map to stability. So my goal is no longer to be free from pain, because that's impossible. Instead, my goal shifts towards self-care and self-nurturing. And instead of seeing those activities as a nuisance, I instead see them as a meditative practice to honour my body and self.

I hope some of this helps.
posted by Hawk V at 9:46 AM on June 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

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