Chronic pain is often referred to as a silent or hidden pain. Those who suffer from chronic pain due to illness, injury, or traumatic event do so with very few visible scars, yet the suffering is real.
Faces of Pain is a way to give a face and a voice to those who suffer from chronic pain.
On this page, people who are experiencing chronic pain for any reason can post their picture and tell their story. In the process, others who are feeling isolated and withdrawn may be able to find inspiration and support, and family and friends may gain insight into the struggles of their loved ones. Faces of Pain brings awareness to the very real condition of chronic pain and offers a safe place for sufferers to connect with others.
A major theme that contributors to Faces of Pain highlight is the importance of the support of their family and friends. Ivy, a contributor, notes that many people who suffer from chronic pain worry about being judged or not understood for what they are going through. She writes:
“I’m afraid to go out anymore because I never know when my back will go out or my Meniere’s disease will hit. I’m so out of touch with people and afraid they’ll judge me for my health issues.”
Leah writes that her husband helps her to enjoy gardening, even if it is simply sitting outside and enjoying the waterfall and koi pond.
Lois refers to spending time with family and friends as refilling her love cup:
“I take my life day by day and moment by moment. I try not to let my pain define me. I get to spend time with one of my best friends and her family. They refilled my love cup.”
Even small steps forward are positive and empowering when loved ones are there with support and encouragement.
Some of the contributors to Faces of Pain are inspired by the work they do.
Jeannette is working hard to educate people on the source of her chronic pain and says:
“I would like to make a difference in the lives of others and do anything possible [to] raise funding and awareness for not only Lupus but all invisible diseases! It’s time all our voices are heard so that better treatments are made available and the world is made aware of the suffering so that people are no longer choosing to hide at home.”
Goldie works with animals and helps others to move forward:
“I cope each day by putting on my clothes and a smile. I go to the barn where I train horses in dressage to music. I paint with watercolors and sell my art. I sing and made a CD. Keeping a sense of humor and helping others puts pain in the back seat.”
Art and creativity help not only Goldie but also many others in the Faces of Pain gallery.
Erin is singing through the pain:
“I use music. Right after my fusion, I could not sing or play my guitar for nearly a year. The muscles used to support my diaphragm were not 100%. I was terrified that I would forever [lose] my voice. When my vocal ability came back, I realized that music was a more effective pain management tool than heavy narcotics. I ran with that and I have not looked back since.”
Jamie is inspired by the people around her to incorporate their positive energy into her art:
“My passion, the way I cope is by creating colorful art. I love art, positive quotes, positive people, and watching people laugh. The sun is shining and it’s a beautiful day, can’t get more positive than that.”
Many in the Faces of Pain gallery use faith and a positive attitude to take each day as it comes.
“I am coping one day at a time. God, family, faith all inspire me. Today, I woke up, and that is a positive for me.”
Sophia says that her main mission is to smile, and then to help others:
“I cope by trying to take it a day at a time and always thinking positive.”
She is inspired when she sees someone who has it worse than her smile. Their smile is what keeps her going. Debi credits her unconditional faith in God and the love of her family for her ability to cope and focuses on the things she has, not what is missing. She writes:
“I thank God for all the things I DO have and try not to dwell on what’s been taken away. I’m alive, I’m walking unassisted, I still have my voice to give thanks, my arms to hug, and my children for unconditional love.”
Christine turns to meditation, long soaks in hot springs, and writing to help with the pain:
“I cope one day, one minute, one second at a time. Mediation and Hot Springs, a precious grandchild – all the things that give me a different focus and positive feelings.”
For those who do not have support in their home, or who have family or friends that are having a hard time understanding, support groups, either in person or online, can be an invaluable tool. Geraldine is using online groups to help her cope with pain and make connections. She notes that:
“I am coping by talking with others [on Facebook] that have the same issues as I do. I am very inspired by all the people that are living with pain and can joke about it as so many do.”
Cindy is also:
“…inspired by reading others’ stories, especially those that are more unfortunate than myself but keep on going.”
Faces of Pain is a great way to raise awareness of who is suffering. Support and understanding are key to helping a loved family member or friend cope with chronic pain. A study found that those with the support of family and friends fared much better, reporting less pain intensity as well as more active days.
If you know somebody who suffers from chronic pain, here are some ways you can help them cope:
- Don’t push. Allow the chronic pain sufferer to set the pace of the day.
- Be flexible. Even if you have planned something well in advance, chronic pain doesn’t follow a calendar. If it is a bad day for your family member or friend, be ready to accommodate that.
- Don’t take it personally. The chronic pain sufferer is not trying to make you feel bad or taking it out on you. Know that they are doing the best they can on any given day.
- Believe them when they say they are hurting. The pain is not all in their head, and they aren’t faking it. If they say they hurt, they hurt.
- Capitalize on the good days. If your family member or friend feels good, do things that bring you closer together. Maybe the laundry waits for another day while you spend time doing activities that you both enjoy. It’s okay.
- Get support yourself. Finding others who have family members or friends with chronic pain can help you deal with the challenges.
Beyond gaining support and understanding for chronic pain, the Faces of Pain gallery is a way to celebrate successes and inspire others. Eileen finally achieved a long-term goal, even while dealing with chronic pain:
“Today is a beautiful day. I am inspired by music and learning of other peoples’ challenges & victories! I just graduated college finally.”
Some chronic pain sufferers like Heather are running their own businesses, and others like Rachel and Ed want to work towards careers that help others, Rachel as a paramedic and Ed as an advocate for other chronic pain sufferers.
Every day with chronic pain can be a challenge, but there is no need to suffer alone. If you are suffering from chronic pain, visit the Faces of Pain online gallery to add your story and share coping strategies, along with what inspires you.