When we talk about chronic pain sites we love, often we choose those sites that highlight one person’s experience with chronic pain. This puts a face to the pain to build connection and offer people with similar conditions hope and support. This connection to a larger community helps people cope. The Unbroken Smile is an example of how a community of chronic pain patients can come together to create a site we love that is informative, funny, caring, and useful for people in pain all over the world.
The Unbroken Smile
The creator of The Unbroken Smile, Elizabeth, is a wife and mother of three who started the site in 2010 after an injury at work left her diagnosed with an incurable disease called reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD). Reflex sympathetic dystrophy is a chronic pain condition characterized by continuous, increasing pain out of proportion to the original injury. As her pain grew worse, Elizabeth realized that she only had two choices:
“Living in chronic pain has brought many obstacles to my family as well as taught me many things along the way. When faced with this life change two choices presented itself, either lay down and let it win or fight like hell to at least be the mom and wife I desperately wanted to be.”
Elizabeth chose to fight. Knowing that she couldn’t go it alone, Elizabeth opened the site to contributors and collaborators to help gather information, tips, and supportive article and blogs. This drive to collect knowledge is reflected in the site’s mission:
“Our site was designed to bring us together regardless of what condition we may have been diagnosed with. We all hold this connection of pain and it’s unlikely it will go away until there are cures. We are here to inspire each other, tell our stories, share our arts, share our advice, and lean on one another… Our journey doesn’t have to be a sad story, we can use it to inspire others to keep going.”
The Unbroken Smile offers inspiration
The Unbroken Smile offers plenty of inspiration for those in pain. One of our favorite sections offers advice on parenting, both as a parent with chronic pain or as the parent of a child in chronic pain. In the post, “Parenting Teens While Battling Chronic Illness: Why Didn’t Someone Warn Me!,” Elizabeth offers this advice from experience:
“If you have little ones please enjoy it while they are little, because they do grow up fast. I hate to say it, but it doesn’t always get easier, it can get harder. Put in the work now to ensure good kids and good decisions. Even when they do stray you know as a parent you have done everything you could. Never give up on your kids! Everyone says parenting teens is hard, but parenting teens while battling a chronic illness I think may be harder.”
This may seem like common sense, but when chronic pain flares up in can be hard to keep a positive attitude. For parents watching their children battle chronic pain, a positive attitude can be even harder to maintain. In “A Letter To My Daughter With Chronic Pain On Graduation,” one mother honors the courage and strength of her daughter as she prepares to move into the next stage of life:
“I have heard the screams and saw the tears in the endless nights of terror this disease has thrown upon you. However, you continue to pull though and carry on day in and day out only to live your life the way you wish to live it. You refuse to let RSD/CRPS define you…You refused to listen to me when I told you to stay home on the days when I thought it was just too much on you…Be proud of what you have done and how hard you had to work to achieve it. We do not know what the future holds for us. But what we do know, is that we will never stop fighting and we will never give up against this RSD fight and that every day is a new day with a new dream.”
Parenting advice is just one of the reasons The Unbroken Smile is a site we love. The Unbroken Smile also offer tips and advice on general health and wellness, including gardening for those with chronic pain, exercising with chronic pain, and herbal remedies. For those who find they are out of energy when it’s time for dinner, Elizabeth offers tips for meal planning and cooking with chronic pain.
The Unbroken Smile on social media
The Unbroken Smile can be found on nearly every social network, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. All social media platforms feature engaged, compassionate, and helpful people. The Unbroken Smile’s Facebook page has over 1,600 followers who regularly offer their own community of support.
The final piece of the site that makes us glad to know The Unbroken Smile is online is the stories of others and their journey with chronic pain. Knowing that others are feeling the same things, experiencing struggles and triumphs every day and still thriving really brings home the final message of The Unbroken Smile:
“We come together asking for better treatment, understanding, and awareness of our conditions. We are not here to compete with each other of who has it worse, but we come here knowing we have found someone else that knows what we are going through.
We have been through a lot, but we have chosen to have an Unbroken Smile.”
Have a chronic pain site you love? Share it in the comments below!