When you think of chronic pain, the first thing that comes to mind is the unrelenting physical torment that you endure. The agony that seeps into every crevice of life, making even the most mundane tasks feel like insurmountable challenges. But there’s another side to it that often goes unspoken, and that is the isolation that accompanies it. It’s a truth that many people living with chronic pain know all too well: the loneliness can be just as excruciating, if not more so, than the pain itself. I should know. I experienced this first hand and I was crippled by it for over 20 years.
It is hard to wake up every day, knowing that your body will betray you in ways that no one else can truly comprehend. As you struggle to get out of bed, you realize that another day of isolation stretches out before you. Friends and family may try to understand, but they can’t truly grasp the depths of your experience. Sometimes, they are not as supportive. They may invalidate your experience or unintentionally make you feel like a burden. It’s a vicious cycle that can push you to the darkest corners of your mind, fighting the echoes of a persuasive yet dangerous voice. I’ve heard it. I’ve fought it. I’ve given in at times. And learned to live with it.
Chronic pain can be a silent thief, robbing you of your independence and self-worth. I know how it feels when you are no longer able to work or participate in activities you once enjoyed. It’s a cruel irony: as your need for connection and support increases, your ability to engage with others or even relate to them, diminishes. The isolation that results from this can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and self-doubt. You start to question your value as a person. You start to question your place in this world. You wonder if it is ever going to get better. You dread having to live this way forever and you use every ounce of energy to fight the inevitable. Eventually, you struggle to recognize yourself, and feel like a ghost of the person you used to be.
But here’s the thing: it’s okay to feel this way. It’s okay to feel angry, frustrated, helpless, trapped and utterly exhausted. These emotions are valid and natural responses to the immense challenges you face. And it’s important to acknowledge that there is no “right” way to cope with chronic pain and the isolation it brings. Everyone’s journey is unique, and you are not alone in this battle.
I won’t say there is strength in vulnerability. Or that everything you’ve experienced makes you who you are today. Let’s be honest, we all hate hearing that. Given a choice, we’d go back and live that life without pain and be someone completely different.
I can tell you that it is ok to accept your reality and admit how it impacts you. It can be a powerful first step to healing and learning how to manage life with pain. Write it down in a journal, or on water, or sand, or speak the words out loud. Admit it to someone you love, or the person in your mirror, your dog, or even a picture of childhood you. I feel a wave of relief every time I do this. And yes, I do it multiple times a day, every single day. Acceptance doesn’t come easy. It needs practice.
I also felt a renewed compassion for self, when I found online communities with thousands of others navigating similar experiences. Connecting with people who truly understand your struggles, who can validate your feelings, and who can offer insights and advice completely changes how you experience your pain. It may also give you the strength and inspiration you need to embrace it. Eventually you realize that your worth as a person is not defined by your pain.
Chronic pain may be an unwelcome companion, but it doesn’t have to be a solitary one. I started ChronicallyMeh to share my story, seek support when I needed it, and also for others like me to know they are not alone – so you know you are not alone.
Anytime you feel alone, please reach out. DM me on Instagram, or comment on a post, or have a chat with some of your favorite advocates, or join a support group. Share your story, or listen to someone else’s. Do whatever it takes to help you feel supported, because that is the only way to overcome the agony. And when you do, trust me on this, the world changes for you.