Pain makes me less approachable; pain makes you like me less

When I’m in pain, I am certain that I’m less receptive to the good in the world around me.

A recent study showed that it is possible to diagnose depression remotely by analyzing the photos people post to social media. Depressed people view the world so differently, their acts of self-expression change.

Along similar lines, I’ve noticed that I view people around me in a different light when my chronic pain flares. I’ve caught myself cynically judging the sincerity of a smile on a woman’s face, or angry at a pedestrian for his freedom to walk presumably without pain.

This isn’t my natural personality. I have a sincere love for—and trust in the goodness of—humanity that my darling husband finds charmingly(?) naive.Untitled

I like to joke that I’m a functional misanthrope, but that’s got more to do with my introversion and some social anxiety than any real disdain for humanity. I am overjoyed by the heights of human achievement. I believe that we, as a species, will persevere and do wonderful things.

That’s my perspective. That’s who I really am.

Pain, however, distorts my every impression.

And, I’m less likeable when I’m in pain.

I’m sure it’s true in person. The distraction of discomfort makes it harder to remember to smile at the stranger or to engage with the clerk in a shop.

I think this edge may also show up in my blog posts. I see a pattern of fewer views and fewer likes when I’m feeling poorly. Maybe my writing suffers; perhaps I do have cognitive impairments from my autoimmune condition that I’ve failed to recognize. I keep asserting to my specialists that I don’t.

Or, maybe, my tone is less warm. Perhaps my intent to produce only positive posts that make the world a better place is subsumed by my natural, but ugly, reaction to an unpleasant stimulus: pain.

I may not write what’s worth reading when I’m suffering. There may be nothing here to like.

It’s an insult to injury, finding no solace from a cherished hobby when I’m at odds with my own body and its perverse habit of self-destruction.

This may be tolerable—and temporary—for a normal, healthy adult who will heal from a given episode of illness, but what is the prognosis for those of us with chronic pain?

9 thoughts on “Pain makes me less approachable; pain makes you like me less

  1. >> I may not write what’s worth reading when I’m suffering. There may be nothing here to like.

    Your view, your perspective, to which everybody is entitled. But a well-written article, that provides insight for those of us who should take into account the thoughts, feelings, and well-being of other people far more than we do, is — I would say — of crucial value these days. Oh, and by the way, your perspective would not be shared by me.

    I don’t have much “personal time” when I’m not working on my PhD, or with my family, but what I do, I try to spend on something that I feel enriches me in some way. Enrichment could be entertainment, personal education, exercise, or a mixture of all of the above. In recent months, your blog has very much fallen into that personal enrichment category. I also think that it is entirely possible to form meaningful, friendly relationships, with people that you may never personally meet. The internet, blogging, sharing deeply-felt personal feelings, and experience, can be a great part of that. Your “cherished hobby” is somebody else’s window into another person’s life, and is valuable for the education, wit, humility, and grace that brings.

    Or, at the very least, I value it for those reasons.

    Take some time for yourself, share what you would like to and no more, life isn’t all smiles and kittens; even our kids know that. And be aware that your hobby brings you the empathy and camaraderie of people you’ve never met. Even when things seem a bit dark at your end of the tunnel.

    Much love and respect.

  2. Chronic pain is awful. Uncle Billy understands the feeling. Don’t give up hope that the future may come out with better treatments. ❤

  3. This post was so well written and beautiful! Chronic pain is terrible to deal with. It can be SO frustrating!!! I just started my blog about 2 months ago and it has been such a great experience! I have been battling MS for 16 years now and it comes with a lot of pain! But I have been able to connect with so many amazing people that really understand. I look forward to more of your posts! Take Care!!

  4. Thanks for the visit. I stopped by your blog and I can see how much energy you’re putting into it, too. It really is so rewarding (most days!) 🙂

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