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.
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?