Having a friend or loved one suffer from chronic pain is never pleasant or agreeable. Most people in pain don’t want to feel victimized by their condition and keep their needs and appeals to themselves. This may make you feel helpless, like there’s nothing you can do to ease their anguish.
Although you can’t yourself rid them of their pain, there are things you can do to make their day that much brighter. Here are 5 easy ways you can help someone living with pain.
1. Don’t Take Personal Offense
When you’re in chronic pain, it is mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting. Even though their personality may change and they may seem more moody or irritable, that person is still the person they were before the pain took over. They may seem jaded or distant due to their discomfort, but just hang through. There will be better days when they are back to their normal selves again.
With that being said, if someone in pain tends to flake out on plans often at the last minute, don’t take it to heart. They can’t predict the times they may not even be able to get out of bed in the morning. Don’t just expect them to stay home and not include them in plans, but don’t get upset if their body at certain times doesn’t allow them to follow through.
2. Not All Progress is Absolute
Just because that person was able to stand for a half hour today, or walk to the park on their own, doesn’t mean tomorrow they will be able to. Don’t compare the good days to the inevitable bad days. People living with chronic pain rejoice on the days they feel good because they know they are rare and appreciate the time they have with it.
Reminding them that they were “feeling better” a day ago as motivation to do more today will serve little purpose to their self-esteem and overall progress.
3. Never Prompt Them to “Try Harder”
The amount of energy people living with chronic pain have to exert into everyday tasks is far more than the average person (read about The Spoon Theory). Maybe all that person did today was walk to the kitchen and make lunch, and that’s okay. Although the person may seem to develop a tolerance by dealing with the pain every day, that doesn’t mean the pain has decreased.
Even everyday movement may require recovery time, so don’t push the person to do more in a day than their body can handle. Only they have access to how they feel, and how much they know they can achieve in a day.
4. Avoid Giving Medical Advice
If you’re not their practitioner, odds are you don’t know all the options they’ve tried, what’s worked, what has not, and what could. Although they appreciate the thought, there’s a good chance they’ve tried it and either reacted badly or didn’t react at all. If there was a cure for chronic pain, they would know. Save your curative methods and leave it to the professionals.
5. They Appreciate You
People in pain will depend on you. They will need you on those days they can’t get out of bed, or need assistance with cooking, cleaning, and simple everyday tasks. Be that person that helps them keep in touch with the parts of their life they no longer get to enjoy as much as before. Although they may not always mention it or act the part, they do value the help you give and recognise that even though you could never know how they’re really feeling, that you’re trying your best to understand.