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What it's like living with chronic pain

By Leela Saili

From Slough, England

I have had chronic pain for the past 6 years. It is an invisible disability that affects at least 10% of the world’s population. The NHS (the British national health service) defines chronic pain as ‘persistent pain that carries on for longer than 12 weeks despite medication or treatment’. After 6 years, I suppose you can refer to my persistent pain as chronic pain!

Sometimes my pain feels like a heavyweight pulling down every limb of my body, and sometimes it feels like daggers piercing through my body. So how do I manage it? I regularly exercise, so that my body is always warm and moving, but I can't do too much exercise, otherwise, it hurts more than I can bear. Once, I ran a 5km run (with adequate training) and couldn’t walk for two weeks afterward. The same happens when I do too much or too little exercise. It really is a pain! 

When you have chronic pain, it is really strenuous on your mental health as well as your body. Actress Sarah Hyland opened up about her experiences with chronic pain by saying: ‘you don’t know when you’re going to have the next good day, it’s really, really hard. She described it perfectly. I, personally, never know when my body is going to feel any better. It can be extremely frightening when you can’t control your pain and no form of medication works. Hyland spoke for many when she said that it can be difficult and I believe that most people that have chronic pain agree - I know I do! I have often felt incompetent as I can’t control what is happening to my body every day. Entrapment is a common emotion as I feel trapped in a body filled with pain, and this leads to feelings of guilt. I feel guilty that the people around me have to deal with my pain, and I feel guilty as I can never go through it alone. It is difficult to function sometimes, but I see perseverance as my greatest quality. I will always persevere so I can be happy, regardless of this ‘thing’ that is weighing me down. 

In the cold, my pain is also much, much worse, and I know that summer will always be my favourite season: it is filled with warmth and lots and lots of distractions. When I am able to be distracted, my body doesn’t acknowledge the pain as much as it would when I am not distracted. For example, my dream is to be a performer, so when I am on stage, all my pain disappears (I assure you it does return at the end of a performance), but when I am doing something that I am genuinely passionate about, I feel so free and alive - not trapped within a hurting body. 

For me, I am always in pain, but I know that by doing the things I love and distracting myself with my friends, I can accomplish what I dream of. If you also have chronic pain, know that you are most certainly not alone! And as Jessie J once said, ‘it’s okay not to be okay’. 

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