By: Lauren Latham-Williams, MA – Dealing with chronic pain in the heat of summer is like herding a bunch of kittens into one basket. Tiring, frustrating and unsuccessful. Chronic pain has a habit of flaring up when you’re having fun. It doesn’t care what plans you have or who you’re with. It’s going to suck all the fun out of your well planned events instantly, without apology and because it can. Now being a naturally cranky individual, adding chronic pain on top of that turned me into a grizzly bear with a toothache. If you came across my path, you were likely to get chewed up and spat out for the smallest indiscretion. Chronic pain can’t be seen, it’s an invisible illness that has very real effects on your life, relationships, self esteem and how you view the world. You have to start bargaining your time. You have to think to yourself, “do I have enough energy for this?”, or “I can’t do anything else for the rest of the week if I go out all day today”. You try to build in naps, but then you feel like a narcoleptic grandma and that you’re missing out on life. Now don’t get me wrong, we’ve all “suffered” from the morning after, and it’s not fun. The difference for people with chronic pain is that it doesn’t go away with “hair of the dog”, or a cheeky McDonald’s breakfast. It’s a constant. However, there is hope. Knowing how to manage your flare ups is key. Then it makes it easier to deal with the cranky grizzly bear.
- Know your limits. We all get excited about events and plans but planning ahead and making sure you rest before and after can really help you get the best out of your plans.
- Don’t over do it when you’re having a “good” day. Yes, you can finally walk without feeling like you’re walking on pieces of Lego, but that doesn’t mean completing every job you’ve needed to get done in the last two weeks in one day. You will pay for it.
- Find the right support. Having someone who understands your need to sit down and rest during the day/event, someone who understand sometimes your need for sleep and someone who NEVER criticizes you or your pain.
- Get some emotional and psychological support. You cannot do this on your own and it can feel really isolating and depressing at times to think about the things pain has taken away from you, or that pain corrupts. Having a healthy mind and soul can help contribute to keeping your body in the best shape it can be.
- Ask for help. Every fabulous person I’ve met with any variation of a chronic pain condition has been stubborn as fuck. We are tough as nails people and we can do it ourselves, but it doesn’t hurt to ask for help when we are really struggling. People have the capacity to be understanding and compassionate if you give them the chance to be.
Oh, and remember if you need to use any walking aid, crutches, walker, wheelchair, canes anything – use them and make people part like the red sea when you do. Don’t ever apologise for needing to use something to access the same facilities/events/place/experiences as everyone else. Shine off those crutches, dip them in glitter and use them like you’re walking at Pride. Keep your head up, adjust your crown and limp, roll, slide, and glide your way on your catwalk. Lauren is an LGBTQ+ therapist that works to ensure that the LGBTQ+ community has a voice in every aspect of work and life. She also has a low key obsession with unicorns, but don’t we all 🦄