The good news is I'm usually quite healthy. The bad news is last week I was pretty sick. The good news is I'm already better. But, it gave me pause to think about all the people who are ailing and suffering from chronic physical and emotional pain.
When you feel crappy, it's really hard to enjoy life. It's hard to care about work, family and friends when you're too sick to even care for yourself. It's hard to be generous and friendly when you just want to curl up under the blankets, shut your eyes and make the world go away. When your body or your heart aches with every inhalation, even the thought of getting up and going out can feel overwhelming.
Millions of people live with chronic pain, illness or depression. Unlike me, they can't just lay low, take some medicine, drink lots of water, rest and magically be fine in five days. Instead they struggle day in, day out with trying to stay engaged with life, to care about their family and friends, and themselves. And, when you can't really see what's making them hurt, it's natural to suggest things you've done or heard of to feel better -- just try cutting out gluten, you suggest. Just take a walk, the fresh air will do you some good. Go to a movie. Try this new tea. Practice yoga. Eventually, though, we stop making suggestions because they aren't listening to all our well-meaning advice.
When you are the healthy one, it's really hard to fully understand someone who is always in pain, whether physical or emotional. And even if you've "been there, done that" but now you are okay, it can still be hard to go back mentally to that dark time because you've moved on. In fact, we BTDTs are probably the worst offenders because we are so ready and enthusiastic about sharing our success story. "Hey, I know exactly what's wrong. Try this! It totally worked for me." We forget how selfish, hollow and uncaring those word may sound to the one in pain.
Fortunately, organizations exist to advocate for and support sufferers. There's the American Chronic Pain Association and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance to name two. And there is greater awareness of the causes, complexities and comorbidities of pain and depression. With each passing decade, more is being done on many fronts to help.
If you are one of the lucky ones who finds themselves in good physical and mental health this week, right there is something to be grateful for. Rather than take it as a given, take it as a blessing. And if someone important to you is trying to manage their chronic pain, physical or emotional, maybe a good thing to do is just let them know you're here and that you love them.