Those of us living with chronic pain face obstacles most people will never be confronted with. Some conditions severely limit our level of physical functioning; living with constant pain can also negatively impact our thinking and emotional management ability.
What is often not discussed is the impact on family members and significant others who have to bear witness to a friend or loved one living with chronic pain. I’ve seen many families disrupted and marriages end due to mismanaged or poorly managed chronic pain conditions. Sometimes family members and significant others develop their own healthcare problems while trying to help someone they love cope with chronic pain.
Family and significant others often get burned out, or they become frustrated and resentful towards the person living with chronic pain. A spouse can become just as hopeless and helpless as their family member suffering with pain and may even develop a severe depression or sleep problem.
When an individual with chronic pain also develops an addiction problem, family and friends are even more negatively impacted than is the case with any other alcohol or other drug addiction that occurs in a family system. I often refer significant others to Al-Anon or Nar-Anon (12-Step support groups for family and friends of alcoholics or addicts) as they need as much support, if not more, as the person with the addiction.
For those of you who don’t have a personal experience of living with chronic pain I want to ask you to follow the steps below to see if you can develop a better understanding of what it is like to live with chronic pain.
Step One: Think back to a time when you hurt yourself or had a painful condition such as a surgery, toothache or headache.
Step Two: Try to remember what that felt like and what you wanted to do to stop the pain.
Step Three: Now imagine that you have that level of pain right now and have had it for the past six months without any relief. Every day when you woke up it was there. Every night you wonder if you’ll be able to sleep because the pain is so disturbing.
Step Four: Now imagine trying to explain this to your family and friends or your healthcare provider. What would you say? What would you want from them?
What can friends and family realistically do if a loved one is undergoing chronic pain management, experiencing significant quality of life problems and a decreased level of functioning? The most important thing is to understand what it must be like; if you answered the four questions above you will have a much better idea. Here are six additional starting points.
1. Make sure that you are practicing good self-care; take time to relax, sleep, play, eat healthy, etc.
2. Develop compassion and even empathy for your significant other—but never sympathy as that can cause even more problems. Remember the old saying “Sympathy Kills” that is often heard at Al-Anon meetings.
3. Do NOT do things for your significant other that they can and should be doing for themselves.
4. Don’t keep secrets from your significant other. This is especially true concerning medication use or abuse issues.
5. Remember the three (3) Cs of Al-Anon: You didn’t CAUSE it, you can’t CONTROL it, and you can’t CURE it.
6. Seek out a professional with experience in pain and addiction for you and your family.
Lack of a support system is only one obstacle that impacts chronic pain management. To learn about overcoming obstacles please check out my article Unnecessary Obstacles in Chronic Pain Managaement is a Right and a Responsibility that you can download for free on our Article page.
You can learn about the Addiction-Free Pain Management® System at our website www.addiction-free.com. If you or someone you love is living with chronic pain and seems to be suffering; please consider my book Freedom from Suffering: A Journey of Hope. This book was written for people living with chronic pain who are ready to learn and then put into practice seven strategic steps that will help them better manage their chronic pain condition, improve their quality of life, end suffering, and achieve their cherished goals. To purchase my Freedom from Suffering bookplease Click Here.
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