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How chronic pain affected my mental health

3 min read
27 March 2019

My experience with chronic pain

Chronic pain can be exhausting and isolating. When I was ten years old, I suffered with chronic pain syndrome in my foot. Originally starting with a badly stubbed toe, the chronic pain got progressively worse as the wound healed. This was confusing not only for myself, but also for friends and family around me, as you couldn’t see any physical cause of pain anymore.

Much like mental health problems, chronic pain isn’t always visible so it can be difficult for other people to understand the pain you feel.

I found that there was little awareness or knowledge of chronic pain syndrome, which led to a drawn-out process of misdiagnosis and going back and forth to various hospitals. ‘Invisible’ pain is mentally exhausting. The worse the pain became, the lower my mood would stoop. I was in Year 6 but had to take the majority of my final year at junior school off. I missed out on the excitement of leaving school, SATs, final year productions and being with my friends. Soon, confined to a wheelchair, my leg had become hypersensitive. The pain was affecting every part of my life and a month-long hospital stay for an intensive physio course was on the horizon.

Much like mental health problems, chronic pain isn’t always visible so it can be difficult for other people to understand the pain you feel.

How chronic pain affected my mental health

Other than the obvious symptom of pain, chronic illness can be massively strenuous on your mind and your mental health. For me, the feelings I particularly struggled with were:

  • Isolation: When pain is not in plain sight, some people struggle to understand that it’s there and affecting your life. Nobody was feeling what I was, and trying to explain this phantom pain was impossible sometimes.
  • Low mood: Being in pain 24/7 is exhausting and it can bring you down. Feeling trapped by my illness took its toll on my mood and I was stooping into depression. Anxiety was also growing the more I was stuck inside, with my only outings being to the hospital.
  • Anger: I was frustrated with so many aspects of my condition.  I would ask my mum, "Why me?" Chronic pain is long-lasting and cures (if they even exist) are not always straightforward. I was misdiagnosed with a bone tumour before getting told it was actually chronic pain syndrome. The fact that nobody seemed to really know what was wrong was really difficult to comprehend.
I was frustrated with so many aspects of my condition.  I would ask my mum, "Why me?"

What helped me cope

I was able to get back on my feet again through intensive therapies including physio, hydrotherapy and occupational therapy.

Some other things that aided recovery were:

  • I had a strong support network

    I had a strong support network of friends, family and doctors. Without them, my journey would have been very different. It is okay to rely on the people around you and reach out for help. You are only human and having to deal with so much - young or old - is not something you should have to tackle on your own.

  • I talked to others in my position

    When people believe that the pain you are feeling, although they can’t see it, is excruciating and affecting your mood, it makes you feel less alone. Reading blogs like this, or talking to other sufferers can be helpful to find comfort in similar situations.

  • I held onto successes

    No matter how big or small, break-throughs in recovery should be celebrated and used to find hope and courage to carry on – because you are strong enough to get through this!

Where to get help

Whatever you're struggling with and however you're feeling, you're not alone.

Thanks for sharing your story Becky

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