Sharing the lessons along the way…


Several times lately, people have said to me, “When I see you, you don’t look or seem like you are having pain.”  I say, “Good!”  Sometimes I follow up to share how much energy I expend so that no one does.  That is my goal.

I leave the house as if I am well and I go out into the world to share smiles and to be a bright spot in as many lives as I can.

When I was thinking about this later, I stopped and said, “Wait!  What the heck is a person in pain supposed to look or seem like?”

Is there some socially appropriate way to convey it, look it, act it?  Is there a preconceived idea of what a person in pain must look like?

Am I doing it all wrong?

I don’t know any of the answers to these questions, although it would be interesting to do some research and to hear your ideas in the comments.

I am pretty sure if I am doing it all wrong that I am not interested in conforming to whatever might be the “right” idea of how a person in pain should look and seem.

Here is what I know about my pain:

  1. I have it, blah blah blah.
  2. I would rather not make you uncomfortable by wearing a neon T-shirt that broadcasts it.
  3. I already know it makes you feel helpless to know it.
  4. I experience it 24/7, so I don’t necessarily want to talk about it all the time.
  5. It makes me happy to hear, “You don’t look or act like you are in pain” or, “Well, you look good” because that means I am pulling it off!

We’ve already established in previous blogs that my methods to manage my life with chronic pain aren’t always effective.  I can own that.  There is not a handbook, unfortunately, but I am sure there is no right or wrong way to “look” or “seem” when I am in pain.


Comments on: "“But you don’t look like you’re in pain…”" (4)

  1. Dealing with chronic pain is something that cannot be understood unless or until you experience it for yourself. I usually just say, “I’m doing okay today” when someone asks about it….. if it’s not an okay day, I won’t be around, or show up where I said I’d be. I’ve learned, not just from my own situation, that many people really don’t want to hear how much ‘regular’ pain a chronic sufferer experiences and can handle. Sometimes they think you’re just whiny or looking for attention, sometimes they feel sorry for you, or they care and you don’t want them to worry. The point of this comment is to share something that happened recently at physical therapy. It brought a tear to my eye and I immediately thought of you and wished you could hear these words too. The Dr was giving me a new exercise with my little red band. I told him, “I can do more reps than that, I’m not afraid to work hard.” He looked me in the eye and replied, “I already know you aren’t afraid to work hard, I know what you live with every day.”


  2. This has been a real dilemma for me too. I wrote about it in the past but I don’t know if I did it as a post or a book chapter that I’m not publishing. A well written post, Tawny.


  3. You are setting an amazing example to others – not only those who endure chronic pain, but also to those who sometimes forget to count blessings for the gift of good health. people can sometimes say very insensitive things; you must feel like that 9-month pregnant woman who is asked, ‘you haven’t had that baby yet?’
    i hope that one day there is a breakthrough in finding relief for those who suffer with chronic pain. you have my sympathy and empathy.


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