National Pain Awareness Month

I’ll be giving away a variety of photography-related things on my photography page/blog this week.

You can click on the “Photography” tab each day in my navigation bar to see what’s new,

And/or you can subscribe to my photography feed.

Hint:  Today I’m giving away ONE copy of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4!


September is National Pain Awareness Month.

Originally, I didn’t plan to write a post in “honor” of it.

But, as I contemplated meeting with my pain management specialist today, I changed my mind.

I know most of you have followed my story long enough to know I’ve been to the depths of hell pain-wise.

(Several times.)

Most of you already know about the car accident, and about the many surgeries I’ve experienced in the last six years.

You already know I live with day-to-day challenges, and seemingly always will.

I’ve gotten a lot of support from a lot of people the last six years.

I don’t want to whine, “It hurts!” over, and over, and over again.

But guess what?

It hurts.

Over, and over, and over again.

Sometimes the cruelty of people’s words hurts too.

People who don’t “get it” at all.

Are there people in this world who “fake” being in pain for attention or to gain access to prescription drugs?

Yes, there are.

Are there people who embellish the pain they actually feel because they want attention and/or drugs?

Yes, there are.

Are either of these two situations the case for the vast majority of the estimated 75 million Americans living with pain?

No, they’re not.

Most people who live with chronic pain are doing everything they can to strive for a better quality of life.

It isn’t easy.

It’s damn hard.

I really can’t emphasize that enough –

It’s damn hard.

Most people experience pain in their life – usually for a short while.

To live with pain as a companion day in and day out for years is exhausting.

It takes a toll on a person’s body, relationships, work, and demeanor.

I met a very nice woman at the beach the other day.

(Hi Kim!)

A chance encounter turned into a long conversation.

At one point, as she asked about my photography, I mentioned the fact my right arm doesn’t work.

She was surprised.

“I’d never know!” she exclaimed.

I moved my sleeve and her eyes widened as she saw just one of my (many) scars.

This is the thing …

You can see scars, but you can’t SEE pain.

Pain is an invisible demon.

I can’t speak for other people, but I know I do my utmost to appear cheerful and happy and positive even when my pain levels are high.

And yes, there are times when I’m cranky, or bitchy, or quieter than normal because I can’t pull my shit together enough to be otherwise.

My pain doesn’t ever go away.


I’ve put together a couple lists of suggestions for those of you who know someone suffering from chronic pain:

Things you should NOT say to a person living with chronic pain:

•  So-And-So had surgery and was back playing professional football a week later.

•  You get what you put out into the universe.

•  You seem depressed.

•  I know pain; I sprained my ankle once.

•  I work-out to the point of pain.  I know pain.

•  You must have bad karma.

•  No pain, no gain.

•  If you pray, God will take your pain away.  ** Please see the comment I wrote in the comments section of this post about this.  **

•  You can just push through it.

•  You just want attention.

•  Don’t think about it, or you’ll make it worse.

•  Snap out of it!

•  You take pain meds?  You must be addicted!

•  AGAIN??

•  Be grateful – it could be worse.

Suggestions on what to say instead:

•  I’m sorry you have to go through this.

•  If you’d like to talk about it, I’m happy to listen.

•  Is there anything I can do to help you?

•  I’m here for you.

•  I know doing XXXX is difficult for you, I’d like to help.

•  Can I give you a hug, or would that hurt you?

Many times the best thing you can do is just listen.

People living with chronic pain need to be able to talk about what they’re going through so they can preserve their sanity.

I sincerely hope you, and the people you love, don’t ever have to experience chronic never ending pain.

I also hope, in some small way, sharing my experience will make the path a little easier for others.

21 Responses to “National Pain Awareness Month”

  1. Gaelyn

    You do good dealing with pain everyday, that can’t be easy. Thanks for the reminders as there is usually someone worse off then ourselves. Hang in there. Love your photography.

    • Suzanne

      Thank you.
      There is always some one worse off. Sad, but true.

  2. Denise

    Your words express it well. You have done amazingly well with your photography despite your pain and for your readers, I’m sure it’s easy to forget what’s going on inside. I admire your courage and tenacity to pursue your passion. I would love to give you a gentle hug (if that would be okay).

  3. stacy g

    I hear you, Suzanne. Some people just don’t get it. I have this one friend who slaps when she makes a point. Actually, I have several friends that do that. Haha, slap. Oh, that felt good on my messed up shoulder….. Even when I ask them to please dont hit they think it is funny. uh, not really.

    • Suzanne

      I don’t think people are even aware they do that most of the time.
      My FIL loves to nudge, slap, poke … and I don’t think he’s even aware of it. I always try to be seated AWAY from him so he doesn’t (unintentionally) hurt me.

  4. J. Delancy

    I was born with Sickle Cell Anemia which can be extremely painful but leaves no scars. My brother (deceased) and I have both had doctors tell us similarly stupid things even when our most basic readings, such as blood pressure, pulse rate, all showed that we were distress.
    Someone once wrote, “It’s not the disease you have, its the disease that has you.” Severe pain is a mind-altering experience (hence the use of torture), it can change your mood, behaviour, and outlook on life. This is why healthy people just don’t get it.

    I know, it’s trite to say but, “I know how you feel.”

    Keep writing and bringing beauty to the world through your photographs.

  5. Jane

    @stacyg – what IS it about people who slap or punch you to make a point? Or people who do the side to side hug and nearly kill you with their grip?! I’ve also said “OUCH, that hurts!” only to have them do it again. What, it’s fun? I’ve actually had bruises from people doing these things.

    • Suzanne

      People think “it can’t really hurt” because it wouldn’t hurt them.
      I think, sadly, very few people understand unless they’ve been in a similar situation.

  6. Sara

    I cannot even begin to imagine what you must go thru every day.
    I will say, your photographs are simply amazing. You are truly talented!

  7. unmitigated me

    My husband once said that my pain would ease if I just went back to church with him. Closest I ever came to divorce. Sadly, I think he really believes it. *sigh* He means well.

    Hang in there lady. I am currently on a mix of drugs and therapies that are working well for me. I wish the same for you.

    • Suzanne

      I suppose I should explain why I wrote the pray bullet point ….
      I’m going to leave it as a stand alone comment –

  8. Suzanne

    In the above post, I wrote NOT to say:
    If you pray, God will take your pain away
    Why did I say that?
    I didn’t say that as a reflection of my belief in God or prayer. Religion, prayers, faith, bring a lot of people through a lot of terrible times.

    But, what if the person in pain IS praying and you make that comment. They often feel BAD as if they’ve been abandoned by God. Or perhaps, like they’ve done something wrong because praying doesn’t help. If the person doesn’t believe in God or prayer, then your words are doing no good anyway. My point is, feel free to pray for someone if YOU want, but don’t make the person in pain feel bad, or like they’ve done something wrong, because they’re (still) in pain.

    I’ve had many people tell me they will pray for me, and I have appreciated it.

    I’ve also been told my pain would go away if only *I* prayed. I did NOT appreciate that. First, it makes an assumption that I haven’t prayed … how would YOU know? Second, it implies I’m the one doing something wrong and that is why I *still* live with chronic pain.
    I don’t know if I’ve explained this well – but I hope you understand my statement for the way it was intended.

  9. Kathy

    Do you ever actually say anything about your pain? I mean to anybody outside your immediate circle of friends and family? (because if they haven’t figured out what to say by now why are they still around?!!) I get the impression that you just suck it up and push on. You never whine about it here. You tend to make it funny. Honestly whining is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. Even in writing. But wait, we’re talking about what others say to us. Oops.

    The one that really fries me is when they try to compare their pain and fatigue (and memory. and cognitive issues…should I go on?) to mine. Silly people. Even if they had the same chronic illness/pain as you do, no two people are alike in their pain, so don’t even try. I get that they are trying to relate to me but honestly? Smile and nod and get the hell away from them. Ugh.

    • Suzanne

      I will tell people “my arm doesn’t work” if I need to explain why I can’t do something …. like hold something and open a door at the same time. I don’t talk about the pain unless somehow the story of how I got where I am in my life/business comes up. Even then, it’s just a statement that I’m a chronic pain patient now – a part of the story. I do not whine to strangers. : )


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