You wouldn’t know by looking at me, but I have suffered from chronic pain for over 5 years.
I was recently diagnosed with a medical condition called endometriosis. It took over a year, five different doctors, several ER visits, countless tests and a long list of medications to finally get an answer. In the end, it was too late anyway and I lost the majority of my reproductive organs.
[You can read more about my battle with endometriosis here]
And while I want to blame the medical system for failing me, I can’t deny the fact that I ignored the pain for FOUR YEARS before deciding to do something about it.
As a mother, there are so many reasons why I didn’t feel my pain was a priority. Prior to having children to take care of, I’m sure it would have been a major concern and perhaps I would have gotten a diagnosis sooner rather than later.
Here are some reasons why mothers don’t speak up about chronic pain.
1. We put others first
One of the most distinguishable characteristics of a mother is that they put others before themselves. The more people we have to take care of, the more our own needs get bumped to the bottom of the list. And
some most days that list never gets completed. So while we might have every intention of taking care of ourselves, there just aren’t enough hours left over at the end of the day after taking care of everyone else.
2. We don’t want to scare our children
I will never forget the fear in my daughter’s eyes when she came to visit me in the hospital, hooked up to machines and IV’s and unable to move. In an attempt to protect my children from seeing their mother in such a vulnerable state, I kept quiet about my pain around them. When they think back on their childhood, I wouldn’t want them to remember me in constant pain and not able to do anything fun with them.
3. We hate to let people down
We want to be supermom, as unattainable as it might be. We want to be there for our kids and our spouses, our families and friends. We want to bake the perfect cupcakes for the bake sale and volunteer at every charitable event. We want to cheer our kids on from the sidelines and chase after them at the playground. We want to go on family vacations together. Dealing with chronic pain means we probably won’t get to do all of those things and so we push through it just to avoid disappointing anyone.
4. Nothing compares to childbirth
Sure, you’re in pain, but it’s not as bad as childbirth. It’s worse if you’ve given birth without any drugs because then you’re expected to be able to handle anything. But chronic pain and labor pain are two entirely different things.
Labor pain is a right of passage with an amazing reward at the end. All mothers have had a chance to experience it in some way or another, it’s just part of life.
Chronic pain means something is wrong. It is not a welcome pain, and there is no end in sight. Add in the psychological trauma that comes along with wondering WHY you’re in pain and it’s a whole different monster.
5. It’s hard to ask for help
This rings true for most people, not just mothers suffering from chronic pain. To ask for help means putting aside our pride, which is something most mothers have a very difficult time doing. We are proud of the home we’ve kept and the children we’ve raised. We’ve got a system and routine and we can’t expect just anyone to come in and take over. If we admit that we need help, then we’re no longer in the running for supermom.
6. No one knows how to to do what we do
I’m not even sure what I do all day. All I know is that no one else knows how to do it. So if my husband asks me what needs to be done, I couldn’t tell him. I just get up in the morning and do what I do. I see something that needs to be done and I do it. There is no master list. There is no “how-to guide” to being a stay at home mom. And even if I wrote out a to-do list, it would probably need to be changed at least 12 times because… toddlers.
7. We’re afraid to miss out
These kids grow up so fast. We’re afraid to blink for fear of missing out on something and so taking time off to deal with our chronic pain is out of the question. As much as we want alone time, we also want to be there to experience it all. We want to see that excited expression on their faces when experiencing something new. We want to hear their hysterical laughs while playing at the park or watching a funny movie. We don’t want to miss out on our children’s childhood because of chronic pain.
8. We’ve tried all the home remedies
We are lucky to live in a world where we have so many choices when it comes to our health. If you want to know what all of those options are, then all you need to do is mention to someone that you suffer from chronic pain. Product recommendations, home remedies, naturopathic solutions, CBD oil, essential oils, vitamins, etc., are all wonderful and often welcome suggestions… at first. And we get that people want to help but, after a while, we’re tired of being targeted by those selling some type of miracle product that promises to cure all that ails us.
9. We hate being labeled
Complainers. Hypochondriacs. Unhealthy. Drug addicts. There are many people who use pain as an excuse. Those people make things much harder for the rest of us who are in actual pain. We don’t speak up about chronic pain because there are so many people who don’t understand it. It’s not just about what others think of us, it’s about how we are treated. For five years I suffered from chronic pain but was still able to do anything and everything and I often wonder if things would have been different if I was more vocal about my pain.
The cause of chronic pain is less important than how it affects your life. Many people have no choice but to speak up about their chronic pain and ask for help. But for some mothers, myself included, we are afraid to show weakness. We don’t want to be a burden. And so we keep it inside and go it alone.
It doesn’t have to be this way. If you’re reading this and felt like I was talking to you, maybe it’s time to let your guard down. Seek help and let those in your life know that you are suffering. If they truly love you, they won’t think any less of you and will want to do whatever they can to ease your pain.