Written By: Hannah Rebbeck
As my reconstructive operation is fast approaching, I thought I’d write something about the biggest medical problem I’ve been facing recently. I would say I’ve had chronic pain for just over 2 years now since my diagnosis of developmental dysplasia. Beforehand the pain was fluctuating but often easier to get under control. Now, its constant, and I can’t help but see the stigma still attached to the idea of suffering from chronic pain. So here’s a list for anyone struggling to determine what it really means…
(1) It’s CHRONIC: there really is no break or relief from the pain, you wake up feeling it and if you’re lucky a good sleep is the only time you won’t feel it.
(2) Adaptation: Your body weirdly gets used to being in pain, at least for me anyway. I notice myself able to drown out the pain when busy and when I pay attention I can feel it in all severity again – distraction can do wonders. The mind is powerful however physical pain trumps every time.
(3) Difference: When you are used to it, normal indications of someone being in pain don’t apply: e.g., I barely wince or complain anymore because there’s no point, not to say I don’t still feel it.
(4) Endurance: Knowing I have a solution (surgery) to my condition is great, but some live with it entirely and they are the strongest people I know. You don’t get to choose when you have a bad day, you have to get on with it.
(5) Constant effort to appear ok: It’s distressing for people who care about you to know they can’t do anything all the time to help the pain, so often silence and perseverance saves others from the inconvenience. Sadly, this is genuinely reality for so many people as nothing can really be done.
(6) Medication: If I ever look distant or a little out of it, more often than not it’s been a bad day and I’ve taken some heavy painkillers. Try to be sensitive.
(7) Invisibility: Some carry crutches, some unfortunately have wheelchairs, and some like me carry only the invisibility of pain. This can be frustrating as you have no way to warn people around you, nor do you particularly want to. It makes it hard to communicate what you’re dealing with without feeling like you’re being annoying or ruining the mood. I’ve developed an attractive limp which is all I have to show for my condition, but the fact that I look OK really gets me down sometimes. When I say ‘sorry I can’t’ about 100 times a day with a body that looks completely fine, understandably I often get undesirable replies.
Frustration is the reoccurring feeling, but this can really be eased by others around me. Luckily I have people close to me who care about my medical conditions and are respectful, but I have encountered too many people whom couldn’t be less considerable. We know that mental health should be respected despite its invisibility so why shouldn’t chronic pain. It exists and it’s exhausting. Next time you hear someone say they have ‘chronic pain’ give them the response they need; which is really nothing more than acceptance. Mindfulness is felt by those in pain and is warmly appreciated.
I am a 19 year old former professional dancer; I started dancing at the age of 4 and joined The Royal Ballet School at 9. After that I trained with Central School of Ballet, London Russian Ballet, Northern School of Contemporary Dance and Trinity Laban. I was diagnosed with Developmental Hip Dysplasia when I had just turned 18, leading me to have to give up dance completely. I am now at university studying English and Media, working freelance for The Writing Times and documenting my ‘medical journal’. This is my journey of discovery as a new person and with a new life…
Please do be in touch if you have any similar experiences; I would love to be able to reach out and help those dealing with anything I’ve written about in my blog. x