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Something I’ve learned from working within the disability community is that most people with disabilities don’t like to talk about their struggles, living with their disability, chronic pain, etc. They prefer people not draw nor give attention to their disability. They would rather be recognized for their accomplishments and/or the work they do.

I’ve seldom heard folks lamenting their conditions, even on a particularly trying day.

I try not to talk about the way I feel, physically. I don’t share how severe the pain is, that I’m swollen, stiff, etc. I try to plow ahead, keep doing as many of my daily activities as possible. I don’t want to burden others or bring them down.

I have a very difficult time tolerating others complaining about aches and pains, especially if they are common ailments easily remedied with an over-the-counter medication, an ointment, soak or rub.

I’ve recently been dealing with a couple of folks who constantly complain about one malady or another, one person who apparently injured her shoulder and another who appears to be a hypochondriac.

The individual who has shoulder pain complains that she sometimes can’t lift her arm, that it hurts especially at night and that putting pressure on it seems to help. She talks about it with everyone, even strangers at her job. Numerous diagnoses have been made by well-meaning folks, such as a torn rotator cuff, bursitis, muscle spasms, arthritis, etc. Folks have told her she needs to put ice on it, heat on it, see her doctor and ask for an MRI, pain medications, an anti-inflammatory or injection.

I’ve asked her what she is doing for it, if she’s taking any over-the-counter medication, applying heat or cold packs, etc. For nearly a year I’ve been hearing about this painful shoulder, how she has trouble dressing, how she sleeps on the couch because her arm hurts too much to sleep in bed, how she can’t buckle her seat belt, lift a glass of liquid, etc. She tells me she isn’t doing anything for it and she’s been to her doctor at least twice in the last year though she has not mentioned this pain to her doctor.

I fail to understand the need to complain about pain if you have no intention of doing anything about it, especially if it’s not serious or important enough to speak to your doctor about it.

It’s frustrating for me to know that someone in pain isn’t doing anything to alleviate their pain, when there may be a relatively simple treatment available. I would be thrilled if there were a treatment that would reduce some of the pain I live with. I can’t imagine not doing something to help myself if I could.

The other individual is the opposite of the first, treating every little ache and pain as if it were a life threatening/altering illness. She can’t just have a cough, it has to be strep throat, bronchitis or pneumonia. She can’t just have a pulled muscle, it has to be a torn tendon, torn muscle, a spasm. She can’t have heartburn, it has to be a heart attack. Always, she immediately goes to the worst possible self-diagnosis. She’ll go on and on about it for days until it is no longer a topic of conversation, only you never get to learn what actually turned out to be ailing her, if anything.

Every once in a while we all need to be heard, to know someone understands, that’s only natural. Every once in a while we’d all benefit from someone comforting us and telling us it will all be okay.

I just don’t understand either of these folks. I would like to forget about the chronic pain I live with. I try to ignore it and downplay it as much as possible. I don’t want to think about it all the time.

One possibility for what I’ve described could be that these people are looking for attention and sympathy, another might be that they talk about feeling unwell all the time so others won’t expect as much from them. Whatever their reason, I hope they aren’t suffering as much as they suggest they are.

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