many years ago, when i was still in the early phases of studying, i had a telephone conversation with a friend of mine, who at that point had lived for many years with chronic back pain. inexperienced and naive, and influenced by reading louise hay, i suggested to my friend that at some level she wanted the pain.
she was livid. why would anyone want something so horrible and crippling? how could i be her friend and say something like that? she hung up on me, angry, anxious, bothered.
that night i went to bed in a state of bewilderment. i clearly remember lying there, staring up at the ceiling, praying for insight.
and then it came to me. obviously, i did not have idea one about chronic pain. since i was not suffering from chronic pain myself, how could i? i decided there and then to become a student of people with chronic pain, to ask them to teach me.
i am grateful for the experience. being a student of chronic pain sufferers has taught me so much that is directly related to pain – about pain medication, the connection between chronic pain and depression, how doctors and the rest of society relates to people with chronic pain – the list goes on and on. but i’ve learned so much more. for example, about what it’s like to have a disability – visible and invisible; what it means to live a “normal” life; and the superstitions we harbour towards people who are “different”.
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