By Becky B
Lockdown is not a new phenomenon for those who live with chronic pain. Living with chronic pain means you live your life in various forms and degrees of lockdown – both in normal times and during a pandemic. Pain prevents you from doing the things you love to do, going to the places where you want to go, and meeting with those you love. It prevents you from going to work, going out to shops, restaurants and entertainment venues, seeing your family and friends, and partaking in your hobbies. You even start to mourn the loss of things you have never done before because you can’t now do them. As your pain enforced lockdown continues, you lose your routine, your sense of time, your ability to interact with others, and your ability to participate in the world outside your home.
You lose your voice in the world
In essence, pain prevents you from being the person you want to be and it takes away your identity. Your identity is replaced with a new identity: the identity of being in pain. The identity of a person who can’t do this or that because it causes them too much pain. The identity of a person who becomes dependent – dependent on treatments, aids, assistance, and help. The identity of a person who suffers. And, all too often those who do suffer, they suffer in silence, locked away and hidden from the world like we are all doing now. Locked away from the outside world, you eventually lose your sense of self and self-worth, and, ultimately, you lose your voice in the world. As the world then shrinks to the confines of your own four walls, the pain takes away your hope.
Those who have never had chronic pain, those who have never been on the chronic agony-chronic pain rollercoaster, those who have never had to navigate and manoeuvre through the world with pain – pain that may fluctuate in degree and intensity, but which never really goes away – will struggle to understand what it is like, how difficult and draining it is, what obstacles and barriers the world will put in your way, and how hard our society and systems will make your life. Indeed, when those in pain have those moments or those periods when they are not in pain, they can even forget the struggle themselves.
However, living with pain, gives those that suffer new experiences, skills, and rewards. You learn you have more resilience than people tell you your body doesn’t have; how adaptable you become; how creative you can be; and you learn a wonderous gift: the gift of empathy. The ability to empathise with people when they find themselves in difficult
circumstances or positions; the ability to understand that someone’s position and place in the world may not be of their own doing; the ability to see things that others do not see; and the ability to look into your soul and the souls of others. At that point, you come to realise that your pain gives you that special insight into the world, which you can share with others in pain and even with those who don’t suffer so they can understand and help. And, for everyone who has lived through this pandemic, hopefully, you will now be able to empathise to some degree with those who have to live their lives in some form of more permanent pain enforced lockdown.
That being said, as one who suffers from chronic pain, lockdown still has a completely different meaning to me than the word’s meaning in common parlance today: it means my diaphragm is twisted, my pelvis is out, my leg feels detached, the signalling to my limbs has all gone wrong, my whole body is stuck out of place, I’m rigid with spasm, and worst of all I have that sharp splitting pain engulfing me where even breathing hurts: it means I literally cannot think, get up, or move in this moment, let alone deal with the world outside – for my pain has completely locked me down. And, your lockdown, well, life’s not that much different for me – I’m used to it and you’ve come into my world. Nevertheless, I really could do with your lockdown ending now, so I can resume some of my usual medical treatments and pain management techniques as being without them only serves to increase my pain!