Pain — except for those few indescribably wonderful times when I’m in remission — is with me constantly. Of course it has turned me into a different person, someone I wouldn’t have been without it always by my side; even when I’m not in pain, even when I’m in remission, Pain still dogs me, following a few steps behind just waiting until whatever meds I’m on wear off a bit or stop working to step back in.
It would depress me, if I let it (though on some days or weeks, of course, it does depress me; of course it does).
As mentioned in that New York Times article, pain can very easily turn people into bitter, angry, closed-off people, completely focused on the thing that takes can and turns it into can’t. And I would be lying if I said I was immune. I am not perfect (as my husband can certainly attest to!), but I try not to let Pain take hold of me and turn me into something I am not proud of being.
The blessing and curse of having an invisible illness is just that — it’s invisible. All people see is what I allow them to see. If I’m having a Bad Day, I don’t look any different. I just act differently. People don’t see my illness; they just see how I respond to it on any given day, at any given moment. That can be good and bad, but it’s certainly bad when Pain has put me in a rotten mood, and I’m just too tired or too miserable to control my behaviour.
Case in point: One of my co-workers, an older women, has RA. I didn’t know her before she developed RA, so perhaps she was always a petty, passive aggressive control freak who will make things more difficult for her co-workers if she’s not consulted before decisions are made. But I don’t think so; she has days when she is pleasant and lovely to be around, days when she goes out of her way to help. I think she has become twisted by pain. Our office is a small one, so the majority of us know that she’s ill. Some don’t, though, and just think she’s being a witch. Sometimes I feel that way too, but I try to be compassionate, try to help her along — when she lets me.
I think that may be an important lesson. Pain can turn us into wicked, twisted people who almost delight in our misery and the misery of others. I think it’s important to try not to allow pain to warp us in that way. I know it’s left its mark on me already, but I try not to allow it to take me that far. I try to take the good lessons pain can teach me — compassion, not judging others, kindness to all — and leave the jerk things it tries to get me to do behind. I’m not always successful, but I think it’s important that I try.