15 Ways to Help Someone in Chronic Pain
By Megan Ancheta
As someone who battles psoriatic arthritis, spondylitis, and Hashimoto’s disease, Megan Ancheta understands first hand what it’s like to suffer from chronic pain.
1. Ask about their pain levels (they change daily). I am a master actor. It is second nature for me to plaster on a smile and say, “I’m fine!” when asked how I’m doing. But, if you were to ask me, “How is your pain today?” you would get an honest answer. Pain for us varies from day to day. Some days it’s tolerable, while other days we hold back tears while just trying to get through the day. We would like you to ask. We won’t normally come out and announce it unless you’re a super good friend who (we know) genuinely cares. Otherwise, people think we’re complaining or that, “It’s all in our heads.” We’re not complaining, we’re struggling, and I can assure you – it’s not in our heads.
2. Call, text, or send them an uplifting Facebook message. If you really don’t know exactly what to say, a simple, “I just wanted to let you know I’m thinking about you.” goes a long ways.
3. Be mindful of making off-handed medical suggestions. Yes, we’ve heard tart cherry juice and apple cider vinegar will “heal every ailment we have,” and that the “Paleo diet or going vegan will cure us.” If it were that easy, we’d be all over it. The reality is, some of your suggestions *might* help some of our symptoms (and I fully support healthy dietary changes), but nothing cures a disease (unless it’s God himself). We get tired of chasing after the latest fads, oils, diets, supplements, etc… We literally exhaust our resources and bank accounts trying to be well. Please be sensitive to that.
4. Bring them a meal. And if they have special dietary concerns, try to work around those. We are always sick, and chances are, we will never get better. A meal in the freezer is a HUGE blessing for when we can’t bring ourselves to get into kitchen, because unfortunately it happens often.
5. Take their kiddos for a day, afternoon, or volunteer to play chauffeur to/from school or activities.
6. Hang out with them… in your PJs… with a movie. And bring chocolate or ice cream. When I am flaring, I’m exhausted, and I can normally be found in my PJs, on the couch, with a movie on. Most days I would love company, but only if you’re willing to “laze” around with me and accept that my house is most likely a disaster.
7. Offer to accompany them to their next doctor’s appointment — extra bonus points if you drive. Doctors, doctors, and more doctors…. the paperwork, the blood work, the 21 questions… It is so incredibly stressful. My anxiety goes through the roof, even when I’m comfortable with my doctor. The presence of having another warm body with me helps significantly.
8. Be their advocate. We fight so hard. Everyday is a battle. Be our champion. Be the one to whisper in our ear words of encouragement. Cheer us on. Some days your words make or break us.
9. Call their spouse/significant other/care giver to extend kindness and just see how they are doing. My husband and children are the ones who pick up the pieces when I am exhausted and have a super bad pain day. They are the unseen ones who suffer, and often go forgotten.
10. Don’t wait for them to call and ask for help (because chances are they won’t). Just do it. We are proud, suffer in silence, and generally would never ask for help. I need help with cleaning, laundry, etc., but I will never ever ask you to help me.
11. If they are having a bad day and need to vent, just listen. We work very hard to be as positive as we can, but when medications fail, more health issues rise, and everything seems to be going down hill with our health, it’s extremely hard to keep smiling. We struggle, not just physically, but mentally too.
12. Make them laugh with a good joke or story. Laughter is the best medicine, and forgetting that we’re sick for a minute is a true gift.
13. Extend extra grace to them when they talk slowly. Most days I walk around feeling like I don’t have a brain. I see what I want to say in my head, visually, but can’t form my thoughts into words. I am rendered speechless. Many chronic diseases cause brain fog, or if it’s not the disease, it’s the medication. Please speak kindly to us, even when we can’t remember what we were going to say.
14. Respect their dietary choices. After I went gluten-free and dairy-free (among other things), someone invited my family out to pizza, but then laughed and said, “Oh yeah, you can’t!” It wasn’t funny, but it was super hurtful. Those of us who suffer from chronic pain/disease often avoid certain food items because of the “other” symptoms that accompany our illnesses – like explosive diarrhea. But no one likes openly talking about that. Long story short, if we say we can’t have a certain food item, believe it, respect it, and don’t question it. I promise we aren’t doing it for attention.
15. Love the heck out of ‘um. Chances are, you don’t understand what your loved one is going through (not unless you also suffer from a chronic pain). Just because you don’t understand it though, doesn’t mean you can’t show them love. Not everyone understands our journey, but everyone understands love – it’s a universal language.
<3 Love these all, Megan, but especially #6! You & I, that could make for a fun afternoon or evening. Continue to take care of yourself, my friend! (((HUGS)))
Shirley @ gfe & All Gluten-Free Desserts says
Awww, Megan, there are so many of us who wish we were near you and could step in and help you out with so many of these things. Truly. Thanks for sharing this very thoughtful, very poignant post with everyone. I hope it will help your close friends and family help you as I know it will help others who read and share it.
A gazillion xoxo,
Sasha Ancheta says
This is such a great article~ thanks for sharing these tips. Really gives an insight on how to be a little more mindful and sensitive to those living with some sort of pain. Within the year I’ve developed some hand issues in both my hands and although it’s not nearly as bad as it could be, the pain and being limited to even doing simple tasks like just opening a jar becomes a pain, mentally AND physically. I used to be able to handle basic physical tasks and now, I don’t think anyone around me truly understands the struggle. This article will definitely help to give a bit more insight! Thank you
Love to the girls and cunckle and you 🙂 ~ I hope you guys are doing well <3
Megan, you have hit the nail right on the head with this one. No one truly gets that I am sick and I am not doing what I do for attention. No matter what I do to try to explain my symptoms and what I am trying to do to help my situation, my brother and sisters don’t get it, most of my friends don’t get it and while my husband gets it most of the time, even he has his limits with my pain and moods. I am excluded from family vacations and it is very hurtful. I can’t get a job and that just makes me more depressed. Living with chronic pain is devastating and no one can see it!
Thanks for validating my pain. It helps.
Thanks so much for these, I’ve suffered with chronic pain for most of my life and for all kinds of reasons since I was 20 ( I’m now 54) and it can be very difficult.
I would add #16: Pray for them and with them. God is the Great Physician and can heal if He wants. Sometimes He chooses not to heal physically because He is working out His will for us or trying to bring us closer to Him.
Marilee Greene says
Megan, you have opened our eyes about your situation. I always see a smile on your face. If we were close, we would be able to help. We think you have tried it all. New treatments will come along and hopefully someday you will find relief. Meanwhile, you are in our prayers.
Uncle Larry and Aunt Marilee
megan thank you ever so much for being vulnerable and sharing your journey. it takes courage to open up, but i am grateful because it lets me know i am not alone…and that you are not alone.
Im sorry that you’re dealing with this. As somebody who has had 30+ years of pain, I know how challenging life is. We tend to put on our best face when we’re with people which does truly make us feel happier, but it is it would be nice just to have friends over when we aren’t feeling well and hang out just as you said. I do love #6, too. Check out Gary Blier & Advanced Cell Training for your symptoms. Seriously works!
((hugs)) from Minnesota
– Cold long winters don’t help us & pain either, do they?
Joanne Peterson says
All of this is just plain right on the money, and so insightful. I know I’m not the one suffering with the pain, Mark is, but all of these apply to us. When Mark is flaring up, and it’s almost all of the time now, it’s true with the spouse and the rest of the family picking up the pieces. Then things are also much harder in the house because it’s hard to watch those you love be in such pain, and Mark does things that I then need to step up and do, and way too often I don’t get to it like I need to for things to go okay in our home. If I could take Mark’s pain away, or yours, I would, not to make it easier for me, but after watching Mark for 24 years, I can see the signs, and know he is suffering…….intensely in all areas. Pain, cognitively, being isolated, feeling inept, struggling with the medical professionals who blow them off, doing too much and paying for it, feeling like a bad dad or husband, being exhausted all of the time from battling pain, being unable to do the things for pleasure they once could, and the house feeling chaotic because it is a mess, etc, etc, etc.
I do feel like we get forgotten, or we are a pain to deal with, or aren’t invited, or the food isn’t thought of and isn’t safe to eat, or they are making a big deal and of course they can do the thing, whatever it is adnauseum.
I wish I could help you, and hang out in the PJ’s, with chocolate and ice cream and a good movie. (They’re magic aren’t they?) I would in a heartbeat.
Much love and many prayers for you and your family,
Cassidy @ Cassidy's Craveable Creations says
Thanks so much for posting this! I think many people don’t know what to do for someone who is in chronic pain. Like Shirley, I hope this helps your close friends and family to support you. Sending lots of love your way!!!!
We both live in chronic pain daily!
Thank you! You said everything I so wish I was able to tell people. Hope your day is better than some other days.
Thanks for posting this. My husband also lives with chronic pain & your post reminded me how to help him. He hides his pain well & I somet forget he hurts all the time.
Sheena @ Tea and Biscuits says
This is a very helpful list Megan, thanks! I’m very grateful for my patient and loving husband who looks after me well when I’m feeling grim, it’s hard when it’s an unseen illness and you might look ‘well’ but feel just awful on the inside.
Elle @ Only Taste Matters says
Ok I’ve stopped crying long enough now to leave a comment. All I can say is thank you! And yes!
Thanks for this article. I’ve been struggling with chronic pain for several years now and it’s so difficult when the people in your life don’t know how to deal with you. I just feel like I’m crazy most of the time and all I hear is that it’s in my head. Thanks for validating everyone who is in the same boat as you. Well wishes xx
I had been wondering why I could actually eat so many of your recipes, but now I understand. You also suffer from chronic pain and auto-immune issues like I do.
The doctors have been unable to identify the particular proteins and antibodies associated with my auto-immune/chronic pain disorder so they haven’t diagnosed me with a specific disorder, though they have recognized that my immune system is over-reactive.
I’ve had joint pain since I was twelve, endometriosis since I was fourteen, and psoriasis since way before either. Joint pain and psoriasis points to a possible case of psoriatic arthritis and, although the cause for endometriosis is yet unknown, it is very well possible that my endo is at least worsened by my auto-immune disorder.
So I’ve been in chronic pain off and on for half of my life, and only started seeking out help a couple of years ago. Last month, a naturopath suggested I try an allergy elimination diet to identify foods that may be triggering my inflammatory responses. I’ve been working on it, and just yesterday reached the point that I could start testing possible allergens. I’ve still got a long way to go on this diet, and I am so grateful that you’ve created these recipes which are gluten-free, corn-free, dairy-free, and often sugar-free–meaning things I can actually eat!