For those who deal with chronic pain, it is no mystery that the pain affects all aspects of life. The pain can cause changes to your mood, decrease you ability to function the way you did before the pain, it can change the way you think, the way you move, and how you feel about yourself and the world around you.
Family and friends provide the necessary support for those dealing with chronic pain, so that they are able to better manage and cope with their pain. Those who are in pain need the extra support from the people around them, specifically from their friends and family. The support they get from loved ones helps to guide them through the pain and brings back some sense of normality. With the devastating effects of chronic pain on many aspects of life, a support system becomes essential.
What is often overlooked is impact of chronic pain on the support system and the effect it has on relationships. We tend to forget the friends, family and other loved ones who are also affected by the pain. While they are not physically affected, their lives also tend to change.
A support system is made up of a network of people who offer support, encouragement and understanding to the person dealing with chronic pain. This can be made up of friends, parents, children or partners. Virtually anyone can be a part of a support system in place for someone who suffers with chronic pain.
Often times when support is needed because of chronic pain, the relationships become challenged because of that pain. Chronic pain changes parts of who you are. Sometimes the change is so drastic that you become unrecognizable to the people who care for you. Pain can lead us to be less patient with ourselves and others, less active, it has an effect on our mood and can even change our outlook on life in general. This can be very upsetting for those who care for us, such as children and spouses. It can leave them confused and even frustrated.
As most people with chronic pain already know, there isn’t anyone who can understand your pain the way you do. The same can be said for the members of a support system also. Confusion and miscommunication are common for those who are trying to understand the pain, but simply cannot. When chronic pain leads to emotional changes such as depression and anxiety, this can also have a negative effect on members of a support system who may not understand that the changes in mood are not a cause of anything they have done, but rather it is a result of the pain. Family and friends can feel as if something they have or haven’t done is the cause for the sudden changes. Seeing a loved one battle with chronic pain can even lead to members of your support system developing feelings of guilt, anxiety and depression.
It is important to keep the lines of communication opened. Understanding between the person in pain and the network around them is almost as important as understanding the pain itself. Even those with the best intentions can feel defeated in the face of chronic pain.
Studies have shown that the levels of stress are significantly increased for those who are actively caring for chronic pain sufferers. This is linked to increased responsibility, worry about the future, financial worries if the person you are caring for is unable to work due to the pain, as well as emotional stress from changes in the relationship.
There are a number of ways to prevent breaks in relationships caused by the devastation of chronic pain. Pain management can be a team effort and a learning opportunity for those who are acting as a support system for someone dealing with chronic pain. Accompanying each other to doctors appointments or treatment sessions is a great way to both offer support and gain the information needed to help a loved one manage their chronic pain. It can also lead to a better understanding of what the other person is going through.
Have regular, opened dialogs often. You may find that this will be most beneficial to rebuilding or maintaining strong interpersonal relationships with friends and family. See things from both perspectives and understand that the pain is what has cause change, not the person.
Seek professional help for yourself, whether you are the pain sufferer or the supporter if you are feeling down. It is important to remember that our feelings are valid, and that sometimes even helpers need help. yIt is important that we take time for ourselves every now and again. It is all to easy to become so focused on the pain or the person who is in pain, that we forget to care for ourselves. Do not disregard your own needs and wants.
Living with chronic pain is not easy. It changes your world. Being a rock for someone who is living with chronic pain can be just as difficult. By working together and being understanding of each other you can maintain your relationships with friends and family and adapt to the necessary changes together.