5 ways to cope with chronic pain

Over the years that I’ve been writing this blog, many people have got in touch to ask me questions about their own chronic pain diagnosis. They often ask questions like, “what are the things I should do to make it easier?” or “what should I do when people don’t believe me?” They’ve asked about how to balance work, which medications to try and how to find support groups. Ultimately, what they’re asking is: how do you cope?

Well, anyone who’s had a chronic pain condition for a significant period of time knows there is no single answer to that and none of us have completely cracked it, but, I thought it would be useful to share the main things I’ve learnt over the last eight years with a few of my favourite blog posts to go to for further reading.

#1 – Be patient

There is no quick fix, and this will take time. I know it’s not the first thing you want to read, but the sooner you can accept that it’s a slow process and you need to be patient, the easier it will be. There will be multiple appointments, multiple painkillers and a lot of trial and error. There will be days you’ll sob your heart out because of the frustration, there will be days you’ll feel like you climbed Everest but no one will high-five you because all you actually did was make your bed, and there will be days when you live like ‘normal’ with only a small level of pain. It will get easier, and over time you will learn what coping means for you. Until then, take your time, do your research and learn to listen to your body.

> Read this post on the five stages of grief in relation to your chronic pain diagnosis

#2 – It gets better

Trust me, it gets better. Coping with pain and fatigue and invisible illness is always going to be tough, but at some point you will learn to accept and make peace with the fact that there are some things you just can’t do any more. You’ll also discover new things that you would never have previously done, you’ll take on new challenges you never would have thought possible, you’ll make new friends, and you’ll learn to articulate your condition and your approach to coping with it. It all gets a lot easier, and the beginning of your journey is by far and away the worst bit. So hang tight – it gets easier.

> Read this post from 14 chronic pain bloggers who share the best thing their pain has taught them

#3 – Work out what helps you 

It’s a slow process, but you need to learn how to best manage your health. We are all different and what works best for me may not work best for you. There will be days when you feel helpless and hopeless, and you’ll need to have a list of go-to things to pick yourself up. For me, heat is that thing. It doesn’t cure the pain, but it eases it and helps me to feel comforted. There’s no quick fix, but there are certainly things that help me to feel stronger. Make a list of what makes you stronger, and make sure you have those things close to you.

> Read this post from 12 chronic pain bloggers who share the one thing that helps them cope with pain


#4 – Your friendships will change

At some point people will stop asking if you’re okay. Soon your pain will become a part of who you are, and people won’t ask you about it every day. And that’s okay. Some people will stop inviting you to stuff, whilst others will become absolute angels. You’ll learn who you can and can’t talk to about it, you’ll learn how much to talk about it, and you’ll learn who to lean on when things are tough.

Not everyone needs to know you’re unwell; some of your friends or colleagues might never know it because it won’t always consume you. In the early days, it’s hard to imagine a time when you’re not talking about your health but it soon becomes a quiet part of you – just something in the background.

In the early days, surround yourself with people who love and support you and – most importantly – who believe you, because not everyone can believe something they can’t see. Look at people who are out there living life and doing amazing in things in spite of the challenges or disabilities they face, and let them inspire you. Things aren’t over, they’re just changing – and change isn’t always a bad thing.

> Read this open letter I wrote to my friends

#5 – Don’t rely on the doctors 

One of the most difficult things about early diagnosis is that no one has any answers for you, at a time when that’s all you want. There’s no treatment plan, no cure, it’s just you and a repeat prescription. I often go back to the doctors when I’m in need of help and they so often disappoint me. I’ve recently realised that my treatment plan is up to me, and I’ll be sharing more on this soon. There’s no ‘right way’ of treating chronic pain and over time, you will learn to rely on yourself. You’ll create a treatment plan that works for you – one that looks at your diet, your exercise, your work, your social life, your mental health. Your doctor will never be able to provide this so just remember, they’re just one piece of a fairly complex puzzle.

> When you’re feeling ready, read this post about the worst thing about having an invisible illness

Finally, and perhaps most importantly: Last year I created a fibromyalgia toolkit. It can be hard to know what to read and what to tell people, so I built this toolkit with my top ten links to help you talk, share and understand living with chronic pain. It’s made of articles I’ve written as well as some written by my spoonie peers, and is a good place to start when you’re first diagnosed.

> Get my fibromyalgia toolkit here



14 comments on “5 ways to cope with chronic pain

  1. Catherine

    Brilliant! The links are great too! Thanks for sharing all this Cx

  2. this is really helpful! Thank you for writing this. I love that you’ve added links in between also! I’ll be sure to have a look around your blog and subscribe!

  3. Viv Rogan

    Hi Sarah
    Just read your latest post and it made me cry. I have been suffering Fibro for about 6 years and in the last year feel I am getting worse so much so I have had to leave work.

    On Monday we returned from Glastonbury and I have had to admit to myself that this will be my last one. It was just too hard. The worst part of this horrible Fibro is having to face that I can no longer do things I used to. However I have discover sewing and so as you said you find new ways to occupy your time.

    Your post was so spot on. Thank you.

    Viv xxx

    • Thanks so much Viv, I’m so glad it resonated with you – though so sorry it made you cry! I’ve been there though, I’m sure it’s partly relief at knowing someone else feels what you feel.

      Well bloody done for surviving Glasto. That is epic. I can highly recommend End of the Road and NOS Primavera in Portugal as small festivals that are survivable with fibro. It’s horribly sad when you have to admit defeat though. Big hug. xxx

  4. Thank you for sharing this. The part on friendship especially pulled at my heart… It brought back the importance of remembering to ask, “how are you” and actually meaning it. Friendships do and have changed, but blessed for those who have stuck around.

  5. You are so right. Patience is key. It’s a skill that I’ve been working on myself and it isn’t easy at all. I think being mindful/practicing mindfulness can help with patience too.

  6. Thanks so much for this post. I have been living with chronic pain since I was 8 (with, thankfully, some improvements recently). Your point on friendships really struck a chord with me. Some understand, some have grown impatient when I cancel yet another plan. Best of luck with your journey x

  7. Hi all, I just want to ask if someone ever tried using shrooms or truffles for medical purposes? I was reading some articles about this magic truffles and shrooms before engaging my self for the first time. Like this one from: say that it has a very potent effect on the brain and hallucination. Unlike marijuana does it have any medical use? In one article that I’ve read magic truffles or shrooms compaired to synthetic drugs are very alarming. Also magic mushroom are use on reducing the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety. It can also help people to quit smoking and alcohol addiction. Some studies also suggest the property of magic shrooms/truffles can be useful for cancer patients. I would really want to hear other insights regarding this new possible alternative meds. Thanks

    • Hey! I haven’t looked in to this at all so can’t answer any of your questions, but I’ll definitely do a bit of research. I’ve not heard about it for medical use, but it makes sense. I wonder if anyone else has had any experiences of it…

  8. AnonymousGirl

    I can definitely relate to friendships changing. You really figure who are you friends, the ones who care and who you want to hang around. It’s horrible when your ‘friends’ never help you out at all and you end up being a 3rd wheel all the time.

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