How Chronic Pain Affected My Mental Health
Living daily with chronic pain can be exhausting and have an impact on your mental health. Becky describes what it was like for her, and the things that aided her recovery.
My experience with chronic pain
Chronic pain can be exhausting and isolating. When I was 10, I suffered with chronic pain syndrome in my foot. Originally starting with a badly stubbed toe, the chronic pain got progressively worse as the wound healed. This was confusing for not only myself, but also friends and family around me, as you couldn’t see any physical cause of pain anymore. Much like mental health problems, chronic pain isn’t always visible so it’s difficult for other people to understand the pain you feel.
I found that there was little awareness or knowledge of chronic pain syndrome, which led to a drawn out process of misdiagnosis and going back and forth to various hospitals. ‘Invisible’ pain is mentally exhausting. The worse the pain became, the lower my mood would stoop. I was in Year 6 but had to take the majority of my final year at junior school off. I missed out on the excitement of leaving school, SAT’s, final year productions and being with my friends. Soon, confined to a wheelchair, my leg had become hypersensitive. The pain was affecting every part of my life and a month long hospital stay for an intensive physio course was on the horizon.
How chronic pain affected my mental health
Other than the obvious symptom of pain, chronic illness can be massively strenuous on your mind and your mental health. For me, the feelings I particularly struggled with were:
- Isolation: When pain is not in plain sight, some people struggle to understand that it’s there and affecting your life. Nobody was feeling what I was, and trying to explain this phantom pain was impossible sometimes.
- Low mood: Being in pain 24/7 is exhausting and it can bring you down. Feeling trapped by my illness took its toll on my mood and I was stooping into depression. Anxiety was growing the more I was stuck inside, with my only outings being to the hospital.
- Anger: I was frustrated with so many aspects of my condition. I would ask my mum, ‘Why me?’ Chronic pain is long-lasting and cures (if they even exist) are not always straight forward. I was misdiagnosed with a bone tumour before getting told it was actually chronic pain syndrome. The fact that nobody seemed to really know what was wrong was really difficult to comprehend.
What helped me to cope
- I was able to get back on my feet again through intensive therapies including physio, hydrotherapy and occupational therapy. Some other things that aided recovery were:
- I had a support network of friends, family and doctors and without them, my journey would have been very different. It is okay to rely on the people around you and reach out for help. You are only human and having to deal with so much - young or old - is not something you should have to tackle on your own.
- When people believe that the pain you are feeling, although they can’t see it, is excruciating and affecting your mood, it makes you feel less alone. Reading blogs like this, or talking to other sufferers can be helpful to find comfort in similar situations.
- I held onto successes. No matter how big or small, break-throughs in recovery should be celebrated and used to find hope and courage to carry on – because you are strong enough to get through this!
After entering my stay in hospital in a wheelchair, I walked out four weeks later. If you take anything from this blog, let it remind you that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Everyone’s journey is different, but we do have the strength to fight back against chronic pain and the mental strain it inflicts, we just have to believe in ourselves.
If you're struggling with your mental health, have a look at our Find Help guide for advice on what you can do next.