What Chronic Pain looks like

Have you ever wondered what chronic pain looks like ? If you have, you are someone who has never experienced what chronic pain is, or what it feels like. I am thankful you haven’t. I would not wish it on my worst enemy. It’s debilitating, frustrating, exhausting, demoralizing, and defeating. I could use so many more words to describe it. Instead, I can tell you exactly what it looks like. It looks like this.

So many people think that because they see a happy smile, the person who wears it could not possibly be in pain. But we are. Everyday. Every second. Chronic means persisting for a long period of time or constantly recurring. As someone who suffers from chronic nerve pain due to back issues, I can tell you with absolute certainty – do not judge a book by its cover.

I feel so frustrated sometimes when people who know my circumstances, what I have been through, tell me I look like I’m doing so well. That they are glad I am no longer in pain. I’m not ? When did that happen ? I know they mean well. I know they don’t realize how frustrating hearing that can be. It’s frustrating because that statement assumes, that because we wear a smile everyday, we aren’t hurting every aching second. We are. I am.

What is a day without pain? A distant memory

I haven’t known a day without pain for over three years. It’s enough to make you lose your mind. Feel depressed. Go crazy. But I can’t do that. I won’t allow myself. Chronic pain will not win. I have two children to take care of. A husband to love. My world does not stop because pain entered it. It continues to turn. My children continue to need me. I don’t get too wallow in my sorrows. And if I did, what good would that do me ? What good would that do my circumstance. If I allow myself to go down the rabbit hole of chronic pain, I won’t come out. Those with chronic pain know what I’m talking about.

As someone who battles pain everyday, I constantly feel under a microscope. I feel like I am damned if I do damned if I don’t. On one hand, if I share how I feel everyday, which let me tell you isn’t great, I’ll look like a whiner. A complainer. Someone who, like I said , wallows in her sorrows. But if I don’t. If I put a smile on. Decide not to complain. Decide that I will not let chronic pain take my soul and my happiness. I’m seen as fine. I’m cured ! I no longer have pain !

Mumbling expletives with a smile


I have never been one that complains. I was raised that complaining gets you no where. It won’t change or make my outcome any better. So instead, I wake up everyday in pain and decide that I will be happy none the less. I will be thankful for my beautiful family I have been blessed with. I might mumble the F word under my breath throughout the day when my leg decides to give out. Or when I get shooting pain in my shin and ankle from the permanent nerve damage I’ve suffered from my back. But I power through with a smile anyway.

My point is, you can’t take everything at face value. You have to understand that there is so much more to someone then what is on the surface. I am fighting for survival. I am 29 years old and was handed a deck of cards I never thought I’d be given. I am choosing to play the hand I’ve been dealt and I’m choosing to do so as positively as I can. But it doesn’t mean my pain is any less. I will not be a prisoner of myself. I will not go down that rabbit hole.

The battle to survive

So yes, I still battle pain everyday. Still go to bed sore and exhausted every night. I still have the pins and needles in my foot. Three years and three back surgeries later and no relief. Yet I choose to smile. I choose to not let it rule my life. So before you think someone is fine because they smile everyday, think of what you would do if you were dealt the same hand as them. What would you do if chronic pain tried to rule your life everyday ? Would you smile and do your best to muster the strength to survive? Or would you understandably go down the rabbit hole chronic pain tries to suck you down?

Girl with smile tshirt - smile in the face of chronic pain

So when you wonder what chronic pain looks like, know that those who struggle with chronic pain aren’t always the ones who show it. They are most likely the people who “look fine”. Chronic pain doesn’t have a “specific look”. It doesn’t have a “specific type”. The people it affects have one thing that is specific. When you battle chronic pain everyday you automatically become a bad ass regardless of whether you can wear a smile everyday or not. You got out of bed. You got yourself together and fought to survive the day. Then you get up and do it all over again. Rinse and repeat. All while never feeling relief or peace. We are badasses. We are survivors and we are in pain everyday. Chronic pain is a bitch. But I can be a bigger one. And let me tell you I take no prisoners.

“Live Larger”
XOXO Theresa Thomas

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