“Wow, you broke your arm? That must hurt!”
“That cut looks serious. You should get to emergency.”
“Your eye looks completely blood shot. Is it sore?”
It’s easy to sympathise with, or understand someone, their pain is visibly obvious. If their arm is in a cast, or they’re bleeding, or some other palpable injury.
For many though there’s a reluctance to believe in or accept injury when it’s not visible. What can be seen is real, what can’t be isn’t, seems to be the attitude some people and businesses have towards injury.
Yet, in that photo above, I’m in pain. Sometimes, that’s as close as I can get to clenching a fist. Thanks to some recent extensive massage it’s diminished somewhat again at the moment, but when my RSI flares up, it can cause significant pain. Years ago, I lived on Nurofen+. Goodness knows what it may have done to my stomach, but I was going through a pack of 48 every 6-7 days for sometimes months at a time. Yet in such situations, pain killers don’t fix, they just hide, and allow the problem to get worse if you don’t work towards fixing it. My ultimate lesson in that was when my RSI reached a point where I literally couldn’t go to the toilet unassisted. That’s palpable pain.
Over time I took the decision to just try to put up with the pain more, and so developed higher pain thresholds, but that in itself doesn’t take the pain away.
Hidden pain: muscular, bone, mental or otherwise – it’s just as real as visible forms of pain, and just as painful if not more. I’ve never broken a limb, but I’d say that I’d willingly trade the short-term pain of the break and set over say, 6-12 months of a dull, nigh on continuous ache gnawing away at me from my arms. I suspect many people, having spent some time with strong RSI, would likely feel the same.
It enrages me when people dismiss those who suffer hidden pain. “You’re just trying to avoid work”, “Toughen up, princess”, or “Smile, there’s nothing really wrong” – however it’s said, it’s insulting, it’s mean spirited, and it’s uncharitable. If someone tells me they’re in pain, and I can’t see it, it doesn’t for one microsecond diminish my belief. Sure, some people may lie, but do we treat all people as liars just because a very small minority do? Do we refuse to accept that the pain experienced by others is less real because it’s not immediately visible?
Pain is an extremely dehumanising thing; it tells us when we’re in trouble, of course, but it eats away at our resolve and capacity. It shouldn’t be compounded by people refusing to believe it, or belittling it, just because it can’t be seen.