Pain Concern
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Upset by a friend

A very good friend of mine has really upset me by telling me my pain is effectively in my head and if I talk to someone it will go... It has really upset me and completely undermined what I have been through including a major operation near my brain. I guess unless you have pain then it's difficult to understand and if the docs dont' have all the answers then people assume it's psychological. But I know in my case it's not. I'm not sure how to put across in a calm way that this is the case.

12 Replies

Hi Im sorry to hear that your friend upset you,it is possible she was actually trying to help :) . I think I would either just say nothing and let it go ,or explain that after your op the docs explained that sadly you will have chronic pain that there will be little if anything they can do to lessen,and that some days you can handle it but others it just gets too much .

best wishes


Hello BOB here

Sorry for your uneducated outburst from a friend, we all go through this with some regularity that we all could do without.

If you cannot explain to your friend what the situation is and the pain your conditions cause, it can be a sorry state that your friendship has reached with this person. My advice would be to try and talk to her regarding the operation you had and see if that will help you with this insensitive person.

One problem we all have is the chronic pains we suffer will never depart, your friend will need to understand that, personally I do not understand if your condition will ever go away, you can always make light and say yes it is next to the brain and under those circumstances she was right. This may eventually make Her realize what she has said to you has been unpleasant and make her think a little more understanding of your condition

Once approached it is always best to leave the subject alone It is not a good idea to let this situation carry on for too long especially if the digs do not stop. All this will do is sap your confidence and make you feel worse. We all need to move on and live our lives as best we can, with as little agro as possible

Hope this will help we are all individules, with regard to chronic pain??.

Keep a hold



Morning Rocky you have some excellent adise there from BOB so all that it remains for me to say is try and keep calm dont let your friend rile you quite so much.

Hope it is a bit easier for you today



Maybe you should thank your friend for their advice and then add, if only it was that easy. People are very cruel without realising what they are saying will have such a deep impact on the person they are speaking to. I think maybe educating your friend on the medical reasons you are in chronic pain may help their future understanding and maybe getting them to read up on chronic pain.



Maybe you could copy and paste this, I found it on a blog and the author would like it distributed:

What is chronic pain?

Chronic pain is going to bed, afraid of how you may feel in the morning. You may be completely fine, hell you may have felt like you could take on an entire army. The next day you could be barely able to move.

Chronic pain is being afraid that one moment you're quite happy, the next you're in such agonizing pain that you lash out at your loved ones. You don't even know you've done it until you see the look of hurt in their eyes, the tears trickling down their face. This is crushing...especially when it was not your intent...however intent doesn't rule out reality.

Chronic pain is being afraid of making commitment. You promise to do something, and then the day comes and you're in too much pain. Quite often when this happens more than once with people it becomes thought of as simply a cop out. 'You can't trust anything he says, he'll use his pain as a cop out.'

Chronic pain is being afraid of recrimination from people who just don't understand. 'Oh come on, it's just pain. How bad can it really be? You're just lazy!' Yeah. I wouldn't wish this on any of you, not even that one I once considered my enemy. Chronic pain taught me that it takes too much energy to have enemies.

Chronic pain is about being afraid.

That's all it truly is. It's about being afraid. You try to carry on, you try to fight it, but in the end it's a huge hand that steadily increases its grip on you. You can fight it, but it's a fight you can't stop and start. Either you fight it and you win, or you lose badly.

Next time someone tells you about chronic pain, try to be gentle with them. Some days just the roll of those eyes can be just enough to send us into a week of despair and depression. We don't mean to be unreliable, we don't mean to 'whine', we don't meant to be 'lazy'. We simply live in a volatile state and have to go day by day.

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I would not bring the subject up with your friend, just let it go, you need every bit of your energy to deal with the pain you are suffering. I know it is not easy to let it go, my family members mentioned that they are fed up of inviting me to visit them in London, they wont repeat the invite as I keep promising and never go. It keeps popping up in my mind and really getting to me until I decided, enough, let it go. These are people who stay with me for a couple of days and see first hand what I go through and still expect me to go traipsing around town with them?? It is a battle none of us will win, unless you go through the pain yourself you cannot comprehend it. Just some are better than others at keeping their thoughts to themselves|! Have a good day Ann


I really like that statement, posted by Welshnut. This is always a problem – how to get people who are not in pain to understand something that is invisible. If we only had something visible on our bodies to show people – this is why it hurts! It is frustrating to try to explain to people who do not understand why we cannot do things that they think we should be able to do. People keep telling me I look so 'normal'! As if that means I should be fine. I don't think someone who has not been in pain for a long time will ever understand completely. I also get people telling me it's all in my head and 'just go and read Dr Sarno's book about how all back pain is caused by repressed rage, etc.' (has anyone else had this?) Anyway, what I always respond is that it may be a malfunction of my brain, sending pain signals when it shouldn't, but to me it feels exactly the same as if the brain were sending a signal that 'should' be there. The brain can't tell the difference and the pain feels the same either way. And this kind of pain is very difficult to treat.

I wish you luck – and if you friend continues to be insensitive in this way, perhaps spend less time with her/him or say you don't wish to talk about it!

- Kat


I would give this "friend" a brief and gentle explanation of the situation and a little overall education on what is going on and give it a little time to sink in, then if that's still the attitude when the subject comes up again then dump the so called friend.... pronto. You won't ever get any consideration, let alone assistance when you need it from the sort of person who has no empathy, so it's no loss. Even one less Xmas card to send is a positive benefit ;-)

Life is hard enough when you have significant health issues, and what you don't need is someone making the burden heavier.

This principle has served me very well in recent years, before that I just let it ride and had plenty of hangers-on around and now as a result of the change of attitude I have those who stand by me, support and understand, and those that have gone by the wayside leaving me with a fair bit less stress.

There are enough out there in this rapidly deteriorating uncaring society where we have become seen to be malingering parasites, you don't need these people close to you.


people who don't have continual pain don't understand what it's's like some blokes who say thay childbirth doesn't hurt because it's a natural my case i think i have more painkillers than 'hot dinners',my pain is constantly there and increasing daily.people who say 'it's in your head' could be right because your pain receptors are in your brain.but that doesn't mean that the pain isn't real,it definately is real.take no notice of people who upset you they think they know about the human psyche,but you and me and people in the same situation of living day to day with pain,we know the truth of how we feel,and how we one else.i have a fantastic doctor and she said if you (i) say 'i have pain then no one can say you don't because the doctors don't actually know why one person feels pain and another doesn't,and what exactly causes it.and they only know partially how to stop don't need someone else expressing their opinion on your condition to upset you ,they do it to make themselves feel better,not you.


Try saying this : "if it was that simple then surely every chronic pain patient would be prescribed this sort of treatment on the NHS and no one would have chronic pain."

It's what I wanted to say to the pain consultant who told me my pain could be "switched off" if I had some clinical psychology input (not there WAS any available). I think people, even those who know a bit about how the physical side of pain works, confuse the idea of being able to switch it off with being able to "switch off from it", or not focus on it. And in some cases it's possible to detach yourself from pain - I'm thinking of people who walk over hot coals here, and there have been numerous TV documentaries about this to fuel the thought that mind over matter is a cure-all - but this doesn't help if you've got chronic pain.

Telling someone with chronic pain to talk it through with someone and it'll go away is similar to making someone a nice cup of tea to take their minds off something unpleasant.It might help to talk about it, but it isn't going to make it go away just like that.

I rarely discuss my pain with friends and family now unless (a) I'm desperately suffering, or (b) they ask. I usually just say, "Oh, it's still there but that's life, how are YOU?" If they seem a bit more interested or want to get into a debate I'll talk a bit about how chronic pain differs from acute pain and all the things that I'm doing to help it.

I think most people I know want to help (either becuase they are genuinely nice or because they feel frustrated that you're not how you used to be) so they come up with suggestions, some of them can be quite wacky.


Thank you so much to everyone who has taken the time to reply. I appreciate your support. It did affect me as he made such a sweeping statement/generalisation about me. As if I don't know myself and he had the answer to my pain. as many people have siad, the asnwer isn't always clear cut and "professionals" do miss things too. Just because the answers have not been found doesn't mean that automatically it is in our heads... I've learnt so much about myself since I have been unwell and have learnt to not give up.. but it's hard too and this statement from my friend just undermined everything, but I guess in life we learn a lot from things that happen to us. I guess as long as I believe in myself, others can form their opinions but I will have to choose to ignore it, even though it has hurt me.I don't have the strngth to justify my pain to others.

Thank you all again, for your help.


This is common and very hurtful. I always say "What makes you think you know better than my Doctors?". You could also give him/her a copy of Melzack and Wall's seminal work "The Challenge of Pain (1965, available now in Penguin), which is full of stuff about calcium ions etc., and explains the Gate Control Theory and why amputees get phantom limb pain. Still the basis of pain science today.

Good luck!


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