Being Open about Pain and Discomfort with Your Loved Ones

Jessica has endometriosis, and Chris is her partner. Together, they battle endometriosis as a team. Jessica and Chris discuss being open with your partner when it comes to pain and discomfort, and if Jessica ever downplays her experiences for the sake of others.

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Jessica, do you find yourself downplaying your pain and are you more truthful to those closest to you?

From Jessica: I’m a pretty open book and very verbal, so I find myself communicating how I feel outloud to Chris on an almost daily basis. However, this is more commonly with the pain that is really bothering me (at the moment, that’s my interstitial cystitis pain rather than endo), but I am in some level of pain with my bladder every single day, so I won’t always tell Chris I’m in pain even though I am.

Occasionally I’ve noticed that it means someone - whether that’s Chris or not - is assuming I’m not in pain, when actually it’s just not as bad as it is when I’m verbal about it.

Chris, how does Jessica sharing her pain and discomfort with you make you feel?

From Chris: Of course, it’s horrible to hear that the person you love is in constant pain that you can’t really do anything about – but obviously it’s not as bad as being the one with the pain!

I’m mostly just glad that she’s able to share it with me and I’m able to offer some kind word or empathy at least. It’s important that we share it and that she doesn’t feel like she has to hide anything from me – even though I know she sometimes does!

Are there people/times/places where you are less likely to be truthful about your experience of pain?

From Jessica: With my family, I tend not to talk about it too much. I now have so much going on with SIBO, IC, endo, histamine intolerance, etc. that I think they find it quite confusing and overwhelming. I’m also very on top of these things given that I’m trained in these areas and I’m doing the work to heal them, but my family will start giving advice which often isn’t relevant or helpful and I just feel unheard and find myself being spoken over about the conditions I’m living with and trained in!

I also will follow up an honest comment with something to reassure people such as “but you know, it’s not that bad” because I don’t want pity or for people to think my life is terrible, and I’ve certainly had people say or feel those kind of things before.

From Chris: Yeah similarly, if someone who doesn’t really know Jess that well asks how she is, I won’t go into detail about her pain levels and things – I think for people who aren’t living with a chronic condition it can seem overwhelming and like there’s something seriously wrong. Of course, there is, but Jess is aware of and working to manage those conditions, and someone else’s advice or worry isn’t going to help.

However, I try to be honest if my family or one of Jess’ friends asks me, as it’s also important to normalize the life of someone with chronic pain and not hide it away and pretend it’s not there.

What advice can you give to other couples or people unsure about sharing their true experience with loved ones?

From Jessica: I think when you need to and you have the energy to do so, it’s always important to express it. So many of my clients find it a huge relief when they open up to loved ones and often they’re met with support. Some people won’t get it, but often there’s a few people or even one person who you can share with more openly and freely, and that can make such a difference on this journey.

From Chris: If your loved one is suffering with a chronic condition or pain, speak about it, ask how they are, listen. To truly share your life with them, you need to embrace every aspect of it.

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