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The Pain We Cannot See

The Pain We Cannot See // Vent Sesh

My ankle has been hurting for about five months. Five months of a crappy sprain with torn ligaments, scarring and lack of sufficient rest that has plagued me with chronic pain.

It’s also been five months of physical therapy, five months of not wearing any cute heels, of wearing ankle braces, of telling my kids that I can’t go ice skating or that my ankle hurts, and five months of frustration.

Thankfully, five months later, it’s also starting to heal. I am working with an excellent new physical therapist and have been feeling the positive impact.

What I’ve discovered through a relatively minor — albeit inconvenient — injury: thanks to my ankle brace, my pain is evident.

And so is the correlating response, of sympathy and kindness.

Yet each day so many of us are dealing with chronic pain none of us can see.

I have over-active nerves that cause a tingling feeling in my feet and legs, and burning in my back. I take daily medication to ease the symptoms, medication that’s necessary but also has potential side effects that include depression, memory loss and weight gain.

Many of you also know that as a result of my transverse myelitis diagnosis (where in 2009 I was suddenly and temporary paralyzed), I have permanent bladder damage. You cannot see it, but my bladder spasms in a way that would make my bladder empty immediately if not for approximately 30 Botox injections shot directly into my bladder every few months.

Even with this procedure, I have accidents that are as mentally heartbreaking as they are physically frustrating.

I’m constantly looking for a bathroom whether I have to go, or incase the urge suddenly comes. I have had to ask groups of frustrated women waiting in one of those long bathroom lines if I can skip ahead because when I say I can’t wait, I mean it more than most.

My neurological condition is one in a million, and my bladder condition is more severe than many, particularly in my age category (just check out my urologist’s office for proof!).

I should say most days I feel fine — in fact, I rarely dwell or think much about it (promise you I’m good, mom!), however people rarely know my quiet pain or discomfort and nagging thoughts fixated on bathrooms and medications.

The thing is, so many of us have hidden pains. Cancers, migraines, Crohns, Lupus, diabetes, the list goes on and on.

When I wear the ankle brace, just like when a women is pregnant, for example, you for sure get extra sympathy.

I always joke that I had the most amazing pregnancy and the day before I delivered I walked into Publix where strangers were helping me reach items off the shelves and held doors open. A week later after Sarah was born I went in for something — in so much pain all over, though mostly down there — and no one noticed me or offered to help. Thanks, folks.

It’s interesting that we often only step up when we see the physical pain, perhaps because it’s the obvious pain and the one easiest for us to connect with. We feel like we can “fix” the issue or ease their discomfort after seeing their tangible challenge.

The pain you cannot see -- the difference in pain each of us can see, versus medical issues that are often invisible pain

Perhaps though its not that simple.

Perhaps we have moments through each of our days where we can rise up just a little bit more, where we can act with a little more kindness and a little less judgement about the person across from us.

One of the greatest lessons this diagnosis has provided me is the daily reminder that each of us have an untold story we walk with each day. It’s the invisible stuff — health related or otherwise — we deal with each day that can most impact how we act toward others, and how we present ourselves to the world.

I could absolutely choose to lead with an attitude reflective of some of my struggles. Some of you might think I’m validated in that perspective. But I’ve realized, what good would that serve me, and those around me? It wouldn’t. So I choose otherwise.

I choose to lead with joy, with a smile, with appreciation and with determination.

Remember that each day, while the pain might be on display or one we cannot see, each day you choose.

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  • Reply
    Jessica
    October 31, 2017 at 10:18 PM

    This is such a powerful post dear. I couldnt agree more on this part “One of the greatest lessons this diagnosis has provided me is the daily reminder that each of us have an untold story we walk with each day.”

    Thanks for sharing!

    Jessica | notjessfashion.com

  • Reply
    Crystal Komara
    October 26, 2017 at 8:46 AM

    Thanks for sharing such an honest and heartwarming post, Alyson. One of my absolute favorite quotes that I use ALL the time is, “Be kind to everyone. They are fighting a battle you know nothing about.” And I think this is so true.

  • Reply
    M
    October 25, 2017 at 3:36 PM

    I so needed this today! I’m (im)patiently waiting to see a cardiologist. It’s frustrating and scary. Thanks for sharing your story 🙂

  • Reply
    Celina
    October 25, 2017 at 11:59 AM

    Thanks for sharing, Alyson. That is awful that you have so much with which to cope physically. We all need more compassion toward each other… one never knows what another person is dealing with, mentally or physically.

  • Reply
    Heidi
    October 24, 2017 at 7:42 PM

    Thank you for writing this Alyson! Whether physical or mental, many of us are experiencing pain in our day to day lives. It really is true that we should always be kind because you never know what someone else is going through.

  • Reply
    Bruchy
    October 24, 2017 at 8:17 AM

    Really inspiring article! The power of choice! Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply
      Alyson
      October 24, 2017 at 11:47 AM

      Absolutely.. the power of choice is so powerful!

  • Reply
    Kimberly
    October 24, 2017 at 8:15 AM

    So appreciate you bringing up this important topic – having Lupus has definitely made me more sympathetic towards others because I recognize now that not every illness or handicap is visible on the outside. I think we can all stand to be more compassionate in general when it comes to people we encounter in public. As the saying goes, “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle”.

    • Reply
      Alyson
      October 24, 2017 at 11:48 AM

      Exactly, and likely that way more of us are dealing with something than we can even realize. Not a gift you ever want to receive, but these resulting lessons are incredibly powerful. <3

  • Reply
    Lindsay
    October 24, 2017 at 7:53 AM

    Hidden pain, mental or physical, can be a tremendous burden and take away our joy if we let it. It’s so easy to focus on the negative sometimes but your article shows us how to turn that mindset around and live the best life we can. A great read, thank you!

    • Reply
      Alyson
      October 24, 2017 at 11:48 AM

      Absolutely, Lindsay, you’re so right. We are completely capable and own how we live our life. Thank you so much for taking the time to read.

  • Reply
    Jackie
    October 24, 2017 at 6:30 AM

    I agree Alyson. So many of us have a story that often includes physical and/or mental pain. We all need to show more kindness whether we can see the struggle or not.

    • Reply
      Alyson
      October 24, 2017 at 11:50 AM

      Absolutely, Jackie, and certainly mental pain/illness causes as much of an impact. So glad you mentioned it. <3

  • Reply
    Kellyann
    October 24, 2017 at 4:38 AM

    Well said, well written, so true. Each of us carries struggles that are hidden. The world needs more kindness, now more than ever.

    • Reply
      Alyson
      October 24, 2017 at 11:50 AM

      100 percent!

  • Reply
    Shira
    October 23, 2017 at 8:15 PM

    You are so inspiring Alyson. Sometimes I think mental illness could be like an invisible illness as well.

    • Reply
      Oana
      October 24, 2017 at 4:03 AM

      So true…!

    • Reply
      Alyson
      October 24, 2017 at 11:51 AM

      It absolutely is, and I’m so glad you mentioned it, Shira.

  • Reply
    Briana
    October 23, 2017 at 6:33 PM

    Hidden pains are no joke! Great topic to bring up!

    Briana
    https://beyoutifulbrunette.com/

    • Reply
      Alyson
      October 24, 2017 at 11:53 AM

      THank you so much for taking the time to read, Briana. <3

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