[ENG] Pain builds character; said nobody with chronic pain ever

Pain is such a glamorised concept. Have you noticed? Whoever can endure the most pain is the winner, whether we’re talking about physical or mental hardship. Long uncomfortable working hours that make your body feel like it’s made of lead, starving yourself to lose weight, breaking some bones while aiming for a new sports achievement, giving birth unmedicated or getting patched up without anaesthesia after an accident; these are all seen as signs of a strong character. You’re a real big tough man if you don’t cry after being hit by a car, or some shit like that. And likewise, the strongest women are those that swear they can keep going to work and managing all their free time activities even when they have Covid, a heavy period, 39C fever and the last meal they had was a cup of coffee three days ago. Obviously, I’m being extreme here for the sake of driving the point home, but are these examples really that far fetched?
The opposite of these superheroes are the weak losers who need sick leave for a bad flu, will skip a mildly dangerous sport activity for the sake of comfort, could faint upon seeing blood and will probably think you’re crazy for willingly getting elective painful surgery for the sake of having bigger boobs or a smaller nose. Typically these people are seen as the type who lack character and strength when in reality they are just avoiding unnecessary pain and suffering. Why is it that withstanding pain has become such a staple quality in people who star in the modern day success stories? And even more so, why are we glamorising the pain?

I live in between two very different cultures; Finnish and Taiwanese; one is Nordic, one is East Asian. But if there is something these two cultures share, it really is the way toughness is seen as one of the best traits you can have. Whether you’re from Finland or Taiwan, you’re not supposed to complain and show your suffering. You gotta get through everything with a straight face and no tears; whether it is enduring back pain you got from studying in the library all day or freezing winter wind that shoots ice shards against your skin… or whether it is painful intercourse, a super uncomfortable chair at work, a burning sensation while peeing, constant feeling of hot pain or the mental load of dealing with all the other possible symptoms vulvodynia might come with.

The number one thing I see people write about in vulvodynia support groups is how painful it is and how they don’t know how to deal with it and how it’s ruining their life. It’s like a glimpse behind the curtains of a show; you never hear people talk openly about not coping with pain in public settings. We are so used to the idea that we have to survive and deal with pain by ourselves, that many are ashamed of even bringing up the topic. And I get it, nobody wants to be the so-called loser in the eyes of others. But in my opinion it’s time to stop hiding it. Chronic pain is not something we choose to suffer through. We simply cannot put it in the category of glamorised pain.

If we, sick people, keep hiding our pain, and keep getting through it as if it was an honourable challenge, we are basically just shooting ourselves in the foot. By coping another day we don’t achieve bliss or praise. We will just have another shit day to get through the next morning. Instead I think being vocal could help; tell your friends, let your trusted colleagues or boss know that sometimes you do need some accommodations or a helping hand. Tell your doctor that no, the physiotherapy you’re doing is not helping and you in fact really do need proper meds. I told mine straight up that the medication I was on was not gonna cut it. “I want something stronger.” Probably a major sign of weakness to some, but in my opinion just a ballsy move from a person who refuses to be in unnecessary pain for the sake of being a tough cookie.

If you’re in a situation where you feel like you’re hiding your pain or its severity, I strongly advise you to take a step back and look at the situation from the eyes of your best friend; do you think they would approve of the way you’re treating yourself? Or would they tell you to be kinder to yourself and not listen to the nonsense about being strong? Life with chronic pain is already hard enough, don’t make it harder for yourself by holding yourself to an impossible standard. It’s ok to let your pain show whether it comes in the form of talking, needing help or using medications and aids. You’re not weak. You won’t be weak. Just do whatever you can do to minimise the pain you’re in. If someone judges you for that, they probably have no idea how stupid the whole “pain builds character” trope is to someone with a medical condition.





HUOM! Kommentit moderoidaan ja vaativat ylläpidon hyväksynnän