We all know chronic pain comes with various challenges. When faced with any challenge we have a choice to make: succumb to it or develop the necessary skills to cope. This subsequently causes us to develop a whole new set of skills we never thought we’d become experts in. Here’s a feature of one skill I’ve added to my chronic pain resume: learning to fake smile.
The above two pictures were taken of me 10 years apart.
On the left, as bad timing would have it, family picture day came around at the same time a cyst on my ovary decided to rupture. I also had just played in a soccer game so was looking SUPER sporty (i.e. sweaty, gross).
The pain was extreme. I couldn’t stand up straight and had continual waves of nausea and vomiting, but was somehow able to power through- the show must go on, right? If Gram wants a family photo, Gram’s getting a family photo.
My smile on the left is not convincing as the one on the right, taken recently before a fancy event I had made plans to go to with my friends. I was deciding whether or not I had the energy to go, let alone enjoy myself.
This is a typical struggle due to headaches, stomach issues and aching muscles and joints.
My health issues have evolved within the ten years that passed between these two photos. At some point through ovarian cysts, orthopedic injuries and severe allergic reactions, inflammation took over my body. I have had some level of pain in my body every moment of every day since before that first picture was taken.
Although my pain is not always severe like it was in that first photo, I’ve certainly gotten better at fake smiling.
A momentary fake smile does not mean I’m unhappy. Dealing with chronic pain is tough. I felt bad that I looked like a troll in those family photos, but at least I put on a brave face. I smiled. I powered through.
I woke up the next day with less pain, and was able to go to soccer practice and enjoy it.
Brighter days will come. They always do.
Hold on to that thought when times get tougher. And smile. It helps, even if your faking it.
What’s on your chronic pain resume?