Venn diagram showing overlap between chronic pain patient, coaching, and entrepreneur experience

Why Is It So Hard to Acknowledge Our Own Pain?

Earlier this month, my good friend and productivity role model Téa Silvestre of Story Bistro asked me and a few other solopreneur types for our best advice for chronic pain peeps who want or need to work for themselves.

I had to think about it for over a week.

So on Friday – yesterday, as I’m writing this post – Téa’s deadline was fast approaching. With two hours left to go, I sat down with a project notebook* to brainstorm. I asked myself “If I could go back in time and advise myself when I began this journey, what would younger Annie most benefit from hearing?”

And I sat there, pen poised, brain firing, no significant fibro fog to impede my thinking, on a relatively good pain day (3 out of 10) …

And I couldn’t think of a damn thing to write.

I don’t know why answering this question was so difficult for me. I’ve been dealing with chronic pain from scoliosis and fibromyalgia for over 15 years, and have been self-employed for at least half that time. I’ve also been blogging here, or at this site’s predecessor, for most of that period of self-employment.

In fact, if you drew a Venn diagram of the areas of my life impacted by the topics raised in this question, then Téa’s question would lie right in the middle of the overlapped part:

Venn diagram showing overlap between chronic pain patient, coaching, and entrepreneur experience

Why is it so hard for me to write about my chronic pain experience?

Partially, I think, it’s a reluctance to identify in any way as or with my diagnoses. I am much more than my twisted spine or my constant muscle pain.

Kate over at Betty Means Business has written about her experiences as an entrepreneur with chronic pain. I found her first paragraph particularly striking:

Even though it impacts me every moment of every day, this is something I rarely share about in detail. Not because I’m ashamed of it. Mostly I’d just assumed that part of my message is about focusing on what’s possible, instead of focusing on limitations, and so I do my best to model that. But I can see that also means I could be brushing aside an important part of the story.

I can definitely relate – how about you?

It feels like I’ve been “brushing aside an important part” of my own story for awhile, actually. When others tell their own stories, I don’t feel this strange sensory mix of annoyance, frustration, and boredom.

And I don’t want to shut them up the way I want to shut me up, when I start talking/writing/thinking about my own experiences with chronic pain.

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this regard. After all, most of us human beings want to achieve whatever it is we want in life on the strength of our own merits. We want to be known as people, as individuals — not as diseases, not even as individuals with diseases.

We’re complex creatures, and we simply cannot be accurately boiled down to this one – albeit huge – slice of our lives.

Is that what’s going on here? Am I maybe not so much bored by my own pain as I am afraid of being typecast by it?

* A large soft-cover plain Moleskine notebook, which I habitually use to track and log my work on specific projects – I have one dedicated to all my writing focused on chronic pain.
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