The Struggle of Identifying Pain

How do you know when to seek help?
When you have a chronic illness, it’s really hard to differentiate between your usual pain, and something new. With an illness like fibromyalgia, it can sometimes be even harder. It effects every single part of your body and a flare can pop up at any time.

Every day, I have constant pain covering most of my body. For any other person, they would probably go to the hospital if they were experiencing my level of pain. It shouldn’t be normal to feel this way, but it’s just something I have to try to keep out of my mind to get through the day.

Even when the pain is excruciating, I always say my pain is at a nine on the pain scale. I’m saving my ten for when I really need it, or I pass out. However, there have been three times in my life where I went to the ER—something I’m extremely against due to my fear and hatred of needles, and the overall judgement from doctors. Two of those times were from seizures having to do with my brain tumor. I obviously didn’t know this at the time, we were worried I was having a stroke or something.

The other time was when I was up in Oregon for school. I had been experiencing a stomachache for most of the day, so I decided to take a nap to see if that would help it past. Before I could fall asleep, I was hit with a wave of unbearable pain that I had never experienced before. I grew up with having abdominal migraines and awful acid reflux—I was no stranger to a stomachache—but this was different. I couldn’t catch my breath, it hurt so much. I was curled in a ball on my bed and texted my friend and roommate to come down to my room in the basement. I told her we needed to go to the ER and she immediately knew this was serious, I would never willingly go to the hospital.

My pain started to subside after being there about an hour and I begged to be sent home. I felt so embarrassed for taking up a bed in the ER, for wasting the nurses and doctor’s time. I spent four hours in the ER that Saturday afternoon and left with a diagnosis of gallstones.

Even though there was something actually wrong with me, I still felt like my pain was invalid. I think that’s what people go through when they have chronic pain. How do I know if my pain is something different, or just a normal part of my disorder? I don’t want to waste any doctor’s time—or mine—if I’m just having a flare.

Early after being diagnosed, I went a few months with terrible pain in my hip that had got to a point where it was affecting my ability to walk. I went to see my primary doctor, spent most of the day waiting to be seen, only to be told there was nothing wrong. I was so convinced that there had to be something wrong if I was in this much pain. A few weeks later, the pain vanished. Curse you, unreliable body!

So what do you do? Wait it out for the pain to hopefully go away, like any other flare? Currently, I have pain in my shoulder that has been here for over six months, slowly getting worse and spreading to my neck, back, chest, and down my arm. Do I go see a doctor just to get an x-ray I can’t afford and have it most likely show nothing? Then that doctor thinks I’m just complaining about every little thing. It’s such a frustration position to be in.

So let me ask you this, when do you decide whether your pain is “important” enough to seek help, or when do you classify it as just another symptom of your disorder?

Sorry for all the rambling. Just getting out my frustrations.  


  1. Despite Pain says:

    I just wrote a post about this last week. I wrote about something that happened a couple of years ago when I ended up very ill due to gallstones too. The gallstones had caused pancreatitis and I needed to get the gallbladder removed fairly urgently. It is so difficult to know if it’s just normal pain when you are used to living with pain, isn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

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