I woman covering her eyes with her hand. Behind her are two versions of herself, One content and one in pain.

"You Wear It Well" - My Thoughts on Pain

I have written several articles on pain and invisible illness. On multiple occasions, I have been told “you don’t look sick” or “you don’t look like what you’ve been through.” Most recently, referring to my pain, someone said, “You wear it well.” The words replayed in my mind. You. Wear. It. Well.

Well-intended, but misguided

I requested an explanation. “Please elaborate,” I said. The person proceeded to explain that if I didn’t disclose the daily, intense pain I feel, no one would know. They continued to say how great I look and that I wear my pain well. I acknowledge that most people are well-intended when comments such as these are made. However, even well-intended comments must be corrected at times.

Accepting the constant pain

It is not my intention or objective to conceal my pain or to “wear it well.” I am constantly reminded of it. Every minute of every hour of each day the pain never departs. I have resolved and accepted that pain will accompany me for the rest of my life. This is a difficult realization to accept, and honestly, I continue to struggle with my reality.

Acts of rebellion to withstand the pain

With that being said, there are methods I have employed to assist me in my desire to persevere and thrive in spite of the pain, fatigue, and discomfort I feel. Self-care is a deliberate feat. I stay groomed and show up in life on my terms, despite all that is going on. I propel myself forward, knowing that when I can get up, get dressed and show up, I feel better mentally and spiritually. I am acutely aware of the power of perception and my intentional acts of rebellion to withstand chronic pain and illness. On those days when fatigue and pain limit my activity, I make a valiant effort to keep going. This is important to me.

I am more than meets the eye

To assume that I am wearing my pain and/or illness well reduces my experience to a calculated, superficial existence. It implies that one is making an observation solely on my physical appearance. I am the sum total of all of my experiences and more than meets the eye. It is unreasonable to make assumptions or reductions based on one’s conception of what a person with chronic pain or chronic illness appears to be. Words matter at all times.

How to be supportive and encouraging

If you know someone who lives with chronic pain and/or chronic illness, an encouraging word or a kind gesture may help. For me, just knowing that I have a strong support system is comforting. Also, having the space to confess my pain, as unsightly and uncomfortable as it may be, is therapeutic. Hearing “I am sorry that you’re having a bad day” is much different than hearing “you look fine” or “you wear it well.” Other comments I find supportive and disarming is “Is there anything I can do to help?” or “I hope tomorrow is better for you.” Finally, the words “I’m here for you” goes a long way.

I don't want to wear my pain at all

In closing, please understand that most of us with chronic illness, invisible illness and/or chronic pain are simply trying to live our best lives. We summon our inner strength to endure adversity and persist against all odds. Speaking for myself, it saddens me to hear “I wear pain well.” In truth, I don't want to wear pain. I would rather not have it at all.

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share my thoughts and experiences. To anyone enduring pain and discomfort, you are not alone. There are many of us and I am thinking of you today and every day.

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