‘I am just hurting’: The thing to remember when talking about chronic pain
12th Feb 2020
Actress Selma Blair has given fans an insight into her struggle with multiple sclerosis (MS) in a vulnerable social media post. It’s a reminder that we shouldn’t feel under pressure to talk positivity, especially when it comes to dealing with chronic pain, writes Jennifer McShane
I am known as a glass-half-full person. In fact, I am a glass-half-full-person. Despite the struggles and daily challenges that come with having mild CP, you’ll rarely see me post anything other than positivity on social media about it. Perhaps it would make the hard days a bit easier if I did. Even though social media no longer has quite as much shine as it once did – these days, we tend to praise when we see something real over something filtered – I feel a block. I remember the privileges I have and feel I shouldn’t complain.
And yet, without the ‘bad’ up there (days you’re in constant pain, too tired to walk, trapped on the floor after a fall etc), young women in the same position, who perhaps are looking for someone or something to relate, will never find it.
This is why Selma Blair’s recent social media post is so important. Known for being unfailingly positive in the wake of a relentless MS diagnosis, she has shared her struggles; a bad night. A moment of time in which she finds it almost impossible to see past the darkness of being in pain, being uncomfortable and being fed up with hurting.
Related: Coccydynia: ‘As days and weeks went by, the pain never went away’
These nights are long when you live with an illness or condition that never lets up.
In Ireland, there are more than 9,000 people living with MS. Three times more women than men are diagnosed with MS, with most being diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40. MS is the most common debilitating neurological condition affecting young adults in Ireland and it affects the motor, sensory and cognitive functioning of the body.
There is no known cause or cure.
“This is the thing. I feel sick. This is what happens. There is no bright light of glamour. Of course. It is long nights. Almost all nights. My muscles in my face and neck are in spasm. Or so tight I can’t even find a way to stretch,” she begins.
“I am lucky on a million counts. I know. And I am still feeling alone and vulnerable and scared about the future as a single mom. I’m not dying any more than anyone. I am just hurting. It feels like I am just breaking down.
“It’s just miserable. And scary. To feel unwell. I am so sorry. This is just me and you.”
She says she’ll continue to seek out a “silver lining” here, that silver lining isn’t important. Sometimes the best thing you can do on the hardest days is stand up and acknowledge that they are an awful place to be in.
She has always displayed awe-inducing strength. Even amidst the vulnerability, she writes: “But I am not killed by it. I am strong enough not to be taken down any more than the average bear.”
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Even so, anyone who deals with a chronic illness knows the pressures that come with needing to be upbeat. To be thankful that it’s not worse, to count your blessings. But the longer we don’t give voice to the bad days, the harder it will become to normalise them. If you’re always known as the person who remains happy in the face of difficulties, the challenges can come when you let this guard down.
Because often – and especially if your illness is invisible – it’s not deemed fully acceptable to talk of the downsides. This can only add to the frustration and isolation which so often go hand-in-hand with a chronic illness.
So, rather than deeming her ‘inspiring’ for seeing through her pain (why must we always label it so?), we could just say she’s being totally real and normal – and applaud her for being just that.
Let her find some solace in the darker moments before the light comes through.
Selma Blair has earned both.
Related: ‘I was in denial; I was in pain’: Selma Blair gives first interview since revealing MS diagnosis
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