I have an incurable disease. It causes me pain every single day, which totally sucks. When I was diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis in 2006, the doctor looked across his desk at me and said, “The good news, Tracy, is that no one has ever died from this disease.” Gee, thanks. I’m told I have to live with chronic pain for the rest of my life. There are mornings I can barely get out of bed as a result of the poor night’s sleep this condition causes, and throughout the day I often feel like crap. (This is where I apologize for using the words suck and crap, but it really can’t be avoided in this post.)
I have learned a valuable lesson over the last five years of living with this disease, and I hope you can apply it to your life. I am not sharing this struggle because I want sympathy, nor is it my intention to make this about me. It is something I rarely discuss and very few people in my life even know about it. Like I said in my post The Reality of Death Should Change You, I want to live as though I have no problems, and instead live to help others with theirs.
As I go about my daily activities, I am in pain. But the thing about it is that nobody else knows. It’s not like I have a sign on my head that says, “I’m hurting even though you can’t tell by looking at me.” Anyone who has experienced chronic pain knows that it’s exhausting. It drains you of patience, basic coping skills, and sometimes you’re just plain bitchy (like I said, this subject requires certain words to be accurately painted). But what I’ve realized is that people all around me are dealing with physical or emotional pain. They have suffered a death in the family, been abused as a child, or lost a job. They have lupus. Miscarriages. Their dog died. They failed a test. Can’t pay their rent. The list is endless. People are in pain and they don’t have a sign on their back to explain why.
My attitude and how I respond to others has changed as a result of this realization. In my encounters with people I pretend I can see the sign that announces they are in some kind of pain. When someone is rude for no apparent reason or unpleasant in general, I make every effort to be nice. Instead of being mean in return, offer an encouraging word or smile. Whether it’s a friend or stranger you never know what kind of pain people are in. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Be kind to others in all circumstances; even when they complain, yell, or flip you the bird in traffic. Stop judging other people’s behavior and focus on your own. They may not deserve it, but it’s the right thing to do. It’s harder to be nice unconditionally than it is to love unconditionally. However once you view the other person as someone in pain, it’s easier than you might think.