Because most of the symptoms that stem from my conditions are invisible to the naked eye, I have often wished that there was some way for others to be able to see my pain without me having to say that I am in pain. A week ago I was reminded that I do have a visible sign that shows up when my pain is elevated. Unlike my psoriasis rashes that usually show up in on areas of my body that can be and are normally concealed, this one stares people in the face.
Long ago when my journey with chronic pain began I noticed that when my pain level was elevating and/or reaching an intolerable level, I would develop hot,red blotchy patches on my arms, chest, and face. These aren’t rashes, it is just a discoloration of my skin until I am able to decrease my pain level. In the beginning I was embarrassed by this and began spending more time tanning in my pool to reduce the intensity of the discoloration. For the most part it worked, I no longer noticed the patches on my tanned arms and chest. For many years I have thought it was also working on disguising the reaction on my face. That is until last week.
While with a group of friends one made a comment about how much time I must have been spending in the sun. She said that it looked like I had gotten a bit too much sun. I looked down at my chest and arms in confusion. They weren’t burnt. They were tan. I replied by saying that I am rarely in the sun for more than 40 minutes, usually I only spend 20-30 minutes in the sun, and that is not on a daily basis. She then said that she understood since she burns easily too…????? What???? Since I wasn’t feeling well I decided to drop the conversation. But since I tend to obsess about stupid things I decided to look in a mirror once I was in the car and ready to head home. Once I saw my reflection I understood why my friend thought I had a sunburn. My cheeks, nose, and part of my forehead was bright red and hot to the touch. My coloration returned to normal after hours of allowing myself to rest and treat my pain with extra medication.
So I got my wish of wanting a symptom that could be seen… Too bad it’s only mistaken for sunburn… But this made me think about the other visible symptoms that go unnoticed or are misunderstood. The tears in our eyes are mistaken for being overly emotional instead being a way for someone to notice that we are running out of strength to hide our pain. The times we wince or say ouch when portion of our body is hurting more than normal is considered overacting. Not being able to stand or walk without falling over or leaning into a wall is rarely met with compassion, instead it provides a reason for others to judge and question our pain relief medications.
If only our conditions not our symptoms were visible…Like a broken leg…Even though no one can see the broken bone, they do see the cast and are automatically sympathetic. One good thing is now that I am aware that this is symptom is showing the next time someone comments about my ” sunburn” I can set them straight by telling them that it is instead the way my body reacts to an elevated pain level.
Till next time,