Friends & Pain: 9 Ways to Improve Relationships

Maybe you see friends less often than you used to. Or maybe you have lost touch with friends you feel are too active, believing you can’t keep up. You may feel that some of your friends just don’t understand what you are experiencing and that some are even downright insensitive.

Chronic pain can be lonely. But, don’t give up on friendship. As a first step, it is important to realize that while it is not possible to change other people, you are in charge of your own behavior. Start by thinking of what you can do to begin the process of improving your relationships. Here are some ways to improve and repair friendships that may have been negatively impacted by your chronic pain.

1) Take the initiative to arrange social activities and events that you can do, rather than simply turning down those that seem difficult. Start by making a list of activities you are capable of doing. Sometimes reducing the amount of time or the time of day can make an event more “doable.” Keep an open mind about trying new things. Schedule time with friends in advance.

2) Don’t expect your friends to know what you are going through. If they don’t have chronic pain, they can’t really know. You can offer to explain your situation a little at a time, or ask yourself whether it is really essential that your friends know what you are feeling.

3) To decrease the sense of isolation that may come with chronic pain, each day make small but regular connections with others. Email, text, phone or use Facebook or Pinterest to stay in touch and involved.

4) Sometimes pain interferes with the ability to be a friend. As much as you need support from others, you may have gotten out of the habit of providing support. It feels just as good to give as to receive. Make a list of the important people in your life and list the ways in which you can support them.

5) Look for opportunities to meet new people and create new relationships. When you are around others, make every effort to focus on them rather than on yourself.

6) Understand that your family and friends may feel uncomfortable because they may want to help, but may not know how. Be direct in conversations about how they can help.

7) Learn to pace yourself in social activities. Doing too much on one day may only reduce how much you can do the next day.

8) When we are in pain, it is natural to want to tell others about it. And sharing can be therapeutic. But before doing so, consider whether there is anything the other person can say or do that will change your pain. If not, then sharing may only make both of you feel worse. Your friend may feel inadequate to help or overwhelmed and you may feel even more helpless and alone.

9) Sometimes people with chronic pain find themselves focusing on what their pain has taken away. After you have spent time with friends, try to focus on what you enjoyed, what felt good and what went right. {PP}

About the Author. Dr. Linda Ruehlman is a social/health psychologist and researcher, co-founder of Goalistics, and director of the Chronic Pain Management Program, an interactive site that helps people with chronic pain to manage their pain and live richer, more effective lives as well as Think Clearly about Depression, a self-management program for depression.

DISCLAIMER: This blog is provided as an educational and informational resource only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional psychological or medical advice.

PainPathways Magazine

PainPathways Magazine

PainPathways is the first, only and ultimate pain magazine. First published in spring 2008, PainPathways is the culmination of the vision of Richard L. Rauck, MD, to provide a shared resource for people living with and caring for others in pain. This quarterly resource not only provides in-depth information on current treatments, therapies and research studies but also connects people who live with pain, both personally and professionally.

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