Pain can be an isolating experience. However, simply knowing that others are out there who are going through what you are also experiencing can provide great comfort. The Internet has made connections across longer distances more possible than ever before. PainDoctor.com harnessed the digital age to create Faces of Pain for patients all over the world to share their stories. This can lead to opportunities to lean on one another for support and create communities both local and online.
Faces of Pain
Faces of Pain can be found on the web and additional discussions are facilitated via an online forum. However, individuals can also connect in an online support group through Facebook so the conversation is always at their fingertips. The Facebook page is a closed group so member privacy can be protected and individuals can feel comfortable discussing topics that may be difficult. Membership, however, is normally granted upon request.
Founder Paul Lynch launched the PainDoctor.com forum page with the inaugural post in 2013:
“Welcome fellow pain sufferers. It saddens me that so many of you are afflicted with Chronic Pain. I have made it my life’s work to help those who are suffering with chronic pain. Sometimes that comes in the form of support from others who have walked in your shoes.[…]I suggest that each of you take some time and tell us “your story.” What type of pain do you have? How long have you had it? What caused it? What has helped your pain? We created different categories to make it easier to find information about your condition. Let us know if we can do anything to make this better for you.”
As the site has gained more traffic, people began to share their stories to help themselves and others cope with the devastating effects of chronic pain. The page aims to provide a public outlet for anyone experiencing chronic pain. They can upload a photo and share their story or simply how they are feeling in the moment.
The goal is to raise awareness of chronic pain and let everyone know they are not alone.
Inspiration comes in many forms
Thomas Baker shared his story on Faces of Pain, citing his 11 grandchildren as his primary inspiration. Proving that no one is one-dimensional, Thomas also seeks the comfort of animals. “I also run an animal rescue that keeps me busy and I can talk to the animals and they listen.” He lives one day at a time, takes some pain medications, and stays as active as possible with support from his family and friends. He hopes to start a chain of animal rescues and shelters one day.
In another post on Faces of Pain, Tina acknowledges that she is not alone in her struggle and that keeps her going. “Today, I was able to get some rest, I actually woke up – thank you Lord for that. To cope, I take my meds daily, use a heating pad, and rest a lot.” Tina has not one but five home-based companies she is trying to establish so she can earn a living from home. “So, I pray that it all works.”
Nicole uses nature to inspire her. She is also a business owner and she works hard to get as much done as possible every day because she doesn’t know what each passing day will bring. “I love being outdoors in nature so anything with nature inspires me to try and get out as much as possible.” She strives to be self-sufficient, grow her business, and be as pain-free as possible. All the while she likes to try new things and be adventurous so she can have her independence again.
Another user on Faces of Pain, Jeanette, acknowledges that pain can often be an invisible disease which can impact her relationship with the world around her. She wants to make a difference in the lives of others and raise funds and awareness for lupus and all invisible diseases. “It’s time all our voices are heard so that better treatments are made available and the world is made aware of the suffering so that people are no longer choosing to hide at home than face judgment of all those who have no understanding of their suffering.”
Becky wants to focus on the beautiful things in life. She is inspired by others who help people even when they themselves are going through struggles related to chronic pain. She wants to focus on teaching her daughter everything she knows. “I want to take time for myself when I am feeling well enough to enjoy it. I’m focused on having a great summer and trying to build my core muscles.” Every little step helps.
And Erin Foley-Machnik uses music to face her pain on a daily basis. “Right after my fusion, I could not sing or play my guitar for nearly a year.” She was terrified that she would forever lose her voice. “When my vocal ability came back, I realized that music was a more effective pain management tool than heavy narcotics. I ran with that and I have not looked back since.”
Creating a community
Each of these stories, and all of the stories on Faces of Pain, provides an insight into the lives of individuals struggling with chronic pain conditions. They give us a window into their lives and show that no one is truly alone. They are inspirational. They can help anyone see beyond their own situation and find new ways to keep going, cope better, or change habits that can affect chronic pain. Everyone finds comfort in something in their lives and it is encouraging to hear how other people see the beauty around them in spite of the pain they feel daily.
In conjunction with sharing stories and photos on the website, individuals are encouraged to join the conversation and provide support to one another through the Facebook group.
Support groups have proven to be a successful tool for coping with a variety of challenges, including chronic pain. Online forums like Faces of Pain and the Facebook group can help but you may also want to check out local resources in your community to meet face-to-face with other individuals coping with the same or similar conditions.
What is your pain story? What will your verse be?
Image by Daniel Wehner via Flickr