When People Judge Me for Not Working Because of My Chronic Pain

woman on a bridge

By Lauren Blumer,

A “friend” recently said to me, “I may have a guy for you.” She knows I’m single and have been looking for someone special for a while now.

We spoke over the phone and she asked, “What do you do? What do you keep busy with? I just want to have things to tell him about you.” I reminded her I have chronic pain due to arthritis and that, unfortunately, I can’t work due to the pain. I also told her that I preferred if she didn’t mention my situation to this guy since that’s something I like to personally relay once I know someone.

When I didn’t hear back from her, I reached out to her via text message and asked whatever happened with that guy. Her response was harsh to say the least: “Oh, yeah. He’s looking for someone who works, so he’s not interested.”

I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Was it the fact that my biggest insecurity was staring at me in black and white? Was it her blatant disregard for my feelings? Was it her insensitivity? In actuality, it was all of the above and so much more.  

Yes, I was disappointed in her response, and I knew I could never write something so hurtful like that to someone. Clearly, she lacked empathy and social grace. But what was so painful was that I was being judged because I didn’t work, not for who I was as a person. It didn’t matter that was I good person and what my morals and values were. No, all that mattered was that I didn’t work.          

What’s so ironic about it is that I feel I work very hard. As a matter of fact, I work a full-time job 365 days a year. It’s a job called managing my chronic pain. It’s merciless, unforgiving and unrewarding. It’s not a job I chose and not something I get paid for.

Frankly, in my opinion, it’s harder than any paying job out there. It’s work that consists of constant anxiety, worry, frustration and pain. It’s a carousel of endless decisions, treatments, medications and doctor’s appointments that you can never get off of no matter how badly you try.

It’s a job that isn’t surrounded by people and social interactions. Instead, it’s rather isolating and lonely. Moreover, it’s the kind of work that is so unimaginably painful and emotionally draining, but it’s not even recognized by others.  

This needs to change. Society needs to understand and recognize just how hard we work. 

Furthermore, being young, single and not being able to work because of chronic pain is a tough pill to swallow. It’s a shame that in our society judges a person’s worth by “what they do,” and that it’s easy to feel lost without the identity of a job.  

However, there’s a population of people who don’t have a choice in the matter. In these cases, it’s not about being educated (I graduated college with a 4.0 GPA) or not being able to find work. It’s about not being able to be in the workforce due to chronic pain.

I believe people shouldn’t judge someone just because they can’t work, especially if they may be doing a much more difficult job like managing their chronic pain. I hope people will open their eyes, mind and hearts and try to look at a whole person instead of just a part of them. 

This study was Published by The Mighty.

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