Pain Connects

My dog died last week. He was just shy of his 13th birthday. He was not just my best friend. He was my constant companion.

Farley was next to me when I was a young newly-wed. He was with me throughout my pregnancy, and then with my newborn. He was with me when I got sick with what I now know is Sjogren’s Syndrome. He was with me every single day, when I woke up in the morning, tripped over the dog while making coffee, fed the dog, let the dog out, told the dog to stop barking, scolded him for waking up my now seven-year-old, snuggled with the dog while daughter ate breakfast, scolded daughter for leaving breakfast on the coffee table, scolded dog for eating said breakfast, walked the daughter out the door to school, then walked myself and the dog.

Whether I was feeling good and up in my office working, or feeling sick and laying on the couch, he was with me. And now he was gone.

I had never felt so alone. 

There was only one thing that truly helped me during this time. And I’m still kinda shocked that it helped as much as it did.

I posted about it on my personal Facebook page. I admitted how much pain was flowing through me. I shared things I didn’t know were swirling in my head.

My admission of pain was met with nothing but kindness. Nearly all who reached out had experienced the loss of a treasured pet. From messages of commiseration to messages of hope, from funny memories to spiritual comfort, the people who I’ve let into my life over the years gave me something I felt void of: Hope.

I share this story with you now for one reason: If you’re struggling with a medical diagnosis like lupus, don’t keep it all in. Your life has been forever changed. And in addition to the physical discomfort you’re experiencing, there’s a whole ‘nother mental component of chronic illness that, until you’re in the throes of it, you wouldn’t consider.

Like the death of my faithful companion, being diagnosed with an incurable chronic illness forever changes your routines. Life as you knew it ceases to exist. And you face a new reality that’s scary, painful, and debilitating.

I remember feeling so misunderstood when I first got sick. Then I found a community with Lupus Colorado. I also found a community of “spoonies” on social media. The connections were invaluable. But I’d forgotten just how much this community of understanding helped me through this tough time.

The pain of losing my best bud reminded me of just how many of us are in pain. And just how much our pain connects us, and how with connection, pain lessens.

I didn’t allow myself to grieve when I got sick. I made a significant effort to put on a show, shouting, Alls Well to anyone listening. I didn’t want people to see my weaknesses.

But that was six years ago. And since then, I’ve consistently learned that there’s strength in admitting your pain. You give others a chance to be of service, to help you get through a tough time. And most of all, you show others that it’s okay to share their pain, too.

To have a disease like lupus means living with pain. Don’t go it alone.