Good morning Hank, it’s Tuesday. So in last week’s video I said, “You’ll never guess where I’m going next.” And your lovely wife commented “It was a toss up between whether you were going to the dentist or the airport, honestly.” Well, the joke’s on you Katherine, because I’m at the dentist. I’ve been to the dentist a lot more than 150 times, actually, in the 13 long years since I was standing on a curb in Chicago reading a novel and a bike messenger’s shoulder ran into my face. The original fractures were initially misdiagnosed which led to a long-term infection and many, many surgeries and quite a bit of ongoing pain. Alright I think I’ve had enough of watching that. Hi! Greetings from the future where I’m in my basement. So Hank, this pain goes way back. In fact I complained about it in January of 2007 in the third video I ever made. “Hank, as you know, I had surgery on my mouth a few weeks ago.” I complained about it again in a video a few months ago when my mouth was still numb. And, in between, I’ve found little ways of talking about it without talking about it. Like, back in March of 2007, I complained about a “doctor’s visit” that was actually a dentist’s visit at which my oral surgeon told me, and I’m quoting him directly here, “You probably have nothing to worry about.” I probably have nothing to worry about, If I probably have nothing to worry about, then I definitely have something to worry about. Ah, how right you were me from the past. I should say, that person is no longer my oral surgeon and these days I have some of the best dentists and oral surgeons around. I’m very, very lucky to have such incredible care, but, it often still hurts a lot. One of the problems with physical pain, I mean aside from the pain itself, which for me at least is literally maddening, is that physical pain is essentially unshareable. Like, a few days ago my son was bitten by an ant and after he told me what happened, he said “it hurt like this” and then he pinched me. He was trying to shrink the space between his pain and my understanding of it, and language just wouldn’t suffice. Not because he’s six but because language is always inadequate in the face of pain. But, of course, being pinched doesn’t really help you understand the pain of someone else’s ant bite either. It’s very, very hard, if not impossible to bridge that empathy gap. I’ve talked before about Elaine Scarry’s brilliant book, The Body in Pain, which was first recommended to me by Mike Rugnetta. In one famous passage of the book, Scarry writes, “To have great pain is to have certainty. To hear that another person has pain is to have doubt.” In that respect, and many others, physical pain can be profoundly isolating. No matter how many similes and metaphors you employ to describe the pain, No matter how many times you pinch the people you love to try to get them to understand, No one can ever know quite what it’s like to have your pain, anymore than you can know what it’s like to have someone else’s. Pain is a reminder that you are alone inside your body, that no one else can access your consciousness, and that what you call yourself is, at least in some ways, a kind of prison from which there is no earthly escape. a kind of prison from which there is no earthly escape. And that’s like horror movie level terrifying if you think about it long enough. And that’s how I feel at least when pain is turning me inward and inward in an ever tightening spiral. But that’s not all pain can do. This is the part of the video where I generally take a turn towards hopefulness, Hank, which is challenging when it comes to chronic pain, but I don’t think impossible. I guess that’s easy for me to say because, again, I have excellent care and I don’t live in constant pain. And I wanna make clear, I don’t subscribe to the idea that suffering is somehow en-nobling. It sucks. But I do think when you find yourself able to turn outward, knowing pain can help you be much more empathetic. Which in turn helps us to alleviate each other’s suffering, because sometimes listening generously to people in pain and believing them can be very good medicine. So, Hank, Nerdfighteria, thank you for listening. Hank, I’ll see you on Friday.

100 thoughts on “On Pain”

  1. The worst to me seems to be when you are in chronical pain, but you don't have any idea why. You go to the doctor and if you are lucky, he will take your pain seriously and then you will get medication to ease it ; but most of the time, you have to be insistent of your pain, how it is disabeling you and how it is repetitive to finally have answers. The moment between the initial pain and the serious diagnostic is painful in itself, because it usually take so long (years in many cases) and make you feel like you're imposing or extrapolating how you feel. To be alone in your own body is then a part of you that can never go away and define how you constantly feel when you describe your sickness.

  2. The empathy bit is certainly true. I've had fibromyalgia since I was a teenager, and on one hand it's shown me what different difficulties other people must also go through with their own conditions, and on the other hand resigned me to the fact that my mother will never understand my pain because she is seriously the most healthy person I have ever met and never had any pain lasting longer than a week and so she will keep telling me well-meaning but ultimately hurtful things about how to handle my condition.

  3. We've really fucked up when it comes to pain management. Psychedelic drugs have pain reduction qualities and we all know about their situation…

  4. I'm so grateful you made this video John. I've literally got back from the dentist myself and I'm in pretty much constant pain due to my dental issues too! I didn't get hit in the face but I was born with missing teeth and at age 12 I got orthodontic work which 3 years later has screwed up my jaw and everything is a big mess. So much so my specialist is unsure of what to do right now and I felt so damn alone. But after this I just, I teared up a little. Not only was it about pain but dental pain and I finally felt like someone knew how horrid teeth and mouth problems can be because everyone I know just dismisses it. So I'm truly truly thankful because although what you said was so painfully true it made me feel a hell of a lot better. Love you John 🙂

  5. On the subject of pain, here's an interesting fact: you cannot remember pain in the same way that you remember other things. If you lose yourself in a memory sometimes your mind can produce the sensations that you had during that memory. Not so with pain, your mind cannot conjure up the sensation of pain no matter how profound that memory of pain is. If you try and remember though, you will feel something. I'm sure you've felt it, that tingling sensation that so commonly comes with seeing something revolting. Your mind is openly fighting against remembering that pain. The reasons for this are not well understood, but one theory is that since remembering pain clearly would only do harm to people the mind forbids it from happening.

  6. I would recommend Andrea Scarpino's "What the Willow Said as it Fell," which is a collection of poems she wrote on the topic of chronic pain– that of her own and that of other's as well. Very beautiful and helpful words. (Amazon link to her book)

  7. I have Fibromyalgia and live in chronic pain. Everything you say is absolutely true. I get frustrated trying to describe my pain to doctors. One of two things happens. 1) I don't describe my pain adequately and they think it's a simple pain that's go away if I occupy myself with something to distract from the pain. Or 2) I describe it well enough and very accurately but they think I am being melodramatic. I can't win in this situation. And I still get treated like a drug addict and drug seeker.

    Sometimes, just finding one person who believes me makes a huge difference. Not to the pain, but to my mindset. I know I am going to be in pain forever and that is daunting. I can't imagine living 40 more years like this.

  8. I know how much the ant bite hurts, as I was bitten by one too. Gosh, it was painful, I didn't even look at what bit me and slapped it on my leg, it was in the middle of the process so I had to pull it out! To understand the physical pain of someone, you must have the same experience I guess.

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  10. While I realize it's not common, there are people with mirror-touch synesthesia, and they can physically feel the same sensations others do (including intense pain).

    As for me, while my synesthesia doesn't allow me to feel the physical pain of others, I can literally feel the emotions of others. It can get overwhelming, and there are times I get physical sensations when feelings are strong (breathless, cold burning near my neck and shoulders, dizziness, pain in certain areas, tightness, etc.), but it's something I wouldn't trade.

  11. I am 19 years old and have always identified as the Leslie Knope of everything I do. Until recently. At 19, I have had a severe chronic pain condition called RSD/CRPS which is above the level of amputation in my hands and feet. I am nauseous all the time because of the pain and had to leave a wonderful college due to medical bills and the sheer fact that I can't even get to class. I switched to online schooling which I will start in September, but I just want to ask everyone out here (if anyone actually reads this) to please, PLEASE believe people who say they're in pain. Don't yell at me in a grocery store because I used the electric cart because it feels like I have knives digging into my feet. Don't call me a drug addict. Please believe us. We're in so much pain all the time. And we have sacrificed everything.

  12. interesting, some people can literally feel everything that other people do, because of an over active part of their brain.

  13. Migraines have to be the worst pain I've ever experienced, and mine are extremely minor by migraine standards.

    But they're bad enough that I wasn't surprised when I read suicide is a major cause of death for migraine sufferers, and the thought of ibuprofen no longer helping terrifies me.

  14. I wish this video and your explanation of being unable to explain pain to others had existed when 14 year old me got a stress fracture in her L4 vertebra 5 years ago. I spent years trying to explain the pain to people who needed an explanation past "I have a stress fracture in my back" for why I couldn't run, jump, stand for too long, walk too much, or basically anything besides lying on my back without a constant (arguably not super bad but REALLY ANNOYING AND CONSTANT) pain.

  15. This video really got to me, I'm 17 and I've suffered from chronic pain for 2/3 years now and the way you talked about it being isolating hit me so hard😞

  16. Sometimes you must hurt in order to know, fall in order to grow, lose in order to gain, because lifes greatest lessons are learned through pain.

  17. I find it amazing that after all these years your videos haven't ceased to be so abundant in originality and value 🙂

  18. This video means a lot to me. And I will eventually write an intelligent and intellectual comment about it, and the reasons why,, but, on a slightly brighter note – when John brings up the point about how no matter how many metaphors and similes you can come up with to try to describe pain, it just will not convey what you are feeling accurately, and will not allow the other person to experience what you've experienced: this reminds me a lot of when I was reading Harry Potter 5 (Order of the Phoenix), and they were saying that Harry's scar was burning with excruciating pain. And, I've admittedly always doubted that the teensiest bit. Not because I didn't believe that Harry was in horrendous pain, but because I couldn't understand it, I couldn't perceive what he was feeling, so it seemed far off to me. Just an interesting example I thought of here.

  19. I really relate to this! I have fibromyalgia, which means I'm always in pain and have been in constant pain for 8 years now. People always doubt it. Doctors especially doubt it if you're young, and even more so if you are a woman in pain. It sucks, and people don't understand how helpful it can be to just say, "that sucks," instead of offering words of advice or doubt. John, I hope you have more good days than bad days with your pain, and that also goes to your bro with his chronic illness.

  20. Hey, John this was an excellent video! I can relate, I've had a bad bite all my life and clicking in my jaw due to a deformity. I had pain from laughing too much, chewing, and yawning. Oddly until I was told by a dentist that what I was experiencing wasn't normal, It didn't bother me nearly as much. I just recently got double jaw surgery to correct this, and the recovery has been brutal. The swelling and pain is one thing, but my mouth is wired shut, so feeding myself is very challenging. I'd say that the mental anguish is the hardest part of this recovery, because its the most upsetting and frustrating thing in the world when you are an adult and your parents have to blend your food for you and you can only eat through a syringe. Another challenge is not being able to speak, so you cant tell people what is wrong. It really makes you feel like you feel like you are trapped inside yourself and no one can truly understand.

  21. This was really interesting to hear, because I deal with very severe menstrual cramps. In general, it's hard to describe them, especially to men who have and never will experience them. But when I discuss the pain I'm experiencing with other women, they can't fully understand it, even if they also experience cramps. I kind of thought it was just a "every person's body is different so they react differently to similar stimuli" but I never thought of it in the way you described it, but it really hit the nail on the head.

  22. What you said was very interesting John. Very true too. You said that pain reminds you that you are alone in your body? Interesting when you said that the SELF is a trap. Yes, it is a trap. It limits us and our spiritual lucidity. Yet, it functions as a tool to navigate this world. Mouth pain is horrible, I know. So is my sub arachnoid brain cyst with a broken implanted shunt system. And the 21 kidney stones I've passed, 19 of em' with no help or pain killers. You and your brother do understand pain. Some extremely healthy people don't seem to.

  23. i went to the dentist since my left side hurts but she says nothing is wrong. so i get where you are coming from

  24. Hey, vlogbros,
    Chronic pain, especially dental pain lives in the universe of obsession. "Lone" inside yourself, alone in a twisted universe" is often managed with that smidgen of relief one gets between its jabs.
    Suggest you google "The Borax Conspiracy" by Walter Last or the audio version, "The Borax Miracle" mechanically read on YT.
    Surprisingly a 1/4 tsp taken throughout the day as the pain returns (three+ months it took me) to stop the pain and possibly? heal the daemon.
    Namaste and care,

  25. Me and My best friend both have chronic pain, and although hers is much worse than mine, not to be comparing or anything, she just needs surgeries for her joints and ect while i don't. Anyway, this hit me really hard because we have lots of conversations about empathy and sympathy and loneliness and I think I'm going to watch this video more than once.

  26. "Pain is what the patient says it is". This is something I've learned over and over again in nursing school. Believe what people tell you. Their pain is real, never doubt it even if they're lying. Imagine that.

  27. My fiance has a spinal injury, MS & diabetic neuropathy (sp?) and the pain isolation is a constant battle. I want to be empathetic and compassionate but sometimes my best efforts are not able to permeate the dense cloud of his vast pain experience. Though it is hard and often is not successful, I still try to be a partner to his pain experience and offer support for his pain. Thank you John for voicing the frustration with chronic pain and for the book recommendation

  28. Hi John. Hugh Everett. You are not you and I am not me and I can not understand what this means unless we all die. That is all. Have a nice day.

  29. My pain took my prom. My pain took my high school graduation. My pain took my friends. My pain took my ability to walk. My pain took my memory. My pain took my sleep. My pain took my scholarship. My pain took my college degree. My pain has taken, and continues to take things from me. However, by far the worse thing my pain has taken? The sympathy of doctors, friends, relatives, nurses… Humans.

    (I am 21, I have had chronic pain for 10 years. I have Endometriosis, Hypothyroidism, Late-stage Lyme disease, Atheromas/Artery Tumors, Chronic Back Pain, and Dysautonomia.)

  30. I think the most tasteful description of pain I've ever read was written by Stephen Brust in one of his Vlad Taltos books. It is written in the first person, and it features a torture scene. None of the agony is described. The narrator just starts describing a painting on the wall in painstaking detail, commenting on each aspect, doing a bit of art criticism, all to take his mind off the horrible things happening to him. And I feel that is far and away the most effective description of pain I've ever read, because it didn't describe how the pain felt – it described how DEALING WITH IT felt. In the end, if you want to describe agony, this is a useful method.

  31. The worst part of pain for me is that it makes me feel narcissistic. Pain drives me into myself and it becomes really hard to think about anyone else's needs. This is fine for an hour but when flare ups last a week or more that amount of introspection and oblivion to others needs feels very unhealthy. However the urge is very hard to resist.

  32. Chronic pain human here. Yes, yes, and ditto to everything you said. I thought I had read every book on pain, but I have not; looking forward to reading The Body In Pain. Another great book is How To Be Sick by Toni Bernhard, a chronic pain patient herself. It's been my bible. Shout out to chronic pain communities on FB and otherwise. The only other people who understand are those who have been through it themselves, and hearing "Yes, me too" helps so much when you start to feel isolated. DFTBA! ~J

  33. Another chronic pain person here. Quickly, permanent nerve damage in lower back, right hip, hamstring, knee and on rainy days my right foot, particularly my toes. Spinal L5S1 disk herniated, ruptured and then degenerated to nothing. Microdisketomy, Laminectomy, spinal cage fusion. Incredibly rare bone cancer in 6 vertebrae which hollowed out each vertebra up to 86% gone that caused T10 vertebra to fracture, 5 weeks of radiation treatment. 10 surgeries since 2003 and has not stopped hurting since then with every heartbeat, it is there. I worked as long as I possibly could but caved in a couple years ago and went full disability. My wife and 3 boys completely understood but we lost our home months after, blue cross/shield insurance dropped me once I wasn't protected by my company anymore. Disability insurance has cancelled payment multiple times because they assumed I went back to work because I didn't respond quickly enough to their phone calls. This last time we went 6 months without any income. Moral: no matter how hard you work, protect, prepare, give, love, it can all be taken away no matter your physical/psychological strength. Chronic pain chips away at the persons psyche until it stops or the person does.

  34. I looked up "vlogbrothers Percy Jackson" and this came up. I was hoping there might be a reference or something but this is good too

  35. As someone who's days are regularly ruined by migraines (and waking up this very morning with a head splitting one) I took a lot of comfort out of this video.

    Hang in there, dear people in the comments.

  36. How did you not once in this video did you say pain demands to be felt… anyhoo I loved this video but I love all you

  37. The thing I wish he discussed most in regards to pain is the treatment of it, especially in regards to the opioid epidemic. I have severe pain from a gastric pacemaker gone wrong, that was trying to treat the extremely painful stomach disease Gastroparesis. I now have to be treated like a drug addict by my own doctors just to be treated for said pain. When you have chronic pain, you are not treated like other patients who are sick, but must prove you're not lying about your debilitating issues to a primary care doctor, and then if you are lucky, you get to see the pain specialist, who makes you feel even more like a druggie as you are forced to pee in a cup for a drug test and have to visit monthly like a dealer. It's humiliating and depressing.

  38. John described the protagonist from his new book as having to deal with an "ever-tightening spiral." I guess that's a phrase that's stuck with him.

  39. I have a lot of chronic pain, pretty permanently, and this is so true. It's even more isolating when people don't believe you're in pain, as with a lot of chronic pain, it's not something you can see

  40. Am I the only one who had to pause the video when he brought up the ever tightening spiral of his consciousness and pain? He's been thinking about Turtles All The Way down for quite some time. Also, greetings and salutations from the future.

  41. 🐢I swear since reading TATWD, when I'm rewatching old vlogbrother vids, (which I do every so often) I'm like turtles is literally everywhere. It's true when you said that it's the one that talks about more recent truths than past truths (paraphrasing here) but… Yeah…. I really loved turtles, thank you so much for writing it and sharing it with us. 🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢 insert a name specific sign off

  42. I'm in an emotionally abusive relationship with my "self". I am not so much scared of physical pain as I am of mental, though I don't want to discount physical pain and those it begrudges.

  43. I think part of this is that when you’re in pain you’re constantly aware of it, where-as if someone else is in pain you’re aware of it on a different, shallower level

  44. Huh. Either a hint at or a glimpse into the creation of Turtles All the Way Down. The whole pain, thing… Also the endless spiral.

  45. I lost my two front teeth from my dentist messing up on my root canals and due to to an infection, and I had to lose them and get bone replacement. By the time I was 16 I had three mouth surgery and it’s been the worst experience of my life. I can’t look at myself in the mirror without my partial dentures until I get my permanent implants thank you so much for this video it’s nice to know I’m not alone

  46. My chronic pain awful and messing up my life plans a lot it does have one strange affect of making me live in the moment more.
    It’s keeps me in the present so I spend less time overthinking about the universe and more time with my friends and family. It’s has made me more grateful of the little things too

  47. This video reminds me of the Black Mirror episode about the doctor who could feel all the pain of the patients to be able to diagnose them properly.

  48. Thanks so much for making this video. I have lived in constant never-ending pain for 2 years now. Specifically migraine. A never ending, slowly increasing migraine. That is just one of the many types of chronic pain I experience on a daily basis, (I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome) and have my whole life. You in saying we feel alone were right, but in saying that made me feel less alone. Thank you.

  49. I keep coming back to this video…my doctor believes I have endometriosis, and it causes me extreme pain. It's frustrating because people truly do not understand what that pain is like unless they have it. I don't know, I guess this video just helps remind me that just because they don't get it doesn't make it invalid or less real. So thank you.

  50. 2:05 – 2:35 … I listened to the whole thing, nodding knowingly, until this section and then I broke down in tears.

    I suffer severe to excruciating pain on a daily basis. (you can see evidence of this in some of my videos on my channel where I'm vlogging some of my health issues) I am 47 and have suffered pain since I was 18. I have too many things to remember starting with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Myofascial Pain Disorder, Bulging discs in my cervical and thoracic spinal areas pressing on my spinal cord, arthritis, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, Raynaud's Syndrome, hip bursitis (bilateral), headaches and migraines, kidney stones (new issue), either meralgia paresthetica (new Dx), knee joint locking up (new issue), lumbar lordosis, and the biggie Trigeminal Neuralgia (rare disease, produces worst pain known to mankind, aka the suicide disease!).

    So I completely empathize with John and anyone who suffers chronic pain. I know how much it brings down your life and drains you until you break down emotionally because you can't handle it anymore. And I know that it is so frustrating not to be able to plug yourself into someone else so they can experience for a moment what you are experiencing so you can share with them what you feel like and are going through! This would be especially helpful to be able to do with a doctor. John's right. It's isolating. I sometimes feel like I'm far, far out at sea where you can't see any land and I'm just floating there, in the dark of night, with the extraordinary black ocean depths right below me! So yeah, isolating is the perfect word… along with frustrating and sometimes despairing.

    It's also true about not knowing how others feel. My best friend and I suffer terribly. She shares many of the same things I have. There are some differences. She has late stage Lyme and severe Migraines, I have Trigeminal Neuralgia and Raynaud's, etc. But we suffer many of the same things and it's hard seeing her go through it because I know what I go through and I wouldn't wish it on anyone! But here again, I cannot feel what she feels. Is hers incredibly worse than mine? I dunno.

    It's just really hard when there's an experience that we can't share. My docs could help me so much better if they understood my pain. Having aphasia, I lack the ability to truly describe it to them. But maybe someday we'll invent a VR device that allows one user to share their pain with another.

  51. I just finished Turtles All The Way Down and this description is almost EXACTLY what is described in the book. Just noticing.

  52. Agreed! I have chronic pain (CRPS/RSD) and have always hated being asked to rate my pain on scale of 1-10. My scale or someone else's? Becuase my base pain in likely someone else's 10. And is 1 the lowest my pain gets ever, the lowest it's been in X amount of time or the lowest I can imagine it being?

    I hate that damned useless pain rating scale.

  53. I often come back to this video, I have too been dealing with oral pain after 2 infections and 1 misdiagnosed pulp extraction that lead to a need for a root canal. Been having daily pain for 6 months now and it's isolating but also something I'm desperate to explain to my loved ones but its far too hard to describe

  54. I love the comment section for these kinds of videos. There's something emotionally soothing to hear about others enduring chronic pain–it's one thing to know there are all sorts of people hurting out there so you're technically not alone, but it's another to read discussions about it in the light of camaraderie. I have migraines, gastroparesis, nerve pain, and POTS. I often "meet" people with these conditions just by scrolling a little ways even though I may only meet migraine sufferers in real life. Even something common like migraines have so much variability: mine are almost every day, sometimes not too bad other than nauseating, but other times ricocheting through my body with my other conditions, and those ricochet elsewhere. Naturally, I'm more exhausted than anything else. People that have experienced pain as healthy individuals with isolated incidences don't understand, and I agree that there's no word arsenal that can interpret things for them. At the end of the day, I give points for trying to empathize and being patient (a rarity considering how quickly many people depart a conversation once there's any hint of pain or illness). Even doctors can be squeamish about or disinterested in caring for hard to treat chronic issues.

  55. I don't know why I found this video in a Game Design playlist but it was good =)
    However you made a huge mistake by focusing on physical pain as all you say completely applies to psychological pain.

  56. My mom has chronical pain in her mouth area for months now and she in fact becomes mad. Everyday she shouts at us, she is depressed, agressive and hysterical for like over half a year already and there is no big chance of finding the cause for she visited every doctor in our region. I also had chronical pain, but it was a permanent headache that sometimes would grow into migraines and it sucked but I found out the reason was mental and healed myself with a good ol' pen and paper. Having damn migraines that turn me into a crying, disfunctional piece of garbage didn't help me empathize with my mom's pain for our coping mechanisms are absolutely different and let me feel more often that isolation from others (oh I've got a small headache too)

  57. This frustrated me so much during physical therapy! I needed to rate my pain often for my therapists, and I never figured out how to explain it properly. When they asked to rate it 1-10, I always struggled because what reference point would make most sense? Should a 10 be the worst pain I can imagine, or just the worst pain I've experienced? And since I'm kinda "used" to it, am I underrating my own pain? It's just so difficult to explain in words, which sucks because if the best I can do is say "it hurts and I'm in pain," it makes it harder for me and my doctor to find a solution. I wish my doctor could just do some magical scan and suddenly she'd understand what it felt like, but sadly that isn't possible

  58. One of my teeth has chronic ache when i get some cold beverage. Back in the first day i sensed that pain, i went to a dentist right away and then he check the state of tooth without any caution like mercilessly. So i got extreme pain at that moment, but i couldnt help but to be patient. In spite of the fact that it was one part of the treatment process, i was kind of in a bad mood after seeing him for some reason. Probably i think this is what you are saying.

  59. Watched this two years ago and didn’t really get it. Now I have constant chronic pain due to my ibd and I relate so hard. Thank you YouTube algorithm for giving me this video.

  60. I don't understand how I've never heard this story before. I was standing on a trail outside San Francisco in 2003 when a dudebro on a mountain bike came down a hill at top speed and hit me. I broke my neck, my ribs, lacerated my liver, displaced half my pelvis….I can keep going.

    Ultimately 15yrs later I am left spinal cord disabled and a severe chronic pain patient. I LOATHE it when people try to argue with me that it couldn't have been a bike.

  61. I have multiple chronic disorders and it’s awful. I’m 16 and for years my life has been stolen by suffering. I don’t remember what not being in pain felt like. I mourn the loss of my teenage years because I can’t attend school in constant pain.

  62. John, you do wonderful work elucidating the thoughts and feelings that I didn’t know I had. Your able compression of the physical and psychosocial aspects of living with chronic pain into a few short minutes was for me the exact balm of empathy that you mention in closing here.
    Many thanks m, sincerely.

  63. I revisit this video often since it really resonates with me as someone who’s invisibly ill. Thank you, John.

    I’ve had symptoms of what my doctors have been calling “emerging lupus” or “undifferentiated connective tissue disease” since I was 11. The symptom that interferes with my daily functioning the most is the fatigue, but the pain from arthritis can certainly be very isolating.

    Complaining seemed reasonable as a kid, since I hoped there would be a medication that would bring relief, but the longer the pain dragged out, the less sense it made to subject everyone around me to detailed descriptions of how much I was suffering. So I really, really understand what John is saying about turning inward and inward. I’ve truly tried everything over the past 21 years, so I ask a favor before I indulge in a little complaining below: please don’t offer solutions to my pain unless you are my rheumatologist and have read my massive medical history.

    I live with a constant, low-grade pain that I would describe as dull and aching in all of my joints. Sometimes I have good days and I barely feel it, but most of the time the pain sits at around a 4/10 (imho). Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs help with the stiffness, but not the pain. When I really focus on that dull aching pain, it feels a little like all my joints are grinding against each other.

    The worst pain I experience is when the joint pain flares up. On those days, the pain shoots up to a maximum of 9/10, and it’s very difficult for me to get out of bed. The sensation varies from feeling like each joint is being dissolved in a vat of acid, to feeling as though I’m being shot or stabbed in each joint repeatedly. To compare to other painful things you may have experienced, broken bones (I mean snapped clean in half) and major surgery pale in comparison. I’d put those at about a 5/10, and I’ve refused pain medication in both cases.

    It’s been a particularly rough week. Thank you for listening.

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