As I sit in my chair, there is a constant stabbing pain in my right arm and left knee. Both my legs tingle all over, and I have a lingering headache from my dizziness earlier in the week. I’m also beginning to ache all over because it’s late in the day. Even though it’s only around 7:00pm I’m exhausted, despite sleeping in and going to bed at 9:00pm the night before.
This is a normal day for me.
Having Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) has taken lots of things away from me. The main being sport, school is also hard for me (especially getting there in the morning). So is making plans to go out. One thing that has always stayed with me is reading. It’s something I can do to calm myself. There is something relaxing about loosing yourself between the pages of a good book.
And yes, I’m trying to go somewhere with this rather than having a pity party. My point is that chronic pain is hard to deal with because it’s chronic. As in you’re in pain for every single waking moment. That’s what makes it so hard for people who don’t experience it too even begin to understand. Let alone feel comfortable talking about.
So how does this relate to books? Well, in YA you see all kinds of different people being represented and that’s awesome. It’s good to see LGBTQIA+ people, and people of various races and religions finally being represented. It’s amazing that YA authors are able to talk about things like terminal illnesses such as cancer. And topics such as self-harm, suicide, and mental health. But, as someone (with a very limited support group) trying to deal with chronic pain, it would be nice to be represented in even one book. So why aren’t I?
Firstly it’s hard to understand. Try imagining constant pain every hour of every day. You can’t. Go put your foot or hand in a bucket of ice for a minute. Congratulations if you made it through the minute. But now, think about if you had to live with that feeling of cold burning pain constantly. Chronic pain does not always feel like that, there are many different conditions and types of pain.
It’s also hard to convay without sounding whiny. Someone with chronic pain and a hundred negative thoughts going through their head (even though they try to be positive), would be very hard to portray. There is an easy line to cross between showing someone as brave and strong, and someone being whiny and weak. Could you do it without the understanding and experience of living with it?
It’s not like I activaly think about my pain 24/7, but when you are in pain said pain is always going to at the back of your mind. You can’t ignore it and eventually get angry at yourself for letting it consume and control your life. Someone with chronic pain can’t just ‘get over it.’ I can definitely see where it would be difficult (if not impossible), for writers to create a character that thinks about pain constantly but doesn’t annoy the reader. Actually it would be impossible to realistically portray without annoying the reader.
These are just a few reasons I can think of. Let me know your thoughts on this topic, have you ever read a YA book with a character with chronic pain in it? I would love to discuss this topic with you so leave a comment.