acceptance, accident, addiction, attitude, back pain, car accident, chronic pain, disability, doctors, happiness, health, illness, inflammation, injury, invisible disability, invisible illness, lifestyle, medical, medication, meditation, mindfulness, nerve pain, pain, prescription, spoons
Comments 13

I Make Pain Look Good.

Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of I Forgot How To Feel Better (1)

Take a look at this person.

Because she's all about that bass. (Conceitedly copyrighted by J. W. Kain.)

Because she’s all about that bass. (Conceitedly copyrighted by J. W. Kain.)

Take a real good look.

Then ask yourself: Is this person in pain?

She looks fine, you think. She doesn’t have a handicap placard on her car. She doesn’t walk with a cane. She isn’t wearing a brace.  You furrow your eyebrows, and then you think: She looks totally normal. 

The thing is that when this picture was taken, she was in a world of pain. She had three sort-of healed spinal fractures and a calcified nerve cluster. Even though she was smiling under the artful disguise of Microsoft Paint, she was hurting. She was wearing a back brace under that dress. She changed into flats as soon as that picture was taken. She found a place to sit down and close her eyes, trying to match her inhales and exhales to the thud-thud-thudding of her spasming muscles. She had her special dichroic glass pill case in her handbag filled with Tramadol, Nabumetone, and Vicodin. She had already calculated how long she could stand being upright and the time it would take to get back to the train that would shepherd her home where she could flop into bed and succumb to the black wave.




Does she look like she’s in pain? That is the eternal question. Those of us who hurt, we participate in the world because we don’t want to be left behind. If we do things, we pay for it later. But we don’t want to be left out.

And we always have the “Pain: The Motion Picture” soundtrack playing along in the background of everything we do.

Whenever I’m out and about, I look at other people and wonder what their pain is. Maybe it’s a herniated disc or a bad knee or a bunion. Maybe it’s an old skiing accident or just the echoes of sleeping wrong. The ghosts of our experiences build us, layer upon layer, into who we are. Those seemingly small problems grow and swell and consume us because of their actual enormity. To us, they are infinity.

So next time you see someone park in a handicapped spot and get out of their car with apparent ease, hold off on the judgment. I could be that person. I qualified for a handicap placard years ago. I qualified for disability earlier this year.

And yet I look totally normal.


  1. Josh Wrenn says

    Completely agree! Nobody can see the kidney damage, the GI issues, the chemo induced neuropathy, the fatigue, and all the other damage from my cancer and its treatment. I look pretty healthy. I deserve to be in those disabled seats on the bus just as much as the senior citizens. I can absolutely qualify for a permit if I need one. I’m on social security disability…and as everybody knows (except idiot Rand Paul)…it is not easy to get on there. But I likely look more fit on the outside than a lot of healthier people. Well said, and thank you for posting this.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for your wonderful post. I have chronic pain along with other disabling, painful conditions. I use assistive devices as often as I have to and when I don’t I still try to smile despite the pain that is sapping all my energy. Your post is on a very good thing everyone needs to understand; just because someone looks ok does not mean they are ok. I have had hate letters left on my windshield, vicious comments spewed at me along with many other things for using my handicap permit.
    I pray the woman in the picture as low of a pain day as possible and as many spoons (spoons comes from the wonderful resource at under Spoon Theory) as she needs. I pray for all of us who have invisible disabilities to have the best day possible.
    Thank you again


  3. Reblogged this on moderndaywarriorprincess and commented:
    This is a wonderful post that is about judging people and how much pain, disability or look sick and are chronically ill. I will try to get my own post about this up as soon as possible. Please read and please take care to second think judging someone on how they look.


  4. Mad Yale Grad says

    “She changed into flats as soon as that picture was taken. ”

    Why didn’t she wear them for the picture?

    High heeled shoes are one of the worst, sexist, misogynistic, anti-woman, anti-human, anti-health, anti-life things ever to be invented and women need to stop wearing them and proudly rock bare feet or shoes designed according to the natural curve of the human foot!!!!

    Read this;


  5. Halcyon Thames says

    Totally agree! This is the hardest thing about my life – that I look “fine” and you think people are judging you all the time.


  6. christine says

    I’m loving all your posts but this has to be a fave! Love the red dress! Adult ducky footed onsie is gonna kill every single time. I wear a necklace with a treasure chest pendant that actually opens. Hiding inside are my back up pain pills just in case. You know, for all those scenarios that can possibly derail an outting. Fashion, function, plus a little pain reduction! We do what we can. -cb #newpenpal

    Liked by 1 person

    • I WANT TO SEE THE NECKLACE!!!!! And thank you for your comment! I love that red dress too. Basically I buy everything from Modcloth. And the ducky onesie is always my favorite in the winter time. 😀 #newpenpal

      Liked by 1 person

      • Great! Your post made me smile-perfect 🙂
        I love that you describe your back brace under your dress, and that you had to remove your heels immediately. Especially on social media, one photo can confuse people into thinking everything is ok.
        I’ve shared old photos, and have to be clear what year they are or people are fast to assume I’m out running around again.
        My favorite part of your piece was reminding us that everyone is in pain. That’s an awesome take-away. Compassion.


  7. Grace says

    Terrific article, and thank you! I am a warrior woman battling CRPS: it never ceases to amaze my how many people will comment at my “appearance” : I must be cured if I am smiling! Duh!! Who would invite me anywhere if I wore my pain like cheap perfume: changing the aroma of every gathering with the scent of flesh on fire, flares and misery!


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