We have no doubt you have heard the children’s rhyme, Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
“Sticks and Stones” is an English-language children’s rhyme. The rhyme is used as a defense against name-calling and verbal bullying, intended to increase resiliency, avoid physical retaliation, and/or to remain calm and indifferent.
That may well be the thinking for creating resilience in children, but that notion can still be carried into adult life, with devastating effects on people living with invisible chronic pain. Casual words in conversation without any idea of what someone is having to deal with can be very hurtful, create huge upset and trauma. Living with trigeminal neuralgia is a massive life changing challenge, but apart from the clenching of the face and a pause in conversation or a slowness in eating, the onlooker may never be aware of the huge pain level endured by those living with it.
Our society has not been well served with the politicisation of those that may need government support or can’t conform to what is expected. Our education system often plays lip service to inclusivity without really understanding what is actually needed by people living with chronic illness.
Conversations are now more open on individual sexuality and mental health but we still have a long way to go to stop stigmatising living with chronic pain.
Nobody would choose the path of living with chronic pain, losing dignity, losing independence both personally and financially, feeling isolated anxious and hopeless.
We aim to steer conversations in a more positive direction by providing alternative narratives, education, support and advocacy. The following article may help you frame your next conversation with someone living with chronic pain in an inclusive and supporting way
Katie Brebner Griffin is a Melbourne-based social policy research analyst, and a lived experience advocate who appeared on ABC’s You Can’t Ask That S3E1. She also works as an illustrator under the name @ohkdarling.