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Chronic Pain Conversation

MaryByrneEigel-Event

Recently, our local YMCA branch asked me to speak at a community luncheon about Chronic Pain. They know I have a book coming out on the subject and thought chronic pain management would be of interest to their clients.

I agreed. A date was set. Then I began to worry.

Who really wants to hear about chronic pain? Folks who are in chronic pain often want to deny that they are there. Doctors get frustrated when their patients don’t follow their medical reasoning and advice about it.

The next question I had for myself was – who will attend? The Y is doing the advertising. Members will see the posters. But these people already come for wellness/exercise programs. Won’t this be like preaching to the choir?

Friday came, and I arrived early. The staff was setting up tables and food. People began to stream in from exercise classes and the parking lot. The audience ranged in age from 40ish to 80ish, filling almost 40 chairs.

An older lady who sat in the front commented, “You can just look in someone’s eyes and know they are in pain.” I told her that was only half true. Those of us who know what the experience is like can read the subtle signs. But if someone has never been in long-term pain how can they be expected to understand?

It was special to be together, engaged in a group and validating that pain is real.  That pain is often an uninvited guest requiring special accommodations. That only those who have shared a painful experience can really understand. And that using every available resource to be the best version of yourself requires access to information and opportunities.

I shared my experiences, current research findings and both Internet and local resources. Our sharing was beneficial. Being able to intelligently converse, not just complain about pain, gave people permission to find their voice and speak their truth. I may have been preaching to the choir but it allowed me to see that even they enjoyed adding to their repertoire.

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About Mary Byrne Eigel

Before writing children’s books, Mary spent many years teaching in classrooms and creating art in her studio. She was born with bi-lateral hip dysplasia, a painful condition that causes normal activities, like walking, to be challenging. As a child, when Mary had to trek long distances, she often wished she had a wheelchair. For her, a wheelchair offered pain-free opportunities, not limitations. Mary grew up in Chicago, which is the lakefront inspiration for the town of Sail. She lives in Missouri with her husband and two dogs, Beaux and Trey.

2 responses »

  1. Congratulations on the book and your speaking engagement. All the years I new you in college and in our early married years, I never new you were in pain. You did a great job of hiding it. I never saw the pain in your eyes. I am looking forward to reading your book.

  2. Mary Byrne Eigel

    Thanks, Lisa. I guess I could have earned an acting degree for my coverup. Part of the reason for now sharing is to help advance healthy ways of conversing and managing pain. Shame has a way of silencing and confusing. Book will be available soon. I’ll keep you posted. Love, Mar

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