Throughout our lives, we’ve often heard our friends and loved ones explain the depths of pain they experienced. Putting down a pet, watching a parent lose their memory, these things can change us forever. But we never really understand the magnitude of someone’s pain until we have the misfortune of undergoing it ourselves.
#1 Nothing to Do
Having anyone that you deeply care about losing their mental faculties is heartbreaking. They say you start grieving before they pass because you grieve for the person that they were and who they won't be again. Unless you live through it, people just don't realize what it's like to deal with the anger they face when they realize that they're not in control. That or the fear when they're facing something or someone that you can't see. There's literally nothing that you can do for them, except hope that they pass quickly.
#2 In the Dark
Migraines for sure. I had headaches as a teenager and always said, "I have a migraine!" When I was in my late teens, I think I experienced my first migraine. Completely debilitating. Light sources make me want to retch and vomit. I haven't had a full-on migraine in over two years. A couple of times I've felt them coming on and would lay down in the dark, but they never came on. I hope to never have one again. People who get migraines and stay productive truly impress me.
#3 Feeling Tired
Illness-related fatigue. I was sick last year and, at the time, didn't know what it was. I was so unbelievably tired. Colleagues were like, “I'm tired too”. No. I was sleeping at work when no one was around because I just couldn't function and I’ve never done that before. Turns out, I had a virus that then attacked my liver. I had nearly a month off work and slept for most of that, getting up only to go to the toilet then needing to rest after it. It’s so much more than just “feeling tired.”
#4 Love Your Parents
Seeing your parents' health deteriorate. It eventually happens to everyone but my dad has had some serious health issues at the tender age of 64. It came seemingly out of nowhere and he's been in the hospital for a year. The man I saw as Superman can't even walk anymore and it was something I definitely took for granted when he was well. Love your parents, spend as much time with them as possible. They're not around forever.
#5 Trusting Again
My last girlfriend went behind my back. I found her with someone else. I later found out that it was serial. It happened over the course of two years, she had 11 partners who weren’t me. I was so emotionally hurt that, outside of a few one-night-stands, I haven't been involved with anyone for nearly a decade. I'm so lonely, but I don't want to get hurt like that again. I don't know if I can trust again.
#6 A Simple Sneeze
Breaking my ribs. In the hospital, they told me that coughing, gagging, and especially sneezing was going to be excruciating. I did all three of those things in the hospital and I was okay. I felt completely normal because of all the medication they had given me. Then, a few days later I got discharged and went home. A few hours later, when the meds wore off, I sneezed and it was the worst thing that had ever happened to me.
#7 In the Elements
Homelessness is exhausting. Walking for miles every day to the soup kitchen, then work (I worked nights, but didn't make enough for a place), then the shelter or a hidden, grassy area if the shelters were full. I was out in the elements constantly. Towards the winter or even the rain was the worst. That wet cold gets into your bones. You wind up with muscles clenched up and teeth chattering for hours and sometimes you just wish you would finally succumb to the weather. I honestly think, after a while, the brain just switches and you become numb and almost feral. You do this to be able to mentally and physically survive.
#8 Straight-Up Life-Ruining
Having bed bugs. I used to think it was kind of silly that people were so insistent that they were a serious concern. I figured it must be like having fleas, you know? I thought they were kind of annoying but easy enough to stop. Now? I can't even read an article that mentions them without getting itchy and angry. Bed bugs straight-up ruin lives.
#9 More Empathy
For me, it was being involved in a toxic relationship. I always thought getting away from a dangerous person was so easy until I realized I was in love with one. I have a lot more empathy for people stuck in toxicity now. It’s honestly so hard to accept that the person you love is also the worst thing for you.
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#10 Horrifying Beast
Depression is legitimately the most horrifying beast. I've been fighting it for almost 20 years and I only started treatment in late 2016. Before treatment, I hated every single aspect of my life. My job, my family, everything was just a horrible loop. I fought to get out of bed every single day, every waking moment was a chore. When my medication and therapy finally started working, it was like seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. I still have bad days, but therapy has taught me that that's okay. Power through those bad days and good ones are always right around the corner.
#11 Until it Happened
I knew losing someone close to you was painful but I had no idea just how painful it really is. The hurt is there every day and I still lose my breath when it hits me out of nowhere. The reality of never being able to see her again is so agonizingly painful and I never would have known or understood until it happened to me.
#12 Fishing Trip
The last time I talked to my dad, he didn't know it was me on the phone. He talked to me about a fishing trip he took with his sons (my brother and myself) a few months prior. He told me all about it as if I was a random friend. A day later, he was gone. I'm not mad he didn't know it was me. He told "his friend" that the fishing trip was the best thing he'd done in years and if he passed away tomorrow, he'd be happy. It was my birthday weekend and I figured that's why he called.
#13 The Fog I’m Fighting
I have Lupus and the fatigue is like nothing else. No one understands how difficult it is to one day, feel mostly fine and the next, barely get through my day. There are days where counting cash at the end of a shift is a breeze and others I have to count it ten times and still get the numbers wrong. There are plenty of days where I can't even hold a conversation because of the fog I'm fighting through. It hurts. I look like a healthy 25-year-old, which honestly makes it harder.
#14 Falling Apart
Getting old and having your body fall apart, knowing you've got maybe a couple of years left. This sucks because there’s so much more I wanted to do. On the other hand, it was a pretty good ride. Heck, if I'm lucky, I'll get another 10 years. But that's a really long shot. I'm lucky enough to have worked outdoors most of my life. I love the connection to the outdoors and the newer generations don't seem to have as much time I guess.
#15 On the Hunt
Honestly, I’d have to say that job hunting is a beast all its own. I legitimately thought that it wouldn't be that bad to have some time off while finding another job. Lo and behold, it's awful. You have no reason to wake up, nothing to do all day and then wind up going to bed having achieved nothing. It sucks!
#16 An Angry Thirst
Real dehydration. There was a hike I was on, a few summers ago, about an 18-mile loop out in the scrubby, hilly country. I usually bring water whenever I go out, but that day I only brought about 1.5 liters. Temperatures were in the high-90s without a cloud in the sky. I was running out of water about nine miles (four hours) in and out completely by 12.
It got very bad, very quickly. First, there's the thirst and it's an angry thirst. It takes root in your tongue, spreads to your throat and grips your nerves like panic. It doesn't let up and you become hot and fatigued as your regulatory systems start to break down. I was plodding along at a snail's pace and stopping every 100 yards or so.
I kept thinking that I just had to make it back to the car, but the thirst was unrelenting. Finally, I made it to a road and just kept walking down it until I found a house. I drank right out of their garden faucet, a full liter. I also soaked my hair, head, and clothes. Luckily, no one was home. The next day, I could barely move because I was so cramped.
#17 Managing the Panic
Panic attacks. The best thing I ever did, apart from microdoses of medicine and meditation, was to understand the symptoms. When it happens, just try to list and remember what's going on. Write it down later and make it a habit to keep a journal of the experience. It’s a great distraction and helps manage the panic.
#18 Emotionally Taxing
Prior to having chronic pain, I didn't realize just how all-encompassing it would be. I thought that all that was bad about it was the pain. I didn't realize that pain would make me tired all the time. I didn't realize that it would make me clumsy and stupid. I'm physically and mentally slower now, I never imagined how undignified and emotionally taxing it was going to make my life.
#19 Flash Flood
We had a small flood in our town that resulted in a six-foot flash flood to some houses. Even though a ton of us went to help and just a few streets were affected, ( I concentrated on just one house) it was so much work. At that point, I gained a new respect for flood victims. I can't even comprehend those who survive storms.
#20 Hot Water
The worst one for me was not having hot water. When I was a kid, our water heater broke and my parents couldn't afford to fix it for about two or three months. So, we either had to take cold showers or boil a big pot of water and use that. I realized how much it was one of those everyday things that we take for granted.
#21 Deep Scars
Being in a toxic relationship as a man. As a kid, I used to think it was horrible for women to live through that but was convinced that men couldn't suffer through that. Suffice to say, it's a horrible experience either way. It's something that sticks with you forever. It's also hard to talk about with people because of your own perceptions of masculinity. It will leave you with some deep emotional scars that take to heal if ever.
#22 Feeling Terrible
One day, suddenly, a switch was flipped. The girl I loved was gone forever, replaced by this heartless witch who just destroyed me because she was through with me. I couldn't just say, "Well, she's terrible" because in my mind, the girl I loved didn't do it to me. The girl I loved could have never done that to me in a million years. Then you're stuck wondering what happened to someone you cared about. All of a sudden, she’s then living happily with her new guy, like nothing ever happened. I'm trying my hardest to make some sort of connection with anyone so I can feel less alone. Why am I the one who is still feeling terrible? Why does she get to be happy? It really is the worst.
#23 Don’t Take Them for Granted
My dad's health had been bad for years but the doctors seemed to manage it well since he was pretty good about taking medication. Then, they found a brain tumor. He couldn't remember people's names. He knew he knew them, but not how, including me. It was an aggressive tumor and combined with his already poor health, he was gone in less than a month from when they found it. He was 62. It was awful. I know not everyone has great parents, but if you do, please don't take them for granted.
#24 Like Clockwork
Migraines are awful. I’ve had them since I was a teenager. They were hormonally triggered so every month like clockwork I'd be laid up for two days. The aura is disturbing, but it gives me half an hour's warning to get what I need and to where I need to be. Thankfully, they've calmed down a lot with time. I’ll get them a couple of times a year now. The worst was three years ago where I had several auras non-stop for five hours while I was on a train somewhere.
#25 A Changed Man
My boyfriend actually had bed bugs for months. Unfortunately for him, he came out of the situation a changed person. He's now extremely paranoid of any bed, especially in hotels, and has to check all the telling spots before he can truly settle in. Bed bugs are truly the nightmare that other people say they are.
#26 Showing Some Love
Depression is the type of mental illness that people can't comprehend. You can see the pain and agony of someone losing their limb. The sorrow in the eyes of someone who just heard about their loved one losing their life. Seeing your daughter cry over an idiot boy. Hearing that your grandma is having Alzheimer's and don't even know your name.
That's how a depressed person feels all the time. Without any prior notice or even showing their sensitivity over the matter. Someone who's depressed can't be happy. It's mentally turned off. No matter how much you hug them or tell them how much you love them, it's not going to help it. Maybe it might even be your last goodbye to someone who suffers from it. You never know before it's too late. Some who are depressed might look isolated, but just by showing them some love can save their life.
#27 Kick in the Gut
My wife is about six months pregnant with complications. I'm terrified of something happening. I was going to post, "finding out your unborn child won't be perfectly healthy." My unborn son has a greater than 99% chance of having Down Syndrome. That was the first kick in the gut. Then we found out that he'll have to have open heart surgery between three and six months and I felt it again.
#28 Severe Pain
Severe period pain. Even other women don't understand unless they have also experienced it. You know it won't end your life because you've been here before, but around hour eight, you wish it would. My husband had to drag me to the hospital when I had a gallbladder attack due to gallstones because it was an eight on a pain scale defined by cramps as an 11.
I'd always been told my period pain "wasn't serious.” The hospital gave me morphine upon admission and I'd always been told to take two Ibuprofen and suck it up. For the record, four don’t even take the edge off. I hoarded my prescription pain meds from the resulting surgery to use on the really bad cramps days.
I've missed so much work. I've missed so much life. I really want a hysterectomy, but I don't have kids so doctors assume I'm not serious. But none of them have lived with this kind of pain. So, they can't see how not wanting to live in dread of excruciating monthly pain could outweigh the possibility of reproduction.
#29 Understanding Mental Health
Anxiety. I literally had no idea what it felt like when problematic. Then I got a serotonin issue and had the crippling physical side effects of anxiety with a slight bit of paranoia. It lasted for about three months. It was hard to eat anything, often hard to breathe, and I’d wake up in the middle of the night having to throw up. I have a new appreciation for it as well as a little more understanding of mental illnesses.
#30 Walking Alone
I found out recently that almost all of the girls I know are afraid to walk alone, especially at night. I didn't really understand why, but one night I had a dream that I was a little girl on a train full of people. Although no one did anything bad, I still felt weak and afraid because I couldn't defend myself if I wanted to. It sounds funny but it really got to me, it was scary.
#31 Have No Control
My life with addiction is the worst thing I've ever experienced. You know you're messing up, you know you're never going to get the same level of high, you just have no control. I've genuinely been in tears while swallowing pills. I knew it was costing me relationships, my job and my health, and I hated it. But I couldn't stop, no amount of rehab would work. This is why today, if ever I'm told I'm talking about my son too much, I get irritated. If he hadn't come out and smiled at me, I would have never loved myself enough, nor had a reason to stop.
#32 A Papercut x1000
An ingrown toenail. I can barely walk now, it's just like one of those pains you never want. Not the most excruciating, but the one that makes you flinch every time you feel it. It's like a papercut x1000. I had to get the sides of my toe cut to remove the infection... with no topical anesthetics. 0/10 would never do again.
#33 Fast and Intense
Manic episodes. I spent more than two months thinking constantly of and planning ways to end my life. I wasn’t able to sleep at night because I was hallucinating shadow people waiting for me to close my eyes so that they could attack me. I was hypervigilant, paranoid and kept triggering my PTSD. I spent four straight weeks crying myself to sleep because I wanted so badly to just pass away and I "knew" that no one cared about me. I wrote pages of something like "people are bad and untrustworthy" in my journal. Everything was so fast and so intense.
#34 Can We Walk Out?
After going through exhausting labor and not sleeping for 48 hours, they hand you the baby and say good luck. You arrive home with your new baby so tired you can't see straight. You then pretty much stay that way for a couple of months. No one ever really tells you that part. I remember my husband and I looking at each other as we rode down the hospital elevator to go home, like, “They’re just going to let us walk out of here with this baby? We have no idea what we are doing.” He's 22 now. He's pretty cool. We did okay.
#35 Taking Over
A stalker. I had one client at my club who would come most of the time I worked. He figured out my schedule, and, after talking to co-workers, I was able to confirm that he didn't come on nights I didn't work. A couple of times he stayed to the end of my day and offered to walk me to my car because he knew how scary it could be going out alone.
The worst it got was when he would show up pretty much exactly at the beginning of my shift and leave at the end. At that point, I told him I wasn't interested and wouldn't be, making sure the bouncer was within earshot and was aware of the situation. It took some harsh words but he eventually backed off and I haven't seen him since. I didn't realize just how scary it could be. He was just so unpredictable in what he might do, but it was clear he was getting more infatuated with me. I was starting to be afraid away from work and it was starting to take over my life.
#36 How Messed Up It Is
One of the things about depression is that even if you have had bouts before, you somehow convince yourself that it was all in your head and you never actually felt that way. Until it happens again. So basically all the time, you're thinking about how it probably wasn't that bad and you made it into something it wasn't until it comes around again. You then realize just how messed up it is.
#37 Juggling Knives
Food poisoning. I just figured you'd get an upset tummy, do a bunch of number twos and maybe some hurling. But no. For a week and a half, it felt like I was juggling hot knives in my intestines. I had to be hospitalized due to the amount of thick gunk coming out of me. The pain was awful and lasted so long I almost felt ready to leave this world.
#38 Being Overtaken
I've had men poo-poo my anxiety of being overtaken by a stranger, calling me unrealistic, saying "that would never happen, men aren't roving predators,” etc. Of course, the vast majority aren't, there are plenty of good men. But I'm a petite woman and pretty much defenseless in the face of a dude who really wanted to mess me up. There are some things I can't do because I just don't want to put my safety in the hands of strangers, like hiking alone.
#39 Worthless to You
Over a summer vacation in grad school, I lost 15 pounds. On a 5'2 frame, it's noticeable. Those unbelievable idiots (both men and women) who literally would not give me the time of day and would give me dirty looks (this was in Los Angeles) suddenly were polite, kind, friendly, etc. I was thinking, “What the heck?! You’re the absolute worst. If I gain 15 pounds again, I’m worthless to you?”
#40 Won’t Work Out
Having to break up with your significant other for no reason other than location. You still love each other and you both know it, but you also both know it just won't work out. It's so hard to move on from that because there is nothing that gets rid of the love you have. It just sits there and makes you feel all terrible and lonely.
#41 Begging for Likes
I get hugely offended when people sit on their Facebook all day constantly posting about how they currently have a migraine and asking for sympathy. My last migraine was in August of 2005. Over 12 years ago and I still remember the days of sickening agony I could barely endure. There was no way I was putting my face into any light source back then, let alone a computer screen.
#42 Lucky to Walk Away
Being T-boned at an intersection by someone who ran a red light. I'd been in accidents before, but always at lower speeds. I didn't see this one coming and the impact was crazy powerful. They hit right on the driver's side door, ramming it a foot or so into the cabin. I was lucky to walk away and it has completely changed the way I drive.
#43 Impending Doom
Anxiety runs in my family. I always thought, "I'm not an anxious person, so I'll never have an anxiety attack." Nope. When I first got one, I went straight to the ER because I thought that I was about to pass away. But it was almost worse than that… it felt like an impending doom was slowly creeping over my whole being and I would never be able to get out of it.
#44 Glass and Clothing
Of everything I’ve had to deal with, I’d say that house foreclosure was the worst thing I went through. I didn't understand any feelings I had until then. You never really know heartache until you see your mom sitting in your driveway surrounded by broken glass and clothing. It's something I don't wish on anyone.
#45 Little Stretches
Heartbreak is something I don't think you can understand until you experience it. The first time I was heartbroken, I just remember thinking about how much everything sucked. You have stretches where everything is going fine, then one little detail that reminds you of your ex-partner will ruin your entire day.
#46 In My Thoughts
The loss of my 11-year old son and mother in a car accident in 1980. By the end of the ‘80s, I lost both sets of grandparents who adored my mom and son (their only grandson). Then my father passed away in his sleep. The pain, sadness and grief for my son were the worst. My mom was my rock and I have no idea how I made it through the next few years. Anyway, to this day he is in my thoughts. I'm 72 years old.
#47 Proper Fever
A proper fever. It was the kind where in the middle of summer, I’d put a jacket on and still be so cold. But when I took the jacket off, I was so hot. It was so uncomfortable. I’d wake up in the middle of the night shaking violently and sweating profusely. I had a virus called CMV that attacked my liver. I’d never been so unwell and never knew what a fever felt like until that point.
#48 Getting Healthier
Eating disorders. I never expected it to be something that a guy like me would go through until I had an epiphany at my high school graduation party when I couldn't beat my girlfriend who wasn't particularly strong in arm wrestling. I almost had a breakdown. My normal routine was to eat around 700 calories of food a day. If I went and binged by having seconds of something, I'd usually make myself throw up. I became so accustomed to throwing up, that even now after a year and a half since I stopped I can sometimes struggle to keep food down. I'm back to a healthier weight and am much healthier now.
#49 Getting Older
Getting old. Having the children in the family, who used to love to see Aunt Juel, or Mammy come to spend time with them, outgrow me, and move on to lives of their own. My deteriorating health. Knowing my daughters have realized I'm not as strong as I used to be and not nearly as intelligent as they thought I was. Yeah. Getting old. While it beats the alternative, it's still the pits.
#50 Obsessive Thoughts
Obsessive-compulsive disorder. I was once sitting and shaking because someone's dog chased me. I'm sure it didn't bite me. But my mind kept going on the what-ifs. What if it didn't have a leash or a collar? What if that really wasn't its owner? What if she made up a name? What if she lied when she said it was vaccinated? What if it really bit me, I just didn't realize? It's worse because I know my parents won't allow me to get vaccinated, and I will spend the next two months having extreme anxiety.