10 Things People With Chronic Pain Know All Too Well

1. Diagnosis can take a long time

“As a student at Queen’s, I had to go to my tutor’s office every semester and explain that I was sick – but no one understood why. When I was finally diagnosed with endometriosis it was a relief because I could go to disability services and get the support I needed.” – Robyn, Newtownards

Robyn waiting for her surgery

2. We may look fine but that doesn’t mean we feel fine

“If you had your foot in plaster, people would be sympathetic. But with a condition like fibromyalgia, because they can’t see the pain, they don’t get the fact that you’re unwell.” – Sharon, Lisburn

3. We can feel great one hour and terrible the next

“Sometimes you may have a lot of pain in one week or you might get a break, you just don’t know. Right now, I feel a little better but, in a few hours, I could have agonising back pain.” – Beata, Lisburn

woman lying on a bed

4. It’s not just “all in my head”

“I had heavy periods throughout high school due to endometriosis and would even pass out with stomach cramps. Yet some people thought I was doing it for the attention.” – Robyn, Newtownards

5. Our illness isn’t always down to being old or overweight

“People assume I can’t carry heavy bags because I’m overweight or unfit when in fact, it’s because of the pain from my fibromyalgia. It makes me feel intolerant of people and I don’t like that.” – Avril, Lisburn

6. We wish we didn’t have to cancel plans

“When my endometriosis was at its worst, I was constantly exhausted and needed a few days to prepare for things that used to be easy, like shopping trips in Belfast with friends.” – Robyn, Newtownards

7. Tactless comments can be upsetting

“Shortly after I had to quit my job due to a painful back, a colleague texted to say, “Why don’t you just come back to work?” She doesn’t realise how hard it is to work when you’re constantly in pain.” – Beata, Lisburn

man checking his phone for texts

8. It can be hard on your self-esteem

“I went from being a keen runner, horse-rider and swimmer to feeling constantly tired due to my fibromyalgia and arthritis. Sometimes I feel sad that I’m not the active, outgoing person I used to be.” – Janis, Lisburn

9. There’s more to us than just our illnesses

“Sometimes people only ask me about my health. There’s more to me than my illness and I don’t ever ‘play the sick card’ so it makes me feel frustrated.” – Robyn, Newtownards

person having their blood pressure checked

10. It could happen to you and it will change your life

“A few hours can change everything. You shouldn’t take a pain-free life for granted because you never know what’s around the corner.” – Irene, Lisburn


If you suffer with chronic pain, you might want to discover more ways to take care of yourself. So here are some quick resources:

We’d like to thank the Resurgam Trust in Lisburn and Robyn Atcheson for taking part in this article.

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This section of the site has lists of useful books, online content and other resources that can help you manage pain well. Why not bookmark the page and don’t forget to check back for updates.


Chronic pain affects almost one in four people across Northern Ireland. Local Health and Social Care Board figures estimate that 400,000 people are living with some form of persistent pain.