Health

I Stopped Lying About How Happy I Was On Instagram And Started Telling The Truth About Chronic Pain

There have been many days in my life when my chronic pain has ruined my day, but there have also been many days when it hasn’t. And those are the days I previously chose to share with the world.

1. Hi, I’m Lara, and I have Vagina Problems.™ I live with endometriosis and other chronic conditions that greatly affect my everyday life. While these conditions don’t stop me from having a life, they definitely make it difficult to do certain things.

Lara Parker

Lara Parker

 

2. Even though these conditions are such a big part of my life, I don’t talk about them much when I’m using social media… especially not on Instagram.

Lara Parker

I don’t share much about my chronic pain for a number of reasons:
1. I have to live with this pain every single day, and I don’t feel like it’s necessary to relive it through social media.
2. Instagram is a place to showcase the BEST parts of your life, and my pain is not included in the best parts of my life.
3. Instagram is the perfect place to create an illusion of your life, so that’s what I do. I create an illusion of a life without chronic pain.
4. And, quite frankly, I don’t think anyone wants to see me lying in bed cuddling a bottle of Advil in between pictures of food and jumping beach pics.

3. But in an effort to stop being fake about how I’m really feeling, I decided to post honest updates about how I’m feeling with my illnesses.

It’s not that I necessarily lie on Instagram, it’s just that I generally only show photos that fit in with my idea of what my life would look like in an ideal world. And quite frankly, I’m tired of doing that.

4. My first Instagram was of my bloat.

Endometriosis, besides causing me a lot of physical pain, also causes my stomach to bloat heavily on an almost daily basis. You might be thinking, “But you don’t even look bloated!” Well, the lovely thing about an endo bloat is that it isn’t just a fuller stomach. It’s a goddamn nightmare of pain and discomfort for no other reason than your body just wasn’t feeling good that day. So even when I don’t look that bloated, I feel like I’m carrying 17 babies at once and they’re all kicking at the exact same time.

Because of my bloat, I avoid wearing jeans for the most part and can often be seen crossing my arms over my abdomen in an effort to “hide” it. I would never show someone what my stomach looks like in the height of endometriosis bloat because I refuse to even show it to myself! I hide it. I pretend it doesn’t exist.

In the past, I have altered my diet and lifestyle to try and make it go away. I’ve skipped meals, forced myself to do abdominal exercises, and tried Spanx. It has essentially caused me to develop eating disorders in the past all from my attempts to get it to go away. But this time, I showed it off. And you know what? No one loved me any less for it.

5. My second Instagram was of my heating pad aka my savior.

Interestingly enough, I didn’t have much of a choice in what I was going to show on this particular day. My cramps woke me up before my alarm and forced me to lie with my heating pad for an hour before work. And I wasn’t even on my period!!

The other thing about endometriosis is that pain killers often do little to nothing when combatting the pain. In order to be able to get out of bed on a bad pain day, I need 2-3 hours of extreme heat on my stomach (so much so that I have literal burn marks) and cannabis. Yes, I smoke weed. It’s legal here. And I thank higher powers for that every day.

Some people need caffeine every day, some people need chocolate, I just need my heating pad.

6. My third Instagram was of me and an adorable dog.

I uploaded this picture while dog-sitting the cutest dog in the entire world for a weekend. I was genuinely happy in this picture and was feeling little to no pain. See, that’s the thing about chronic pain… one day you can live your best damn life, and the next day you can be in bed wondering how you will ever get back up again.

This picture is very similar to pictures that I would normally upload because it screams “DOUBLE TAP THIS PICTURE!” It’s me, living my best life, not thinking about my illnesses. I can look at this picture anytime I want and think only of how it felt to have a fluffy creature on my lap, and not what it feels like to have lesions all over my ovaries.

7. My fourth Instagram was an unfiltered selfie of me (and my heating pad!)

Like one of my previous posts, this one features my heating pad. But if it is to be accurate, how could it not? In this particular photo, I was in the process of finishing watching the Oscars. Instead of posting a picture of the food I enjoyed during, which for the record was amazing, I posted this one instead. Because the reality of the situation is that this is a more accurate depiction of what my night looked like than any picture of food.

When posting this, I talked myself out of it several times. In all honesty, I hate this picture. Looking at this particular one reminds me of every single time I’ve been forced to lie in bed with my heating pad. I look sad, tired, and like I’ve given up. Which is something I’m constantly trying not to do. It’s like seeing a different version of me. There’s sick Lara, and there’s just plain old Lara. But on bad days like in this picture, it’s too hard to tell the difference between the two.

8. My fifth Instagram was of my exhaustion.

When thinking about uploading an honest picture on this particular day, all I could focus on was how tired I was. Was there a reason for this? Not really. But something about existing every day with chronic pain makes you freaking exhausted.

This is the last photo I uploaded, and to be honest, even if I had planned on doing more, I don’t think I would have. There have been many, many days in my life when my chronic pain has forced me to stay in bed. But there have also been many, many days in my life when it has not. And those are primarily the days I choose to share with the world.

I choose to present myself on social media as a funny, lighthearted person who doesn’t have a care in the world. But the truth is, trying to feel funny and lighthearted with chronic pain is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I am forced to think about my chronic pain almost every minute of every day. I don’t need to think about it when I’m on social media, too.

9. In the end, I was shocked at how supportive people were.

 

I expected a low number of likes and pretty much no interaction at all… which only made me feel more uncomfortable than I already was about being so honest. It’s scary how much likes and interaction can dictate how you feel about something. But that’s the reality.

What I ended up experiencing was the opposite. I got so much love and support from fellow sufferers and non-sufferers alike on pictures of my bloat and heating pad. Going into this, I was so nervous to show this part of my life because I still struggle to accept it. But on the internet, one of the places I assumed to be least accepting, I didn’t feel shunned or judged or pitied as the sick girl. I felt loved, accepted, and celebrated.

While I love the idea of raising awareness about endometriosis and other chronic conditions, I’ve learned that I hate sharing these parts of my life because it forces me to relive them. And while I was tired of hiding my chronic pain on Instagram before this post, this experience reminded me just how hard it can be to go through some of the lowest points of my life again. Allowing myself to relive the bad days only feels like I am taking away from the good ones.

This experience made me realize that no matter how these illnesses make me feel about myself, other people don’t see my illness when they look at me. They just see me. And if this experience taught me anything, it’s that I’m not my illnesses. I’m just me.

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