How Do I Best Let Others Know I Have Chronic Pain?

Question: My name is Janet Summerset, and I'm 67 years old. My question is that when you go shopping, and you have chronic pain, how can you let people around you know that you have this ailment and that this is what makes you slow-moving in the stores. It makes me feel like I have to put a sign on my back.

Answer: Hi, Janet. This is a tough one in the sense that it's hard to know how much information to share with someone and yet still be able to do the things that you need to do in the course of living your life. So I think the basic rules of common decency apply. And in this situation, it's probably better to ask forgiveness than permission. So I think that I would approach the activity that you're trying to do as best as you can, being confident of your abilities and your limitations. And then, when you find yourself bumping up against other people, and their perhaps ignorance or rudeness, you explain to them in simple, factual terms that you have a problem and that it gets in the way of your being able to do certain things. You then look at the person and cheerfully ask for help in accomplishing the task. It's very hard for people to turn you down at that point. And finally, you apologize for any inconvenience that you might have caused them, and wish them well.

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