Pain is a Lousy Travel Agent

I detest the phrase “pain journey”. 

This metaphor is problematic for many reasons, not least of which is the assumption inherent in the concept of a journey, which implies there is an actual destination. For many suffering from chronic pain this assumption is insulting and discouraging, because often there IS no end point.

If you are speaking with someone who suffers from pain or chronic illness, I would strongly recommend avoiding this metaphor.  Even if you also have pain or chronic illness, it is possible that you have a much better ‘travel agent’ than they do.

Here’s what it’s like when you talk about a “pain journey” to person with chronic pain:

Imagine you are forced, without warning, to embark on a trip. With minimal preparation and with little regard of the path you were previously walking, you are told you must keep travelling until the end of your natural life.
Rather than an easy and pleasurable vacation, a cacophony of disappointments follows you every single step.
For starters, you’re not really certain which direction you’re headed, and the people you meet along the way (while generally kind) may or may not give you directions to anywhere you want to go. You might wind up at a lovely oasis where you can rest for a bit, or you may have been thoughtfully led to a pit of snakes.  And you never know if it’s spa or serpent until you get there.
The hotels never seem to have your reservation, the trains never run the direction you need them to and more than once you could have sworn you ordered the chicken but what’s on your plate has entirely too many legs to be any sort of bird.
You stopped replacing your luggage after the third time it was lost and now just cling to whatever you can carry (good thing you’ve only been mugged once so far).
You seem to be dragging the rainclouds along with you the entire trip because you’ve seen, at most, 4 days of sunshine in the past month or so and, oddly, the locals always swear that it’s usually such beautiful weather but they’re just so sorry for the rotten luck.
At the same time you are experiencing this exhausting, unwanted, completely disruptive trip, you are beset with messages from well-meaning friends and family saying things like “You’re so lucky you got to see the white cliffs of Dover!” - while blithely ignoring that you had, just that morning, tumbled off of them.
When you mention to people back home (you know, in your old life) the lousy lodgings and awful tea and bus station strandings, how tired and frustrated you are and that all you want to do in this life is to go back home to your own bed and your job and have a reliable cuppa in the morning, there will inevitably be someone who responds with a far-too-chipper version of “Oh! But you’re simply learning so much about what it means to be human! You’re getting so wise and strong!” (Because didn’t you know? All of this needless, nonsensical, wandering and attendant misery is just a wonderful LEARNING EXPERIENCE and you should be *grateful* you have been given such an opportunity to grow.)
Remember, in the midst of all of this: you can never go home again.
Or that you MIGHT be able to go home, someday, but in order to do so you will need the help of skillful professionals to guide you - and all of the best expedition leaders charge premium fees for their services, assuming they are available to help you.
Even if you do get "home", battered and grateful for the end, you are confronted with the fact that home will never be the same, because time stops for no one.

And that’s why "pain journey" (or the equally nauseating "healing journey") is one of the most grating phrases I come across.  


What about you? What well-meaning phrases are the most cringe-inducing in your experience?

It might as well be booked by this actual statue.  photo credit: “Travel agent statue”  by    m01229    is licensed under   CC BY 2.0

It might as well be booked by this actual statue.

photo credit:“Travel agent statue” by m01229 is licensed under CC BY 2.0