Author: Jo

Self-Esteem and Chronic Pain

By Jo

One of the most difficult aspects of chronic pain has to be how it has affected my self-esteem. I went from being a completely independent senior graphic designer, making good money, having my own apartment, managing all my finances and mental state, and seeing a wide group of friends on a regular basis, to a dependant woman on disability who now needs to rely upon medical staff, counsellors, friends, and family just to get through each hour of every day. This drastic change not only affected every aspect of my life, but every aspect of my self esteem. Since I could no longer support myself financially, I felt horrible needing to rely upon disability insurance and government assistance. Moreover, I lost my job due to the chronic pain, lost my apartment, my financial and mental state dwindled, and also my social circle drastically decreased. Needless to say, this was the darkest time of my life because I no longer felt worthy of anything. How could I have any self-esteem when I no longer can contribute to society or be there for my family or friends? I considered myself to be a burden on society, and my social circle. This realization hit me hard, and due to my lack of self-esteem brought on me by my chronic pain, my depression went in a downward spiral.

Anyone who battles with genuine chronic pain has at least one time in their lives also battled with severe self-esteem issues. This arises when one realizes they can no longer perform the same tasks they once did and feel guilty or liable for not being able to do so. Where does one go from here? This entry will touch upon some of the issues of self-esteem and how to rebuild your confidence in regards to chronic pain.

Acknowledge your limitations/old self and grieve 

I believe the key to rebuilding self-esteem is to first of all acknowledge your limitations/old self and grieve.

Acknowledging your chronic pain and limitations can be extremely difficult and may take many years. If you ignore or hate your chronic pain, you are working against it, and this is the worst way to deal with your issues. By acknowledging your limitations you are respecting your pain. You don’t have to like your pain, but by respecting your pain, you are giving yourself a chance to work with it in a positive manner. Acknowledging your pain, wherever you are, and whenever it may creep up on you, is an integral part in dealing with it. Once you have realized this, managing your problems (such as self-esteem) can be more easily dealt with.

Grieving your old self may also be extremely difficult and take many years.

“The 5 stages of grief and loss are: 1. Denial and isolation; 2. Anger; 3. Bargaining; 4. Depression; 5. Acceptance. People who are grieving do not necessarily go through the stages in the same order or experience all of them.”

Axelrod, J. (2016, May 17). The 5 Stages of Grief & Loss. Retrieved 16 July 2019, from Psych Central website:

A person grieving their old self may jump back into any of these stages at any time. The best way to understand your self-esteem issues is to understand that you are grieving the person you once were before your chronic pain started. Like any type of grief, if you do not deal with it, then it will catch up with you years later and become a big problem. But once you learn how to grieve your old self, then this is a positive step forward in accepting your new self. I have left some good links on the 5 steps of grieving in the “reference” post of this article for your review. If you require additional information or support on how to grieve in an effective manner, I suggest making an appointment with your doctor, counsellor, or psychiatrist.

Educating yourself (and others) on where to go from here

Chronic pain forces you into a lot of changes whether you like it or not. It is likely that every aspect of your life will be affected by this massive change. The best way to deal with this is to educate yourself on your disability/chronic pain, and to share that with your loved ones. By understanding what is causing your chronic pain, you can better equip yourself on how to deal with it, the proper medical attention/medicine you will require, and also how it will affect the loved ones in your life. When you arm yourself with education, this can be a surprisingly strong force in dealing with building your damaged self-esteem.

The best way to gain education on your chronic pain is to speak with a professional. This may be a friend who specialized in the area, a doctor, specialist, or reading at the library. Although the internet is a good source of valuable information, be careful not to ‘self-diagnose’ as this can add to your already-growing-pot of issues. Proper education regarding your chronic pain can empower you to not only make the correct decisions about your care, but can aid in rebuilding your self-esteem from the ground up.

Re-Assessing your Pride

If you are coming from an area of complete independence to an area of almost complete dependance, the issue of pride will be extremely difficult. Learning to be open and vulnerable with your family and friends can be a challenge, but it must be done so you do not fall into the danger of isolation. The power of a good friend or family members ear will not only remind you of your worth, but provide a much-needed shoulder to bear the burden of your predicament on. Needing the help of a professional or friend does not mean you are weak or incapable of solving the issues on your own. It simply gives you an alternate view of the situation that you may not have originally thought of. This new perspective and support can be not only enlightening, but also aid in your building of your damaged self-esteem.

In some circumstances, family or friends will not understand what you are going through or may even condemn or ridicule you for not dealing with your pain properly. These people do not deserve to be in your life, and the further you let them disrespect you, the longer it will take for you to heal your self-esteem. Be wary of toxic people in your life and weed them out immediately.

Addressing the issues of inadequacy and feeling like a burden

When I was wheelchair bound, I could do almost nothing for myself. This included getting groceries, cleaning, bathing, etc. The feeling of being inadequate and burdensome on my friends were heavy. The first thing to acknowledge in this situation is that your pain is a burden, YOU ARE NOT. You are still able to retain the ability to make choices, and this goes a long way in rebuilding a sense of self-worth. Remember that everyone at one point in their lives feels inadequate or burdensome, and recall all the times you were a support for that person or people in your life. Unfortunately, we do not always get to be the counselor. Sometimes being ‘the counseled’ can have many rewards in itself.

Graham Scambler says:

“As long as an individual feels that he or she exercises choice in valued activities and some freedom of action to pursue these choices, everyday life does not seem so restrictive, suffering is reduced, and self-images are maintained.

Scrambler, G. (2005). Medical sociology: Major themes in health and social welfare. London: Routledge.

Examining what you can still do

If you still have your head, you are still able to do something. Can you still see? Read, learn, and teach.  Can you still speak? Inspire others and encourage. Can you still move your hands? Create something wonderful for a loved one, garden, or worship if you are spiritual. Can you still move your legs? Kick life in the ass! You get the idea! Instead of focusing on what you cannot do, focus on what you CAN. When you shift your perspective and focus, many things become more clear in your life.

Focus on what brings you joy

At one time I immensely enjoyed creating graphic design ads for my customers. Even though I am not working in an office today, I can still enjoy my sewing machine, and create jewelry in the comfort of my own home for my new customers. The ‘joy’ for me was in the ‘creating process’. So although I cannot work full-time anymore, I can still enjoy the creative process at home when I am feeling well enough to sit at my desk. Ask yourself: “What brings me joy?” And how can you modify that so that you can still experience that essence of joy in your own life.

Taking care of yourself first

If you were once a fiercely independent person like me, then you probably were taking care of others in your life as well. When that switches to not being able to take care of others, this hits hard and forces you to reexamine your priorities. You are no good to others if you are not well. That’s why prioritizing your needs are a must in self-care and rebuilding your self-esteem. Make time everyday to do something special for yourself. This may include a walk, reading, a craft, praying if you are spiritual, or meditation. By putting yourself first you are beginning to value who you are, and your self-esteem will blossom.

Learning to Appreciate your new Self

I liked my old self, so learning to appreciate my new self was a challenge. We all go through transitions and difficulties in life, but few of us choose to learn and grow from them. Look at how far you have come. Review your obstacles you had to overcome, and the perseverance and courage it took for you to get to where you are today.

Being disabled from chronic pain has taught me lessons about patience, perseverance, and empathy that I would never have learned otherwise. Although, the process was (and remains to be) extremely difficult, I have chosen to learn these lessons with grace, instead of resentment and hate. Not only do I appreciate life more, but I also value more the things I have. This especially includes the amazing friends and family that have been on this journey with me throughout the last decade. I understand pain more now and can truly empathize with others who are hurting. I feel I can truly help others who may be going through a similar situation such as mine. I also appreciate life and show love to others more when I am in pain. All of these things have come through learning to appreciate my new self, and in turn have truly helped my self-esteem.

I have also learned to replace my heels and work dresses with sparkly butterfly sandals and an artistic cane.  I am choosing to become a good new self. Even better than the old.


As you can see, the way that chronic illness affects a person’s self-esteem is extremely complicated and a lot more impactful than it might initially seem. Maintaining a positive self-image through chronic pain is very difficult, but not impossible. The way you think about yourself will reflect on how you look at the world around you, including how you perceive and experience your pain.

And so, I leave this final quote with you,

Instead of cursing the storm, learn how to dance in the rain.


Much love to you,

Some helpful resources



Marijuana, CBD, and THC for Pain Management


Please be advised that marijuana/hemp-based products are still considered a grey area in Canada, and the United States. Although you may not require a doctor’s note or authorization, I strongly encourage you to find out the Provincial/State laws before purchasing any product to ensure your safety. Again, I cannot be held responsible for any recommendation made on the Safe Haven Support Group. It is your responsibility to ensure you read up on all the applicable laws regarding these products and what is allowed in the area you live in.

One of the most common applications for medical marijuana is pain control, whether it’s headaches, neuropathic pain, muscle soreness, spinal injury, fibromyalgia, pain caused by inflammation, and cramps. Patients have seen various degrees of success with cannabis in treating different pain-related ailments depending on the type of pain, the intensity, and the individual’s own physiology.

Cannabinoids and Terpenes are known to have areas of specialization such as pain. Because every person’s experience is so nuanced, we recommend sampling several of these suggestions and maybe even experiment with them in different forms, like topicals, oils, or even transdermal patches. Smoking and vaporizing are great ways to get marijuana’s painkilling properties quickly, but read up on non-smoking consumption methods and cannabis concentrate alternatives to get an idea of the full spectrum of options available to you.


While there are over 100 different cannabinoids that can occur in cannabis, the two most well-known and better-studied compounds in the cannabis plant happen to also be the two that occur in the largest volume: delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly referred to as THC, and cannabidiol, known as CBD.

THC is the primary psychoactive component of cannabis which gives the effect of what recreational users call the “high.”

CBD is considered to be non-psychoactive and when used in conjunction with THC helps dampen the psychoactivity and other side effects some people consider undesirable. Both cannabinoids have an impressive list of ways they support the human body.” [1]

“To make sure you’re getting the relief that you need, here are a few things to keep in mind when picking out a strain for pain:

  • sedative, indica strains are some of the most popular picks for chronic pain management;
  • a strain that contains a little of both CBD and THC may be more effective than one with THC alone;
  • high THC levels mean that you may more easily forget about your pain;
  • CBD strains are generally considered better for daytime consumption;
  • Sativa strains are often consumed for neuropathic pain and chronic headaches, though this is highly subjective; and
  • pick strains or products that are very fragrant or have high terpene tests.

Though everyone responds to cannabis differently, these strains are thought to be helpful for pain management, generally speaking:

“What Are the Best Cannabis Strains for Pain

1. Cannabis Strains That Help Treat Generalized Pain

ACDC is one of the most effective painkilling strains out there due to its one-two punch of cannabinoids CBD and THC. As a general rule, cannabis strains with the higher amounts of both THC and CBD tend to make the best pain medicines. Many people find that heavy indicas such as Blackberry Kush are particularly skilled in the art of killing the pain.

2. Cannabis Strains That Help Treat Inflammation and Arthritis

A product with high CBD concentrations is perfect for people battling with inflammation. It’s uplifting and clear-headed effects set it apart from heavier, more intoxicating options and make it a perfect choice for daytime medicating. Also known as Blue Venom, Berry White, and White Berry, Blue Widow is a prolific hybrid cross between parent strains Blueberry and White Widow. Leafly user reviews praise Blue Widow for its anti-inflammatory qualities, and perhaps the reason for this is Blue Widow’s rich terpene profile that typically boasts high levels of caryophyllene, or it could be its heavy resin production which gives way to massive amounts of THC and other beneficial compounds.

3. Cannabis Strains That Help Treat Headaches and Migraines

Purple Arrow hits the target somewhere between heavy pain relief and uplifting euphoria, making it a great choice for headache sufferers needing swift relief without the couchlock effects typical of indica varieties. Headband hybrids are commonly described as “cerebral” with effects that go straight to the crown of your head. Blueberry Headband lives up to its name, delivering focused headache relief and a sweet berry flavor.

4. Cannabis Strains That Help Treat Cramps

With effects that relax tension in both mind and body, Redwood Kush is known to deliver a woody forest aroma alongside hefty amounts of THC to help ease muscle cramping. Dynamite is another high-THC indica strain that blows pain and cramping out of the water, but be wary: Dynamite is also known to incite the power of the Munchie Beast.

5. Cannabis Strains That Help Manage Spinal Injury Pain:

Cataract Kush is a heavy-hitting hybrid cross between powerhouse classics LA Confidential and OG Kush. This strain potency may not be for the novice consumer, but it’s perfect for patients needing a strain that can expertly annihilate pain associated with spinal injury.” [3]

“Synthetic Marijuana

Medical marijuana refers to the whole, unprocessed plant or its extracts. Medical marijuana is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a safe or effective treatment for any condition. However, the FDA has approved medications containing synthetic THC cannabinoids called dronabinol (Marinol) and nabilone (Cesamet). These drugs reduce nausea in people undergoing cancer treatments and increase appetite in people living with HIV.” [4]

“Risks and side effects

Marijuana use can cause some side effects, including:

  • addiction, which occurs in 9 percent of people who begin use in adulthood
  • breathing problems
  • dizziness
  • impaired reaction times
  • interactions with medication
  • loss of concentration
  • memory issues
  • mental health issues in those predisposed to them
  • rapid heart rate
  • withdrawal symptoms

Alternatives to herbal marijuana

Marijuana is available in several different forms, including:

  • oil (FECO) People usually take FECO orally and should only need small quantities to experience benefits;
  • topical treatments – People can apply lotions, balms, and salves containing cannabinoids to the skin to relieve pain and inflammation. Transdermal patches that contain cannabinoids are also available and are typically more potent than lotions and salves;
  • edibles – Edibles are one of the most popular ways to use marijuana. Edibles involve infusing food, such as cookies, brownies, and candies, with the drug. Marijuana edibles offer an easy way to take marijuana, but the effects of edibles can be difficult to predict; and
  • sublingual cannabis – Sublingual administration involves placing a drug under the tongue. The drug enters the bloodstream faster using this method and so it will work more quickly.

A few facts about marijuana

Medical marijuana may offer an alternative to addictive opioids. When researchers surveyed almost 3,000 medical cannabis users, they found that 30 percent had used opioids in the last 6 months. Of those respondents, 81 percent agreed or strongly agreed that marijuana was more effective alone than in combination with opioids. In addition, 97 percent said they agreed or strongly agreed that they could decrease their opioid usage when taking marijuana.” [4]

Where to purchase

Although marijuana can be expensive, consider the benefits. Here are several websites in where you can purchase these items. Please note again that although some products may work for some people, others may not. I encourage you to try different methods of marijuana to find what suits you best. Talking to one of the representatives may help in choosing the best product for your own unique pain. Remember also that each of these products come in different potencies and strengths.

Bibliography and Helpful References

Cannabis 101 – the link is dead now.

Works Cited

1. Rahn, Bailey. “What Are the Best Cannabis Strains for Pain?” Leafly, 27 Feb. 2017,

2. Herb. “Which Is Best For Pain Relief: THC Or CBD?” HERB, 21 Feb. 2017,

3. “Cannabis 101: THC & CBD – Chronic Relief.” Chronic Relief | What Is Medical Marijuana | Chronic Pain Relief,

4. Advisory, CBD. “How Cannabis Works for Chronic Pain & Best Strains.” The Cannabis Advisory, 11 June 2018,