The strangest chronic pain analogy I’ve ever written.

Remember your most recent trip to the grocery store? That awful music on the radio. That absolutely utterly awful drone in the background, that becomes the soundtrack to your grocery endeavors. It makes you irritated and you might not even realize it until you stop to think “Good god I hate this song.” How do people work all day listening to this shit? You would imagine that the employees become so immune to it that they reach a point where they don’t even hear it anymore.
I’m a grocery store employee, and my background-drone-music is pain. Day in and day out, I never get to turn it off. The only thing I can hope to have control over is the volume. Some days the volume is dull, and my built-up “immunity” to it allows me to not hear it if it is quiet enough. Sometimes I don’t even notice it until I stop to think, “Gee, I’ve been in pain for hours, why haven’t I done anything to treat it yet?” It’s not that I don’t know it’s there, or that I don’t know it’s living and breathing inside me every waking moment of my life, I just have a way of shutting it out to make it more managable, because that’s all I have control over.
A grocery store customer is especially sensitive to the drone music, because they don’t live in it every minute. They’re an outsider. It’s why your average healthy person whines about a headache that can be easily alleviated with tylenol, or why they whine about being sore from the gym, or bitch about how much their high heels hurt their feet. There exposure to the drone is next to nothing compared to a grocery store employee, because they get to turn it off whenever they want. The employees don’t necessarily want to listen to the customers bitch about having to hear the music. The customers get to shut it off. They get to leave the store, and go about their lives. But the employees also don’t wish for a customer to ever have to become an employee, either.
The grocery store employee is always fighting with the volume. The volume is easily influenced by outside stimuli and could turn up at any moment without warning. Some days the volume is so incredibly loud that it renders them completely useless. It’s just so loud you can’t hear yourself think. It stops you in your tracks. It takes you over and robs you of your ability to complete even the simplest task. It’s like wearing headphones that are too loud, and no one else can hear or see it. You’re expected to keep going on about your day as if you are not hearing the loudest, most atrociously high-pitched ear-ringing nails-on-a-chalkboard music in your life. There are ways to turn it down, or change the tune, but what if everything you have in your possession to potentially turn down the volume doesn’t work? Sometimes you get lucky. But sometimes you can hear it, even in your sleep.
You can never react to the too-loud-music in front of the customers. It’s not socially acceptable. They sometimes even seem to think that you are making up the music all together, and that it doesn’t exist, even though they’ve heard it before. Everywhere you turn, you are surrounded by customers, and you are not allowed to talk about the too-loud-music.
Unless of course, you’re a rebellious employee that is done caring about what customers think.
Let’s talk about the music.


  1. I totally get you. My FM has kicked up to the point that I cant sleep at night. So today I read a study that just came out that said people who drink moderate amounts of red wine have improved pain symptoms as FM sufferers have low GABA levels and red wine is a GABA agonist (raises levels). So I am going to start one glass a night. Do you think your mom would let you try a glass for medical reasons? I can send the study to her. I also know that the brain cant feel more than 3 separate areas of pain. After that, it just senses pain all over. And I know that is true, when I have pain all over, I cant determine all the actual sites. Chronic pain sucks the life right out of you/me.

    • Hmm, that’s interesting. I take a vitamin D3 supplement that has Red Wine extract in it called Resveratrol, I didn’t think much of it when I bought it, I just needed vitamin D3. I’m 22 and do enjoy a glass of hard cider once in a great while, but have abstained from it altogether because the alcohol just makes me feel weird. I would try anything relatively harmless to lower pain levels, my only concern with red wine is that it has always given my mom a headache and her and I are too much alike, and I suspect it might do the same to me. I wonder if there is another way to get the benefits from it? I’ve been googling resveratrol while I’m writing back and it seems like it can have some negative effects too, seems divided on whether or not it’s beneficial.

  2. Dear Jill, I am a chronic pain nurse specialist and I work with people on pain programmes. I came across your analogy of chronic pain and was hoping I could use it before I do a talk on pain mechs.

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