When I was about fourteen years old I was riding my bike to our local video store (yes they had those once). On my way bike ride home from the store the bag containing my video hit the front wheel of my bike and I fell into a stone wall. I knew I broke something but other than that felt ok so I walked home (not my smartest move ever.) Once home my dad took me to the hospital. A couple hours later they discovered I had a blood clot on the right side of my brain and I was rushed into immediate brain surgery. My life would never be the same.
I woke up the next day in the ICU. At the time I did not know how close I came to actually dying. My head was shaved and my face no longer resembled my own. I spent the next few weeks in the hospital and the following few months in bed. Then life turned back to “normal.”
The chronic pain slowly progressed following this accident. I went through high school and by freshman year of college the chronic pain started to get worse and worse. I saw every specialist known to man, had multiple surgeries, and tried every medication there was. Nothing worked. I pretended to be a fun college kid. I drank with my friends and soon the only time I was truly ok was when I was drinking with my friends because then I didn’t feel the pain. Things went from bad to worse as I used drinking as a coping mechanism to just not feel the pain that not one of the hundreds of doctors I saw could help alleviate.
I seemed like every other person in college but I was literally living in hell. I thought about suicide multiple times but knew I could never do that to my family. Finally people saw that I was really falling apart. The pain had completely taken control of my life. I ended up going to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota where I spent months seeing every specialist there. After about two months I heard the words I will never forget: “You have chronic pain, there is no cure.” At the time I wanted to punch the doctor in the face. However, he was correct. He sent me to the Mayo Clinic’s Pain Rehab Center where I spent another two months surrounded by people with chronic pain. I hated it at first. I wanted a cure I did not want to live like this. They taught me how to live with chronic pain and still function an be happy. They taught me the importance of exercise, nutrition, meditation, and balance. It was a five week program, eight hours a day so there was a lot I learned. I left to come home after the program was finished. I was scared, anxious, still battling pain but for the first time I had hope. I ended up graduating college and became a medical social worker. I wanted to help people who were in pain like the people at the Mayo Clinic helped me.
Since then I have had many ups and some downs. I became so obsessed with helping other people I soon forgot how to help myself. I started going back on pain medication. I hated myself for that. Although it helps over time you need more and more of it to get the same results for the pain. I stopped doing the things the Mayo Clinic taught me and solely relied on the pain medicine to get me through the day.
The more medicine I took the more I hated myself. The more I hated myself the more medicine I took. I was beyond depressed and once again hopeless. Finally I couldn’t look myself in the mirror anymore. I finally weaned myself off the medicine. I did this by myself (I do NOT recommend or think anyone should do this as it can be very dangerous.) One day I cancelled all my upcoming doctor appointments and was totally off medication. Have not gone back to taking medicine since. I wanted to love myself again and also be a role model for my daughter and anyone out there suffering from chronic pain. Life is still difficult because I am managing chronic pain naturally. But I am happy again and can look myself in the mirror and be proud.
I’m finally at a point where I want to share my story and hopefully give other people hope and strategies to cope with chronic pain without medicine. I don’t want anyone to feel the loneliness I lived with for half my life.
I’m thirty two years old now and I know I will never go back to pain medication to manage my chronic pain. I have good days and bad days but I am happy (most of the time.) I still have anxiety and fear but I’m on a journey and know I can do this. I have a lot more dreams to fulfill! My two biggest being having more children and getting my story out there so I give people the hope and encouragement I so longed for. Chronic pain is an invisible illness and it sucks! I named this blog No one gets flowers for chronic pain because sadly we do not. It is not like getting your tonsils out and you get cards and flowers for a week. I have a lot to share. Honestly, if I can live with chronic pain without any medicine or doctor appointments searching for a cure anyone can. I mean that. Keep reading. I have a lot to say!