I was on a search for the cure for my chronic pain for about ten years. I’ll go back in time a little bit…my bike accident happened in Middle School. After having brain surgery because of a blood clot on the right side of my brain and surviving, I was just pretty happy to be alive. The chronic pain following the accident did not get unbearable until about Senior year of high school. That is when the doctor appointments began. We started with neurologists who put me on many different medications to help alleviate the symptoms of my pain (not pain killers just different drugs that help with chronic pain.) The medicines never helped and just resulted in side affects and frustration. For the next few years I saw every specialist possible. I saw dentists, acupuncturists, massage therapists, about a dozen different neurologists, pain specialists, electro acupuncturists, natropaths, dieticians, chiropractors, psychiatrists, and nerve specialists who performed surgeries on my face. That was one of the worst experiences I had in my search for curing chronic pain. I was awake for a surgery in which the surgeon cut select nerve endings off in my face. The doctor swore this would help so I was more than willing to endure the surgery. It was two of the most excruciating hours of my life and sadly did nothing to help my chronic pain. Certain specialists I saw later in my search for the cure said those surgeries probably made my chronic pain worse. Who knows, but it sure as hell did NOT help and just led me much further into my hopelessness and depression.
Following the awful, useless surgeries I had on my face was around the time I just basically said “screw this life…I can’t live like this anymore!” I ended up leaving college in North Jersey and headed to Boulder, Colorado where I could party my ass off and very few people would think anything of it. It was the best party town ever!!! Even though I was having fun (yes too much “fun.”) I didn’t stop searching for help. The west side of our country offered something that was difficult to find in New Jersey: holistic medicine. A LOT of money was spent going to every herb specialist (no not weed other legal herbs….weed was easy to get lol) natropaths, and even hypnotherapists. I not only went to one hypnotherapist but three. Every person I saw swore they had the answer to fix my chronic pain. Many people had great approaches and intentions but nothing helped and only caused my hopelessness, depression, and bank account hit rock bottom.
I ended up constantly partying all night and spending my days hung over and sad. I really just wanted to die. This was around the time I ended up going to the Mayo Clinic. I had never heard of the Pain Rehab Center. I went to the Mayo Clinic because it was my last hope and is the best of the best. For about two months I lived in Minnesota and saw every specialist possible at the Mayo Clinic. Every other day I had different tests done and different appointments. My MRI’s, blood work, etc etc turned out fine. I will never forget the day one of the specialists I saw was honest with me and said: “Jessica, you have chronic pain. You can spend another ten years searching for a cure, spend the rest of your life on medications, or go to our Pain Rehab Program here and learn how to live a good life even with chronic pain. I wanted to punch him in the face. I just spent two months of my life living in a hotel in Minnesota going to the best doctors in the country to hear those options?!
I left that appointment irate and balling my eyes out. I called my dad in hysterics and told him what the doctor had said. My dad begged me to give the Pain Rehab Program a shot. They were willing to take me right away when usually one has to wait months if not years to get in. I refused, bought some alcohol and drowned my sorrows. Two days later I enrolled in the Pain Rehab Program. I hated it at first.
I was in a room with about fifteen other people who also suffered from chronic pain. I had a schedule that began at seven am and ended at four pm. One hour I would be in physical therapy, one hour biofeedback, one hour occupational therapy, and the rest was spent in group settings talking about ways to manage chronic pain without drugs or doctor appointments. Everyone I was with had different types of chronic pain. From fibromyalgia, to stomach diseases, phantom pain from loss of limbs, to people like me who had been in some sort of accident that left them with pain for the rest of their lives. All our symptoms were different but we had all been through the same experiences. Everyone in my group had been to over fifty specialists, had multiple surgeries, and were at the end of their rope and no longer had hope. For the first time in many years I did not feel alone.
For the following two months I stuck with the Pain Rehab Program. For the first time in years something made sense: I had hope. I was in my early twenties and did not want to spend another decade searching for a cure or taking medications. That would leave me with no life, no money, and no chance of any of my dreams being fulfilled. This was the only thing that made sense to me.
I stopped looking for the cure to my chronic pain because after years of looking for a cure I only ended up in more pain and more depressed. Instead I learned and practiced the tools I needed to use to manage my pain and I learned to live a happy life with chronic pain.
I can’t even imagine now going back to look for some sort of cure. I never want to go back to that life. As I finish this sentence I hear my daughter saying “cat” : a word she is very proud to have perfected. If I had continued searching for the cure for my chronic pain, I promise you I would not be hearing my daughter in the background. When I stopped my search for a cure, my life began.