Not only is chronic pain also known as an invisible illness because many people who suffer with chronic pain like myself show no outer signs of an illness, but chronic pain also makes one feel invisible to the rest of the world. I have had quite a number of teenagers contacting me asking for advice and I make a promise to everyone to write them back. One young lady asked me how I managed chronic pain in high school and I had to do some major reflection to remember how I got through it. Around the age of I would say sixteen is when my dad began taking me to doctor appointments on a regular basis. We started with neurologists, allergists, and general practitioners. Nothing helped but my chronic pain did not get horrible until my freshman year of college.
Coping in high school was not easy. I had good friends who are still to this day my best friends. They did not understand what I was going through and I did not expect them too. I remember someone in history class pointing out one day that I kept rubbing my face (a pain behavior I still struggle with!) and I was quite embarrassed. I have no idea what I said but I definitely did not go into details about what was wrong with me as I myself was unsure what was wrong with me. Teenage years are difficult for everyone in many ways. I remember freaking out because of my acne and greasy hair and wondering why I could not look like the “pretty girls.” I remember getting my period for the first time and having zero clue what to do as at that time my dad was raising me on his own and I was beyond embarrassed to ask him. My best friend did an amazing job teaching me what to do (a story twenty years later we still laugh about.) Then there was my first love and the excruciating emotional pain I felt when he no longer wanted to be with me. Part of me thought it was because of my chronic pain but turns out it was because of his own issues. However, many people know the terrible pain one feels when they lose their first love. I thought I was going to die it hurt so much. My friends and dad had to spoon feed me soup because I was too depressed to eat. Even thinking about that time makes my heart hurt. Point being, teenage years are difficult enough but then you add in chronic pain, it is a LOT to take and I commend every teenager managing chronic pain and beg you to keep going. Your dreams and aspirations will come true.
I am happy that teenagers are reaching out to me for advice as I think I kind of blocked that part of my life out and it is going to take more soul searching for me to write more on this topic. Stay tuned, I promise to write more about chronic pain as a teenager.
I will say this. If you know any teenager who is living with chronic pain be kind. Be kind to everyone but do not ever bully someone who admits to you he or she has chronic pain. Just because you cannot see something does not mean it is not there. I had no physical symptoms in high school but I was in tremendous pain and was suffering every day. You cannot see air and yet you breathe it, you cannot see love yet you feel it, you may not see chronic pain but I promise you it exists. If someone is brave enough to admit to you he or she has chronic pain be intelligent and kind enough to believe them.