Fake it till you make it: the term I most quote from my stay at the Mayo Clinic Pain Rehab Center. I have used this quote multiple times but my best friend sent me this via email today as she has known me since my accident twenty years ago. This is a quote I live by, but not the topic of this post.
Recently a sixteen year old girl from the UK has started emailing me for help and guidance with her struggle with chronic pain. She reminds me so much of myself at that age that I have vowed to her to help her as much as I can along her journey and respond to each email she writes me. She seems so much like the girl I was at sixteen. At the age of sixteen is when my chronic pain started to get pretty awful. She has many of the same concerns, questions, and fears that I had then but I had no one to turn to. However, this young lady appears much wiser than I was at her age. She brought up the topic of chronic pain and friendships with me recently and that was something that was most difficult for me with my battle with chronic pain. I lost friends in my high school years, college years, and adult years because of chronic pain. It has taken me most of my life to realize that it is not the quantity of friendships we have but the quality of each friend. My best friend and I have been friends since around the age of thirteen, right after my bike accident. We became friends in gym class of all places. We each despised gym class: me because I was the “loser” who had had brain surgery and her because she just didn’t like being pushed to do things she didn’t want to do. I remember the gym teacher getting so angry with my new friend because she was having a tough time running the mile we were each assigned to do. I stuck up for her (was easier to stick up for other people then myself….still is in a way.) We have been best friends since. She has seen me thought my high school years suffering with chronic pain, my college years, and my adult years. We are each thirty two now and she and I have had ups and downs but we have a history that will keep our friendship strong for life. She has seen me drowning myself in alcohol and crying my eyes out on her front porch because I could not deal with the pain. She has been to countless doctor appointments with me through out my life and was the one person I could always count on to send me a card (or ten….the girl loves stationary!) during both of my stays in Minnesota at the Mayo Clinic. In many ways, she has been a mother to me. So today when she emailed me this and wrote in the email: “Oh my God Jess, this is so what you learned at the Mayo Clinic!” I couldn’t help but re-affirm the fact that friendships truly are about quality and not quantity. Only my best friend would see this quote and immediately email it to me.
People with chronic pain have a very difficult time keeping friendships. Chronic pain is so difficult to understand and it can be very draining on any relationships. But here ya go. Here is another lesson I learned because of chronic pain: true friends will love you no matter what and stick by you. My best friend is proof of that. If you are a teenager or anyone who is having trouble keeping friends or loved ones because of chronic pain, try to just let them go. They will most definitely come back if they are your true friend. Focus on yourself and your life and do what is best for you: ALWAYS! Your true friends will always support you. Oh the lessons I wish I could teach my younger self!!!