The less you give a damn, the happier you will be! Wish I had this knowledge twenty years ago! I guess with age comes wisdom but I know how true this statement is! At the age of thirteen, following my brain surgery I went from going to a private elementary school into a public middle school. Even without half a shaved head and scars everywhere this would have been difficult. I did not know what a cafeteria, locker room, or even a locker was. I went from a class of twelve to a class of over one hundred. I was the smallest fish in a scary seventh grade pond with half a shaved head and enormous scars. As we all know, teenagers can be mean! And no matter what our parents tell us we seem to gravitate to what our peers are saying more. Hence why I ate lunch in the girls bathroom just to hide each lunch period. If I truly understood then that the less I gave a damn the happier I would be, it would have been a much easier year. In hindsight maybe I pushed myself too hard to begin a new school four months following brain surgery but as I have written before brain surgery was nothing compared to the life I have lived with chronic pain.
I always cared what people thought of me and sometimes still have to catch myself as I ask close friends or family if they are mad at me. I never want to disappoint anyone, I hate when someone is upset with me. Throughout high school, college, and my twenties I cared more what others thought of me than what I thought of myself. I always wanted to be the funny, crazy girl, in part because that is truly who I am but also to keep people’s focus away from how much I was suffering inside. I was the guinea pig in my group of friends. We still joke about it to this day. I was the first one to smoke a cigarette, steal a pack of cigarettes, get drunk, and even make out with a boy. I wanted to make people laugh and think I was cool and was willing to do almost anything to take any attention away from the pain I was feeling on the inside. I had a boyfriend who was on the “cooler end” of the high school spectrum and he was my first love and all that jazz. Looking back, I really wish I had cared less of what anyone thought of me. What a waste of energy. I even remember dying my hair black (it looked awful) because I wanted to be daring and make my friends think I was really awesome. I can still smell and see that black dye in my hair, yuck! For what it is worth two of my closest friends in high school always did end up seeing the real Jessica. The Jessica that is truly funny and crazy at times but also has a lot of pain and tears. Those two people are still my best friends and I am thirty two years old. That is saying something. All the people I went a little overboard to impress with my insane ways are not in my life anymore.
Throughout my battle with chronic pain I have put on a constant show to hide the pain because after awhile no one believed me anyways. And who wanted to be friends with someone who was always in pain! “How dramatic!” I started to stop caring what people thought of me more once I went to the Mayo Clinic and was surrounded by people who also suffered from chronic pain. One of my closest friends was a boy my age who had a horrible car accident and was wheel chair bound. Nobody there cared what you looked like or the mistakes you had made or the tears you shed. We all felt different pain but chronic pain is chronic pain. And anyone going into the room filled with about twenty of us chronic pain patients probably would never have been able to tell we had an invisible illness.
Caring what other’s think of me is so damn draining and what a waste of time. Even in relationships. If someone is in an off mood around me, I honestly start thinking if there is anything I may have done to make them upset with me. Nine times out of ten others are just dealing with their own shit. We are all fighting battles so why do we care so much what others think?? I’m tired of giving a damn. The happier I am with myself and what I am doing with my life the less I give a damn what anyone thinks including the people I love. When I know from the bottom of my soul that I am doing the best I can and am proud of myself, no one can take that away from me.
Let us all start this week out giving less a damn what anyone thinks of us. Whether you have chronic pain or not, I can almost promise you, you will be just a little happier.