I’ll never forget the day I first set foot into the Pain Management Center at the Mayo Clinic. I was about to enter an entire new world I knew nothing about. I had completely run out of options on how to cure or manage my pain and knew in the back of my mind this was my final shot. However, I was angry. I did not want to be a part of a program whose philosophy was to “live with the pain” instead of “curing the pain.” It is hard to forget calling my dad from Minnesota arguing with him about getting out of this program I had been accepted into. He had been there with me through my brain surgery that occurred in my young teens and had spent years taking me to every doctor possible to cure my chronic pain. He had seen me at my lowest, watched me cry knowing he was doing everything he knew he could do, and seen me basically completely give up on life. There was no way he was budging when I begged him to let me leave and go back to my life at home. Obviously, I could have left if I really wanted to. I was an adult and was able to make my own decisions. However, I looked up to my dad more than anyone in the world and took his advice over all others. He has always told me: “You cannot lose what you do not have.” Whatever he said on the phone that day as I was sitting outside smoking a cigarette in Minnesota worked. I am sure I was a total bitch on the phone and through my tears screamed “fine” and hung up but the next day I entered the world of managing chronic pain without a cure.
Chronic pain definitely does not discriminate. When I walked into the walls of the Mayo Clinic Pain Management center I was beyond scared. There were people in their teens, people in their eighties, people in wheel chairs, and people from the poorest areas of our country to the richest areas of our country. Looking around the room I honestly could not tell who was a patient and who was an employee. It hit me that day that chronic pain is truly invisible. I bonded the most with three people. One was a mother of three, deaf, and on Medicaid. One was a boy in his twenties who had had an accident like me and was wheel chair bound. And the last was a rich woman in her fifties who had Fibromyalgia. The four of us had nothing in common except chronic pain. That was the best commonality I had ever found with another human being in my life. We shared a bond that is beyond difficult to find in the “real world.” One of the worst things about living with chronic pain is that no one understands what you are going through. It does not matter if you are poor or rich. It does not matter if you are deaf or can hear perfectly. And it definitely does not matter what age you are. If you are suffering with an invisible illness not much else matters. Chronic pain can destroy anyone, it definitely does not discriminate. I am writing this blog to spread awareness of chronic pain and hopefully give people hope that life does go on even if you live with chronic pain. Honestly if one does not have their health/happiness, who cares how much money is in their wallet? Most people with chronic pain look completely healthy on the outside. And the sad part is those are the people in our world who are suffering the most and yet that suffering goes unseen or is not acknowledged. If you have chronic pain or know anyone with chronic pain, know that there is a huge light at the end of the tunnel. It is not always easy living with chronic pain naturally but it can be done. Help me spread awareness of chronic pain. It may be affecting some of the closest people in your life and you do not even know about it.