How many times have you been asked by a doctor or specialist to circle on a piece of paper where it hurts? I honestly cannot even count how many times I have seen this picture but just looking at this brings back some of my worst memories and I am so happy I do not have to “circle where it hurts” again!
I remember when I first saw this picture, I was maybe seventeen or so. I was excited. I was so meticulous at drawing little dots on the stick figures to show exactly where I felt my pain. I was even happy there was a front side of the body and a back side because it hurt all over my head, face, and upper back. I thought this was the greatest thing ever. After, many more doctors and specialists and being asked to draw where it hurts I gave up on the diagram. I became so familiar with this drawing that “circling where it hurt” became as familiar to me as my own signature. Fill out my insurance info (or lack there of), write down my past surgeries: brain surgery, and circle where it hurts: done, done, and done. Turns out the only information that ever changed was my insurance and the date. I
Someone emailed me recently and wrote: “I just want a diagnosis!” I have come to care about this person quite a bit as I have with many of my readers because when someone writes me something like that I can relate on so many levels and I literally can feel her pain. For so many years, even after I gave up on a cure I wanted a diagnosis. I wanted to be able to say: I have fibromyalgia or something to that affect. I wanted to be able to say to my friends and family: this is my diagnosis, google it for answers. I just wanted a freaking name to call what I was feeling. The only name there is for what I have is chronic pain. Yes, I can go into my history and explain my bike accident and brain surgery and all the minor surgeries I had following brain surgery but who the hell cares? I used to! Until I came to a point of acceptance and learned how to manage my pain I would tell anyone who asked my life long story with chronic pain. It truly was all I knew. Now the only way people know I have chronic pain is from reading or hearing about my blog.
When I first entered the Mayo Clinic Pain Rehab Center, I was astonished that people were not talking about their pain. I was so confused because I was totally excited for a three week bitch session. I wanted to ask everyone in the room where their pain was located or see this picture so I could circle exactly where I felt pain. The biggest lesson I learned was that it truly did not matter where the pain was located or if any of us have a clear diagnoses. Chronic pain is chronic pain and if you have it and are intrigued by the direction my journey has taken me then you never have to circle where it hurts again. The journey of a life with chronic pain is not an easy one and it took me many years to get to a place of acceptance and happiness. It is okay if you are not where I am today and think that I am nuts for ending my search for a cure. We are all on different paths. There may not be a way out of chronic pain but there is definitely a way through and that way through is a promise that you will never have to see this diagram again.