One of the questions I will never forget asking during a group session at the Mayo Clinic was: “How can I be a good social work when I live with chronic pain?” The director of the Pain Rehab Center (whom I admire dearly) looked at me with such a positive face and replied; “Chronic pain will make you the best kind of social worker there is. You will be able to help patients the way many people are not able to because you understand pain and have an amazing sense of empathy.” I could not argue with that response and he was dead on. I did end up helping numerous patients and families because I knew what pain and loss felt like and I could basically relate to most illnesses my patients faced.
So, here I am now a mother with chronic pain working on having more children and some people ask me: “How are you able to manage being a mother and chronic pain at the same time” or “You really want more kids even though you have chronic pain? Can you handle that?” Chronic pain is not a death sentence. Once I began to stop looking for a cure and accepted chronic pain is the moment I actually could see a positive life and future and clearly for me that future entails children. Yes, sometimes juggling chronic pain and motherhood is extremely difficult but juggling anything with chronic pain is hard. I love being a mother. I will never let anything get in the way of that even chronic pain. I do believe chronic pain has helped me be the best mother I could be despite its difficulties. Prior to being diagnosed with chronic pain I did not exercise, eat well, or take care of myself and took most things for granted. Now I wake up each morning and exercise with my two year old. Running her in her stroller is one of my favorite things to do. I never appreciated the ducks or random things she points out to me during our morning runs. Seeing things through her eyes gives me such an appreciation for the things I never noticed before. I love seeing her excitement and joy, nothing can compare to that. We come home and I make us each a juice and she enjoys most healthy foods. It is sometimes crazy to here my daughter begging me for carrots and hummus. My daughter (whether she knows it or not) practices meditation and even yoga nidra because I am usually in the same room as her when I practice. My daughter was doing yoga poses such as downward facing dog before she could walk. I truly believe exercise, nutrition, mindfulness, and meditation are very important things to instill in our children at an early age. Had I not been diagnosed with chronic pain I am not sure I would be doing any of the things. However, these are just the little things in the grand scheme of being a mother with chronic pain.
After my bike accident I was bullied a lot in school and experienced the wrath of not “fitting in.” I never want my daughter to ever think being different is a bad thing and I want her to treat everyone with respect and kindness. I want her to be whatever she wants to be and will make sure she loves herself first as it took me years to love myself and I sought that love from others because I wanted love so badly. Chronic pain has truly taught me to appreciate things that I always took for granted. This past weekend, I was in a pretty crappy down mood despite the amazing weather. In my theory to “act the way you want to feel” I took my daughter to an Easter egg hunt. Although she was scared at first she became obsessed with the Easter bunny and watching her amazement made the whole day turn around. We ended up staying outside for the remainder of the day. She is still saying “bunny” constantly. I love being able to enjoy the things she enjoys and finding things for us to do. I truly believed I would never be able to be a mother because of chronic pain and it turns out that chronic pain has actually helped me be a better mom than I would be had I not suffered so much in my past.
Do not allow chronic pain to steal your life forever. Yes, many of you reading this feel hopeless right now and do not think you will ever get the life you have dreamed of. I get that. It stole many years of my life and there are periods of time that my joy is stolen because of pain but I get that joy back quickly and appreciate the hell out of it! Do not let pain take away your life. You can still fulfill your dreams and your dreams will be that much more magical because of chronic pain.