I am a thirty two year old mother of one daughter, Kayci who has just turned two. I had a bike accident in my young teens that required brain surgery and later in life chronic pain (the worst invisible illness in my experience.) My chronic pain began becoming unbearable around the age of seventeen. I spent my time either trying to get into the best college (perfectionism is an awful habit) or sitting in doctor’s offices trying to find any relief from the never ending pain I felt. Chronic pain causes: insomnia, depression, anxiety, and hopelessness. I was very fortunate to have an amazing support system through my father but at that time doctor’s were truly baffled by chronic pain and it took multiple (unsuccessful) surgeries, medications, treatments, and endless time searching for help. The good news: I got amazing grades and ended up at a great college to pursue my goal of being a teacher. The bad news is I reached an amazing goal but at a huge price. During my first two years of college I wanted to get the best grades and manage my chronic pain at the same time: impossible! It was truly impossible for me at that time because I had no idea how to manage my pain in a natural way and was a depressed mess with good grades. What are good grades if your health is failing and you think of ending your life on a monthly basis. I reached a point of rock bottom the day I jumped into my car drove from New Jersey to Colorado and dropped out of school. Sadly, no matter where I lived chronic pain followed me. It got worse and worse until I was self medicating and partying with friends on a daily basis just to numb the physical and emotional pain chronic pain brings. At about the age of twenty-one I went to the Mayo Clinic and entered into a Pain Rehab Center. I spent almost a month there learning how to manage my pain naturally and learned that I could live the life I always dreamed despite pain. Following the Mayo Clinic I took a good eight months away from school, bad influences, and pressure. I had to focus on a pain management schedule that would work for me. Had I not taken that time I would not be where I am now.
I ended up getting my degree in Social Work and practiced medical social work for many years until my biggest dream came true and my husband and I gave birth to our daughter Kayci. We are planning on having more children and although I have chronic pain I now know how to manage it without medication and without treatment. It is not easy but I am finally happy. If I could go back in time I would have taken those months or a year off when I was in my late teens. I was scared to tell my family the truth because I never wanted to disappoint them and I believed doing well in school would make them happy. I never realized that all they really wanted was for me to be happy. I have things in my life now I never thought I would have because of chronic pain. It took me a little longer than my friends but they did not suffer with chronic pain. I am married, graduated college with a 4.0 in social work, and am now a stay at home mom working to help those with chronic pain.
If you have a child or teen with chronic pain you need to know that they are not making it up no matter how great they appear on the outside. The best thing you can tell your child is: “I believe you and will support any decision you make to make sure we get your chronic pain under control.” They may pretend to be fine (as most teens do) but you must believe me they are not ok and they your love and support more than ever. If they are willing to work on themselves I beg you to support that decision. No one asks for chronic pain. I have been through a lot of crap in my life including a difficult childhood, three miscarriages, and brain surgery. None of those things compare to the struggle I had for most of my life with chronic pain. I invite you to read my blog from the beginning and share it with anyone you know who either has chronic pain or is a caregiver of one with chronic pain. I look at my little two year old now and know I would do absolutely anything to take her pain away. A parent’s love is so strong it hurts.
This post is dedicated to Katrina: a teenager who has more potential than I ever did at her age.