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We Have Forgotten What is Important

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“We have bigger houses, but smaller families.  More conveniences but less time.  We have more degrees but less sense.  More knowledge but less judgement.  More experts, but more problems.  More medicines, but less healthiness.   We’ve been all the way to the moon and back but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.  We built more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but have less communication.  We have become long on quantity but short on quality.  These are times of fast food but slow digestion.  Tall man but short character.  Steep profits but shallow relationships.  It is a time when there is much in the window but nothing in the room.”

-Dalai Lama

I so wish I that I was as brilliant and wise as the Dalai Lama (impossible) and I came up with these amazing words that completely describe how I honestly feel about our world.  Because the focus of my writing is on chronic pain, I want to connect this to our invisible illness.  Re-read again: “The Paradox of Our Age.”  Is it any wonder that the rates of people suffering from chronic pain has gone up drastically in the past few decades: along with suicide, depression, anxiety, divorce, health issues, bankruptcy: you name it.

I have always been a minimalist  (aside from high school when I had to have Abercrombie and Fitch and the famous Gap perfumes of that decade.)  I  was happy with simple things, especially after my accident and chronic pain.  I have written this before, but the one thing I always wanted once chronic pain was out of control was to be able to just sit and enjoy a book without thinking about the immense pain I was in or rubbing my face, head, and neck.   Once I did learn how to manage chronic pain naturally, I was able to read those books: something most people took for granted.   Chronic pain truly instilled appreciating the little things and never really wanting much other than: happiness, health, love, and a family.  Now, being thirty-three I often wish I was living in the fifties.  It was the norm for women to be stay at home mothers and take care of their families.  Many of my friends are stay at home mothers and I am sure get the same question: “What do you do for a living?”  Our answers are most likely similar: “I am a stay at home mom” or worse “I am just a mom.”   I do not know why but I always have to justify being a stay at home mom to people with the fact that I do nanny as well and was a social worker.  Why is it not enough to take care of your family and put total focus on your children, health, home, and the lessons my daughter learns on a daily basis from her mother?   To clarify: Yes, I believe women and men are complete equals and every person should have a say in what they do with their lives.  Some of my friends say: “I just couldn’t be home with the kid(s) all day, it would drive me nuts.”  Understandable!  However, as I have written all I ever truly wanted to be was a wife, homemaker, and mother.  I am very proud of what my role is and yes I do nanny as well and take full care of my little girl while my husband goes to work each day and provides for our family.  We both work extremely hard and yet most of society would say: he has a “real” job while I am “just a mom.”  Both of our roles are equally important.  No one is “just a mom.”  In reality I cannot think of a more important job than being a parent.

Once we reach our Junior year of High School, we are to begin looking at colleges and are asked what we want to study and do for the rest of our lives?  I do not believe my answer would have been acceptable: “I want to be a wife, mother, and caregiver.”  I knew I wanted to work with children so I chose Elementary Education as my major.  At this time, my chronic pain was out of control and in hindsight, I wish I had not gone with “society” and declared a major and went straight to college.   My gut knew then that I was suffering to much physically to enjoy school or to be able to make that huge decision for my life but I went anyways.  Chronic pain got worse and I ended up getting more surgeries, procedures, medications etc.  I got amazing grades but I was miserable and wanted to give up on life on a daily basis.  Once I hit rock bottom with chronic pain and truly wanted to die is when I ended up at the Mayo Clinic Pain Center.  Following my month long stay where I was taught how to manage pain and live a happy, healthy life I changed my major to Social Work because I wanted to either help children or adults who also had an invisible illness.   For the first few years of being a social worker to both children and adults in nursing homes, or day cares for people who were sick I was happy and making a difference.  I loved it.  I had time with my patients.  I taught them meditation, yoga, and gave them as much time as they needed to talk.  Slowly but surely social work turned into eighty percent paperwork and sales which left no time to truly help my patients.  My salary increased as did my stress, chronic pain levels, anxiety, and loss.   There was no time to actually help the people I had been helping for years.  My last boss as a social worker said to me: “Jessica, you are amazing with the patients but your numbers are low and you do a terrible job  selling our company.” I will never forget saying to him: “Hence, why my degree is in social work and not in sales.  You are absolutely right.”  Most of my friends (if not all) who have their Bachelor’s degree do not use it.  There are some that do but when I look around each person I from my high school years to college to our thirties do not use their degree.  Most people, even without chronic pain have no clue at the age of seventeen what they want to do for the rest of their lives.  Three weeks after I was given my license to drive a car, I was pushed to make a lifelong choice.   It does not make much sense to me.  More degrees, more debt, possibly more money, less happiness.

Our society relies on medications for close to everything.  And please, understand that I am very grateful for the science and medications that people are able to take to help them live better, lives and more importantly save lives.  For me, the science behind medications for chronic pain only caused me increased pain.  I cannot honestly even list the amount of different medications doctors tried to use to relieve my pain.  Not only did they not help but they made me feel more helpless and hopeless.  The only medication that ever worked was pain medication such as Percocet, which doctor’s are very willing to give after seeing I had brain surgery and reading my records.  However, pain medicine only works short term and over time you need more and more to get the same result.  Not only that but each time you take a pill for pain, you are reminded once again that you have chronic pain.  I made a choice to not take pain medication or anything for chronic pain because of the above reasons.  Have you ever taken something for pain and before it even gets in your system you already feel a little better?  One of my favorite people I have been close with is a woman in her late seventies who teaches spin class: yes, she is a spin instructor and fitness guru.  She is one of the healthiest people I have ever met.  She only eats organic food, knows exactly where her food comes from, exercises, meditates, and never uses anything with artificial ingredients.   People often ask her: “How do you afford to buy all organic food, go to yoga classes, and spend so much of your money on natural products?”  Her answer is simple: “I have no doctor or medical bills.  I take no medications and live simply.”

We have made our lives so damn complicated with technology, a zest for being the best, making money, buying what we think will make us happy, working to pay for so many things we do not need thus leading us into a daily state of worry and stress.  When I look back into my childhood, I do not remember anything that required money.  My memories are of making forts out of boxes, playing in the snow, bike rides, make believe, feeding ducks, farms, and playgrounds.  When people looked through our windows at that time, they did not see much furniture or electronics.  However, they did see a father and daughter who were healthy, happy, and enjoying life.

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