One of the biggest losses due to a life with chronic pain is friendships. I lost more friends once I began managing chronic pain naturally and literally had to change my life to manage chronic pain and lead a happy life without doctors, medicine, or procedures. I was the girl who spent ten years searching for a cure, partying with friends, and pretending my life was fine. I did not eat healthy or exercise. Meditation was a word unknown to me as was yoga or mindfulness. The only thing that numbed my physical pain was drinking and being crazy with friends. We were young so it was not as if it was uncommon to literally find a way to make any night a drinking night: Thirsty Thursdays, Election Day, Manic Mondays, Christmas for a month (you get the idea.) However, once I left the Mayo Clinic and learned how to accept and manage my pain naturally people were confused. “Where did fun Jessica go??” “You don’t want to go out?” “You are exercising, and doing meditation?” “Who are you?” My two closest friends from this era whom I have known since I was thirteen have remained sisters to me and have remained my friends through my journey with chronic pain. It was my closest friend, Lindsay who encouraged me to write about my journey with chronic pain and is one of the few people who truly believe this blog will one day help millions and inspires me even though she now lives across the country. She was one of the first people to come to the hospital after my bike accident which resulted in brain surgery twenty years ago.
At the age of thirty three it becomes more difficult to make and keep friends (whether one has chronic pain or not.) People have kids, careers, husbands, businesses, and are well: adults. My closest friends who have been sisters to me for twenty years now live far away: one in California, one is Maine. Needless to say, the person in this picture with me is not Lindsay or Kaitlin whom I miss on a daily basis. This picture was taken this past Tuesday at a playground near our homes. We are both stay at home moms and both live similar lifestyles and are always with our children. I met Linda two years ago through a mutual friend. I am very careful to open up to people about my life especially the brain surgery/chronic pain part. However, once I began this blog the jig was up as the whole world now can see exactly who I am: the good and the bad, the ups and the downs, my journey with chronic pain. I have opened up to Linda and there have been times especially lately that I have dropped off the face of the earth. Life struggles have made managing chronic pain difficult and I have literally had to put all my focus on my family and my nanny position. This has been one of the most stressful, scary months in my life and I have been missing in action from almost everything and everyone. Trying to get through tough times, working, having a family to care for, and continuing to manage pain naturally despite the increase in pain has left me with zero time. I began turning things around this week and have been afraid Linda would give up on me and believe that I did not want our friendship. This is so not the case and she is one of the few people I have ever been envious of (this is not a good thing for any of us to be.) As I write: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” You think I am healthy?? Linda is above and beyond the definition of living naturally and happily despite her life struggles. I texted Linda to meet with the kids and catch up. I honestly thought she would have given up on me as this is not the first time I have “dropped off face of earth.” I was very wrong. She texted back: “Sure! We will be there in a couple hours.” This is the true definition of friendship. Linda does not express feelings like I do and of course we have differences but actions speak so much louder than words. In the two years we have been friends, she has not once abandoned me due to chronic pain or the trouble I have had as of late. I guess she loves me and we are more alike than I ever thought. She does not judge people and is there for those she loves no matter what. She is a tough nut to crack, or so I thought but I now see she is a friend I refuse to lose and can be totally honest and open with.
Those of you, especially my younger readers are losing friendships due to your life with chronic pain. Please hear me. My two friends who were there when I had brain surgery twenty years ago never abandoned me and are still my best friends. You will learn it is not quantity but quality. Even my readers who suffer from chronic pain and are my age and older have a huge fear of abandonment because of their invisible illness. If you find a friend like the friend I found in Linda, keep them and let them in. I was never testing our friendship, I just was scared because lately I have been through many struggles which I am now working through and the light is back.
Many people do not believe my blog will turn into a book or I will make a career out of helping those with chronic pain but I believe in myself. Linda has started a business and her goal is to help those learn to live healthy lifestyles through: exercise, eating healthy, and most of all learning self love. I believe in her and know she can really turn this into something. More importantly, she believes in herself. I hope to be a part of her journey as we share that passion and it makes us happy. I truly encourage you to check out her website just for fun if nothing else. Her website is: http://www.positivelychallenged.com
Yes, you will lose some people due to chronic pain and lifestyle changes. However, you will see that those losses are what show you who and what truly matter in life. Never change who you are or do things that you know will screw you up with chronic pain management just to keep your friends. Put yourself and your health first and you will see people do stay and the people you lose are on different paths and their abandonment has nothing to do with you. And when in totally doubt and confusion know I am here.