This picture spoke to me the second I saw it as I am sure it speaks to many, if not most of my readers. Look at this picture for five seconds and close your eyes: for real close them. Shut? Well, for the twenty percent of you who did close their eyes answer this question without thought: which side of this person do you wish you looked like? I am going to take a guess and say the right sided face (our left.) The pain is visible, the eyes are sad, the scars are fresh: this person is in serious pain. However, so is the face on the left side, our right: but this face looks healthy, happy, and has no scars. Both faces feel the same way but only the face that looks broken on the outside will be acknowledged for chronic pain, sadly the other will become invisible.
I only had my visible scars for maybe a year following my bike accident. If my hair was not long, the visibility of my pain may have lasted six months. For ten years I wanted to look like the face in pain. I wanted people to know I was not okay that I was in so much physical pain I thought about ending my life. Who would believe me? Very few people did. I know now why I acted out for so many years when I was searching for a cure for chronic pain. I was not just trying to numb the pain with alcohol and pain medicine: I was trying to get someone see my pain. Until I reached my rock bottom (lying on the floor in Boulder, Colorado with red wine stains surrounding me) I wanted to have the face above that shows pain. Many of you know the rest. I ended up going to PRC in Minnesota and spent over two months learning how to accept chronic pain and manage it naturally. Months later, maybe even a year I was happy to look healthy on the outside because I felt healthy and happy on the inside. This is not to say chronic pain was ever cured.I know, I wish I could tell you it was but I still consider my story a success: cure or no cure.
Fast forward to present tense. I am thirty four so have had chronic pain for twenty years now. The people who knew me during those ten years of searching for a cure, having procedures done, taking any medication a doctor thought may help, and truly destroying my life by self medicating know how hard I work and how far I have come from the girl I used to be. I have to be honest, what truly sucks is the people who only know the Jessica who manages pain in a healthy way and does not self medicate and has devoted a huge part of her life to help others who have chronic pain. They know both of my faces. However, those who met me in the past five or ten years have absolutely no idea how hard I work or how far I have come. They only know one face and this is not their fault. One of my biggest tools in managing chronic pain is to not talk or focus on my pain. I awake by five in the morning to exercise or do yoga, meditate, write, take breaks, and try to not over do things. I look healthy and happy and I am, but I still have chronic pain and some days are difficult but I rarely, if ever will say how I am feeling regarding pain. No one who has met me since I left the Mayo Clinic can possibly understand how hard I fight every day and that is probably the most difficult part of my personal journey with chronic pain. I sometimes/often wish the people who are closest to me knew me ten years ago when my life was all about chronic pain. I am a totally different person than I was then. However, I cannot go back in time and nor do I want to. It would be very cool to be able to go back in time to show my readers, my loved ones, and people who met me post Mayo Clinic: everyone would see me in a totally different light. But, I am blessed to know what matters most is my inner truth and my self love. In the end, that is far more important than anything else. I was asked recently what was my most difficult part of dealing with chronic pain now that I manage it naturally: this is my answer.