“Do you get frequent blood tests to the point of junkie scars? Do you have more pills in your pill pot that your grandmother? Are you sick of people assuming they know everything about your illness? Are you sick of side affects ruining your life? And is your medical file looking more like a novel?”
First years of college and looking for a cure to chronic pain can be the worst years of one’s life: I know they were for me. A lot of my readers are teenagers or people in their young twenties suffering from chronic pain. Until yesterday, after receiving a very heartfelt, amazing email from a young girl in her second year of college I forgot how truly terrible my freshman and sophomore year of college were. I graduated high school in 1999: I know, I’m old. I remember packing up for college with my closest friend Lindsay and my dad. All my high school friends were scared to leave home and live on their own as was I but not for the same reasons. I was still searching for a cure to chronic pain, I was still living in the sixth ring of hell battling pain and wanting to just end it all, I was so beyond lost it literally hurts my heart to think of all the people like this young lady who will be entering her junior year of college and feeling as I did back then. I picked a school only less than two hours from my home. I did not want to be far from the only support system I had: my dad and my la la. I pretended to be okay and tried so hard to “fit in” and not allow anyone to know I had chronic pain. I was juggling a new residence, a roommate who was gothic and literally had her desk full of potions as she truly believed she was a witch: only thing we had in common was our name, two Jessica’s in the same dorm room. Half of the room in yellow and pink, the other in black and filled with witchcraft: you cannot make this shit up. I was figuring out where I fit in, what and where my classes were, studying, partying, and going to doctors at least twice a week for chronic pain. I cannot go back in time: thank God but if I could I would have taken a year off to get my health under control because I was in no way, shape or form able to do well in school, have fun, make friends while living in pain 24/7. These were the worst two years of my journey with chronic pain. I got amazing grades, drank and partied with friends to numb the physical pain, and to the outside community looked like your average college student living with a witch. Who the hell would put two Jessica’s in the same dorm room anyways? I am not sure they really read about students to make roommate matches. However, the other Jessica did help me in my plan to “fit in” and not allow anyone to know I had chronic pain. I told people I was going to an allergist or visiting home all the times I was really going in for minor surgeries to cure chronic pain or visiting every doctor I could to find a cure. Two years of this lifestyle nearly killed me. I remember the dorm room across the hall from the Jessica’s. The two girls were beautiful, in a sorority, and everyone loved them. I was so jealous, I wanted to be one of them. I wanted to laugh and study and have the college life but chronic pain would not allow that to happen. I grew more and more depressed, so much so that one day I packed my bags, left the other Jessica and flew to Colorado to escape my pain. I was done. I was done pretending, I was done with doctors, I was done with surgeries, and I was done living. I knew a good friend who lived in Boulder, Colorado and stayed with her there: no school, just jugs of Carlo Rossi, parties, and trips to Vegas numbing my physical pain in ways I never thought I would. Ninety five percent of the time was just a living hell but honestly those road trips to Vegas were pretty awesome, probably why my favorite movie is “The Hangover.” “We tend to do f***** up sh** when we are wasted.” That is a movie to watch if you want to distract your mind from pain: I quote it daily, literally.
My body and mind could only handle so much and I hit rock bottom. I wanted to die. The only thing that kept me going was the love I had for my dad and I could not end my life knowing what it would do to him. Thank God a person in my life saw me slowly dying in pain and drove me to Minnesota and got me into the Mayo Clinic. I will be forever grateful for this person: he saved my life. After a few months of tests, MRI’s, etc. I was told by the head neurologist (chronic pain for me is due to brain surgery/bike accident) that there was not anything they could do but enter me into the Pain Rehab Center where I would learn to accept and manage pain naturally. I entered against my will and that was the day my life began. Since then, I have not researched the newest pain relievers, treatments, doctors, and have not gone to a doctor for chronic pain. I took a few months off after leaving the Mayo Clinic and practiced what I had been taught until it became such a routine that slowly I began to not think about pain. This was not easy, it still isn’t. Managing chronic pain naturally with a strict routine is a lot of work but the work is fun and so much less stressful than researching cures and/or living in doctor’s offices. Once I had chronic pain under control I started college again in Colorado and graduated Summa Cum Late with a degree in social work. Once I was working as a social worker, I kept to my chronic pain routine and now that I am a mother, writer, and nanny I continue to stick to this routine. It is not as easy as it was back then because I now have a child, a husband, a house, etc. However, I manage to live a happy life despite pain and I would not trade my choice on how to live with chronic pain for anything. I am not sure what the other Jessica is doing now but this Jessica is living as opposed to surviving.
I get so many emails from young people who feel the exact way I do. The girl, I will let her stay anonymous and use the letter L for her reminds me of myself at her age to a degree that hurts. I know how awful she is feeling and literally get pangs in my heart because I never want anyone to feel the way I did in college. I want you all to know that you are stronger than I was at your age and you are actually reading a blog about managing and accepting chronic pain naturally. What? I never would have been doing that. I am older than the internet though: scary. When I was eighteen there was not much talk regarding chronic pain now there is. Do not waste your life away searching for a cure, you can truly live a healthy happy life with chronic pain. Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
I know exactly how you feel and where you are and how awful you believe your future to be. My life purpose is to help people like L learn to live as opposed to survive. Chronic pain is not a death sentence. I am here for all of you and I wish I could do so much more but the least I can do is listen, offer advice, and email you. You are not alone. You are not crazy. You are not making up pain and it is not all in your head unless you are like me and had brain surgery. You deserve life. You deserve to be happy and live the life you were meant to be, it may not be the one you planned but maybe your plan is nothing compared to the plan the Universe has for you. Do not give up. I beg you. I know two people who committed suicide due to chronic pain and it is the number one cause of death for those who have chronic pain. I am here for all of you.
This post is dedicated to L: a very brave, smart college student who may be suffering now but she is wise and strong whether she can see that or not and she will be helping others as I do one day.