“If you think physical pain is the biggest issue, you’re missing the bigger picture.”
I will never be sure which is worse the actual physical part of living in pain twenty-four/seven or the multiple problems that come along with the physical. They go hand in hand but now that I am “out” of the storm: will have chronic pain forever most likely, I can actually say I think the ailments that come from the physical pain are worse than the pain itself: depression, anxiety, loss of friends, loss of family, living in doctor’s offices, treatments, hopelessness, isolation, money issues one cannot imagine (I went through medical bankruptcy following my stay at the Mayo Clinic) and this list could go on for a few pages: you get the picture.
Here I am now: I have accepted chronic pain, will never look for a cure or medication again as long as both my mind and soul live and I live a pretty good life despite chronic pain. I now deal with two of the above issues: physical pain and anxiety. I have lost many friends in the past due to my search for a cure and my actions during those ten awful years but as one gets older I realize this is not a huge loss. I would not have wanted to be friends with the Jessica from the past and now at the age of thirty-four I have few friends but the ones I have I cherish, trust, and love like family. I’m all grown up (kind of, let’s be honest) with a family of my own and I am a busy woman. Managing chronic pain naturally is a full-time job in itself. This may sound offensive but I do not have a lot of time for tons of friends as I did in my teens and twenties. Life changes and our priorities change. For me and for a few of my dearest friends it is difficult to make friendships as well. I am one of a kind and as people will tell you a “character.” I have no judgement towards others I just live a lifestyle most do not understand. I am up before the sun to start my chronic pain management routine: exercise/yoga. I now love working out and yoga of ever sort but I do not exercise to look good or be skinny, I exercise because it helps my pain levels/distracts me from pain/stretches out my muscles/and relieves anxiety. I love the morning when no one is awake and I can work out and listen to nineties hip hop or Mumford and Sons (thank you Pandora, where have ya been?) I do not like gossip, shopping, or having to pretend I am someone I am not. You could go to my pool and ask anyone what Jessica is like and I guarantee some people would say: nuts and some people would say a free spirit and hysterical. It depends on who you ask. But, I do not have the energy or time to be “fake.” I always wanted to fit in and always wanted everyone to like me: it is exhausting! Now, I am just me. The whole world can read my blog and literally see my life: good, bad, crazy, shocking, inspiring life of Jessica and chronic pain. Try and stop being someone you are not to please another, own your truth and be yourself. I promise you will be a lot less stressed and lowered stress is lowered pain.
Sure, there is a stigma with chronic pain and most invisible illnesses: sad but you do not have to prove your illness or pain to anyone. If someone does not believe you, they should not be in your life. Bottom line. Screw the stigma. There is nothing wrong with you. If you were diagnosed with cancer or any well-known disease would you be stigmatized? Hell no. One day, with all the information finally out there regarding chronic pain that stigma will slowly go away but it is not your job to prove anything about yourself much less your invisible illness. I receive emails daily from people around the world asking questions and one of the most common questions I get is: “Now that you are managing pain naturally and have accepted it, what is the biggest struggle?” Very easy answer: people forgetting or not knowing I have chronic pain. The people who came into my life following my long stay at the Mayo Clinic did not see or know the Jessica pre Pain Rehab Center. They saw/see an athletic, happy, wife, mother, writer, nanny who appears to “have it all.” They have no idea how far I have come or how hard I work ever second of every day to manage chronic pain naturally. Again, one of my biggest tools is not talking about pain unless the pain is acute like a broken ankle or childbirth. If they could see the past and go back to the nineties up until 2001 they would understand me a lot more. I would get a lot more encouragement and not be as misunderstood. However, this is impossible and frankly a moot point because in the end it really only matters that I know how far I have come and I know who I am and am proud. No one gets flowers for chronic pain, maybe we should all buy ourselves some flowers wherever we are in our journey with this invisible illness. I will accept and own that it does get very frustrating and at some times discouraging to not have the people I love the most understand old Jessica to who I am now. It is something I must accept just as I accept chronic pain.
“Everything changes, nothing stays the same.”