“People will love you. People will hate you. And none of it will have anything to do with you.”
So many of us with an invisible illness either feel the need to prove our pain or the exact opposite, hide our pain. I spent a great deal of my life living on both sides of the invisible illness spectrum. Once all of my scars were gone and my hair grew back following my accident, I was baffled when the pain would not go away. All tests came up “normal” and I looked like your average, healthy, ‘happy’ teenager. I spent over ten years proving my pain to family members, friends, and more doctors than I could possibly count. You all know how exhausting, humiliating, depressing, and ultimately lonely life becomes after weeks/months/years of trying to prove your pain. I had a few amazing people in my life that I never felt any need to prove my pain to and a few of those people are my dad and two of my closest friends, Lindsay and Kaitlin. They believed me but I still felt that need to “fit in.” Most teenagers feel this way without chronic pain, imagine that feeling times ten because most of my readers who have chronic pain and are in their teenage years feel more alone, isolated, and forgotten about than anyone I have ever met. They spend their time not only trying to fit in with their peers and appear as “normal” as possible while at the same time trying to prove their pain. And we wonder why the number one cause of death for those with chronic pain is suicide? It was during my late teens and early twenties that I came close to ending my own life. I wish I knew then what I know now because no one could express the reality of human nature as Abraham Hicks does in the above quote: “People will love you. People will hate you. And none of it will have anything to do with you.” I wasted so many years caring what other people thought of me that I stopped caring about my own illness and used up all the energy I had trying to get people to like me and see that I was “normal” despite my invisible illness. I am now thirty-four and it took close to thirty years for me to stop caring what other people thought of me. Once I did, a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders (which in essence helps one with his or her pain management.) You not only let go of a huge amount of stress but you are given the gift you should have received a long time ago: time to focus on yourself and realize that everyone you meet is facing their own battles and how they feel about you has absolutely nothing to do with you: not a damn thing.
The above picture was taken yesterday at Sesame Place, a place I still love probably as much as my three-year old daughter does. I am a kid at heart and love shows like: “Elmo Rocks” and water slides and just being silly and releasing my inner child who has been locked away in me for far too many years. One of the biggest gifts my daughter has given me is her help in finding my inner child and this little girl teaches me more lessons than I have learned from anyone: she understands life, she is herself and lives for the moment. I do not know why but this picture just sums up my life in some odd way. I am standing there yelling something which may or may not have been inappropriate: I am not entirely sure. I know I was yelling something to the effect of: “Is Honker a girl or boy? I don’t know what to call it. She is wearing purple and pink!” Now as I look closer at the picture, I realize the sex of Honker does not really matter especially because he or she appears quite drunk. Then there is Kayci who is just lost in her own moment soaking the madness in but not once feeling embarrassed. I hear people say all the time: “Jessica, you are thirty-four years old, you are crazy. You are not a kid anymore!” By age I am definitely not a kid but as John Lennon quotes: “As a young boy my mother taught me the secret to success is happiness. When I entered school my teacher asked me to write what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down: happy. My teacher said I did not understand the assignment. I told her she did not understand life.” I lost so many years of happiness and living as opposed to surviving. I wasted so many years trying to be someone I was not because I wanted to fit in and I wanted to prove my pain. I lost a huge part of my childhood as I was forced to grow up at an age where I should have been yelling: “Is Honker a boy or girl!?” I cannot go back in time and re-live the years chronic pain stole from me but I sure as hell can learn and practice the lessons my bike accident and chronic pain taught me. Sure, some people do not like me and then there are some people who think I am just amazing but their feelings have nothing to do with me. And even if some people do not like me or do not believe I have chronic pain, so what? It is my life. I I may not be perfect (in fact, far from it) but I am always me.
It hurts my heart to think of all the young people and people my age who have an invisible illness and are living how I did for far too many years. I urge you to read the quote by Abraham Hicks again and again. You have enough on your plate living with an invisible illness, you do not need to be accepted or liked or believed by everyone. Do not waste your precious energy trying to be someone you are not. I get it. I was/am you. You never have to prove your worth, value, or pain to me.