“Nobody knows the real me. Nobody knows how many times I have cried in my room when no one was watching. Nobody knows how many times I have lost hope. Nobody knows how many times I’ve felt that I am about to snap but I just don’t for the sake of others. Nobody knows the thoughts that go through my head when I am sad, how horrible they truly they are. Nobody. Knows. Me.”
When one has an invisible illness, such as chronic pain he or she hates the illness as one would hate any illness even something as small as the flu. But when or what happens to a person with an invisible illness that takes them five-ten-fifteen steps further into not only hating the illness but truly hating themselves? For the first few weeks, months, even years of living with chronic pain I hated the pain and then the doctors and surgeons and then the people around me who did not believe me or had the “audacity” to complain of a headache when I had had brain surgery and as a result lived in a constant state of physical pain. I fought hard against chronic pain; my biggest enemy of all time. We were at a war with one another for ten years and I was going to win. I did not care how many times I had to try a new medication, how many needles had to go through my face, how many tests/procedures/surgeries I took on to beat this bastard named pain, or how many nerve endings the surgeons wanted to cut off in my face as I lay there awake screaming: “Just do it.” After this ten year battle with my enemy pain I stopped hating the disease and began hating myself. Once I began self medicating, dropped out of college, and gave up each dream I had my self hatred got worse and worse. With each night of drinking until I could not see straight just to not feel the physical pain for even an hour, I hated myself more and more. I stopped caring about my health, my body, my dreams, my future. I wanted to die: I had to have truly hated myself pretty badly to have thoughts of death. I think back to road trips to Las Vegas to see bands like Phish or Dave Matthews Band, yet never even making it into the concert because the parking lots and streets were just too much “fun” I get a sick feeling in my stomach. I knew my potential. I knew I could do better but chronic pain had won a battle and we fought a good, long ten years. It was hard to talk to my family and know they had to think I was a total failure. It took hitting rock bottom (swear I have nine lives) to begin the tedious, long road to not only loving myself but no longer wanting to battle chronic pain and lose the huge amount of hate I had towards my ex-nemesis.
The turnaround from hating the illness to hating myself happened once I gave up on myself. I began hating myself when I stopped caring for me and gave up on my hopes and dreams and did the opposite of what the inner/true Jessica would do. I did not think I was worthy enough to be alive and honestly believed I was a burden to my family: ten years of doctors, medications, trials, procedures, so many medical bills and look at me: Jessica Martin seventy pounds heavier, college drop out, living on floor of a friend’s bedroom, with only thoughts of how to numb the physical and now emotional pain I felt.
It took a long time and a lot of work (which I still work on every day) to accept chronic pain, not allow it to destroy the real Jessica, and live a life I am, for the most part proud of. I do not like myself at times and I certainly do not like chronic pain at times but I must not resist these feelings. These feelings come and go and when they do arise they do not stay for long and my love for myself and life return. One day you will be at peace with chronic pain (you do not have to believe me right now, I would not have.) You may have to go through the process as I did and hit your rock bottom but maybe not. I am always here: you are not alone. I appreciate the strong person who inspired this post regarding self hatred. She asks me questions that not only make me think about thinks in a deeper way but questions I am sure many of you also want to ask.