“Yes I’ve changed. Pain does that to people.”
I have recently been receiving emails regarding marriage and chronic pain and this post is the direct result from a reader who recently brought this subject back to my attention. I am very grateful for this reader and like most of you who write me, she is a ton stronger than she believes. I am not going to lie or just write what I want you to hear, never have and never will. Yes, chronic pain has changed my life, almost took my life, and then gave me life. I have lost a lot of friends and relationships due to chronic pain. I have had chronic pain since my mid teens and I am now thirty-four (that is a long time) but I will tell you this: you truly learn a lot about people,, love, and most importantly change than you ever would have had you not had an invisible illness. A lot of you are concerned about your marriage or keeping/losing your significant other because of your NOT CHOSEN illness. Personally, I was unable to hold down a true relationship and actually make any friendships work until I learned how to live with chronic pain and love myself. Chronic pain caused me to hate first my disease, than doctors, than myself, than anyone/everyone else who did not have consistent/never-ending pain. Like many of you, I isolated myself, hid my illness, started questioning whether or not I was crazy, became angry, resentful and full of misery and grief. Chronic pain is a loss and that loss is huge: for ten plus years I lost myself: literally I was gone. The happy, fun, healthy Jessica that was always the enthusiastic girl had disappeared into someone I would not want to honestly be friends with now that I have found myself again despite chronic pain.
The question of whether or not one can continue a relationship, find love, or keep love is different for each and every one of you. For example, if your significant other met you prior to your invisible illness I personally believe there is a much higher success rate at making that relationship work. Let’s pretend I fell off my bike a year ago, already married with one daughter. My husband would have already known me five years: the real me, not the Jessica with chronic pain. We would have already had a foundation: love, friendship, and a solid life and I do believe we marry one another in sickness and in health. Would my or your spouse leave you if you were diagnosed with Cancer? I truly pray that answer is no and I know all of you thought instantly: God no, it is Cancer. I will never compare any disease but illness and pain are more alike than unlike: visible or not. For those of you who are in a committed relationship whether you are married or not and have the fear of losing your relationship: stop it. I know you feel guilty and ashamed and think: “why would he or she want to stay with me, I have chronic pain: what the hell do I have to offer now?” I will be honest if you are facing your darkest hours of chronic pain there will be an obvious strain on your relationship, how could there not be. That goes for any illness whether visible or not. You feel like crap, you begin wishing your illness away, depression and anxiety kick it, then comes anger and guilt and your partner feels helpless, lost, confused and if your partner is male is beyond frustrated because he cannot “fix” it/you. Because, in my experience (A LOT) I have found there to be no “magic cure” to chronic pain. However it was not until I accepted chronic pain and learned how to manage it naturally and began focusing on ways to deal with it rather than cure it that I began to love myself, my life, and the people around me again.
Then there are people like myself. My husband met me years after I learned to manage pain naturally. I had my degree in social work, and loved working out, never talked about pain, was healthy and happy. Hell, I was scared to death to fall in love because I was afraid any close relationship would deter me from my routine and my management of chronic pain. And in a way it did in the beginning because I fell in love fast and wanted to please the man I ended up marrying. I did, however tell him on our second date the story of my bike accident resulting in brain surgery along with my life with chronic pain. I knew then this was someone who I could see myself spending the rest of my life with. How I live my life with chronic pain can at times be difficult for others because I am very routine oriented and I still have “difficult days” and there are some things I just cannot do because of my invisible illness. He accepted that and marriage is hard no matter what but my chronic pain and his misunderstanding it at times (especially because he did not know me at my worst and I am a totally different person now) frustrates both him and myself. It is not his fault nor mine: the difference is that I now love myself so I am able to let the little things go because I just want to feel healthy and happy. I do not want to sweat the small stuff and constantly live in stress and worry because that only exasperates my pain levels. This process takes time and there have been bumps in the road in managing chronic pain and I am far from perfect but I do love myself and I am proud of who I am and I now know I have a lot to offer: chronic pain or no chronic pain.
I promise to elaborate on this topic and please feel free to email me anytime with questions: let me help you!
Spread the word regarding this website and help me spread awareness/save lives/ save families/ and allow me to share my story, although at times I am still shocked by my honesty regarding my past: I am not ashamed. No one should be judged and no one should ever be defined by their past. People may not change: the inner person deep down but people can learn and grow. As bad as things seem today: A year from now you have no idea how different your life may look. Trust the process,, know you are not alone and I am an email away. Have a wonderful/safe weekend. Do something selfish, just for you. You deserve it.