“Believe in yourself and you will be unstoppable!”
I remember back in my senior year of high school feeling lost, scared, and drained from the wraths of chronic pain. My peers and teachers had no clue the pain I endured each day as I never wanted anyone to know about my physical pain when I did not even understand it myself. There was only one class during my day that brought my attention away from pain and that was English. My teacher believed in me when I did not believe in myself. When we are young we truly believe teachers are not really people in the sense that they have no lives outside of the classroom. I was not always the best kid in the class as I loved to make people laugh and did anything to keep people away from the pain I was feeling but I did love reading and writing. My English teacher in my final year of high school was young, it was his first year of teaching but to us (his students) he was somewhat of an enigma that many of us looked up to. I do not remember many assignments during high school but I do remember one writing assignment this certain teacher gave us. He had us listen to the song ‘All Along the Watchtower’ by Jimi Hendrix and later played by Dave Matthews Band. We listened to both versions of the song (a song I have loved since I was a kid) and then we were asked to write an essay on which version of the song we liked better. I knew I should pick the original version of the song played by the infamous Jimi Hendrix but I truly loved how Dave Matthews played this incredible song. I did not go with the crowd and my peers as I usually would have done and wrote from my heart. Two of my favorite things even back then were writing and music so I thoroughly enjoyed this assignment and it must have shown as my favorite teacher not only gave me a high grade but took me aside and told me that I had talent. This is something I rarely heard except from my dad but I believed my dad had to give me compliments because he was my biggest fan despite chronic pain and always believed in me. To hear that I had talent in writing from someone I looked up to was a pivotal moment for me. The moment did not last as the second I walked out of that classroom my world came back to chronic pain and pretending I was fine to everyone I knew but it had to mean something because fifteen years later I remember this moment as it was yesterday. I never thought my dreams of writing or motherhood would come to fruition but it meant the world to me that someone believed in me when I was unable to believe in myself. Two hours after class I was headed to another doctor appointment to try and cure my physical pain: my life was pain but that one hour a day in that tiny classroom was respite for me and I did not realize then how much that class and teacher meant to me.
Time passed and I ended up going straight to college and majored in elementary education as I did not believe I could make writing a career nor did I believe in myself. I went with the crowd. Don’t get me wrong, kids mean more to me than anything and I really wanted to be a teacher but deep down I knew chronic pain had stolen my chance of teaching or any valuable work for that matter. Everyone in my class went to college right after high school, it is what was expected so I went. If I could go back in time, I would have made damn sure I had chronic pain under control before entering college. College made everything worse: my pain levels went up, I was going to different specialists as often as I was going to class, I was undergoing more surgeries during my Freshman year: I was a total mess drowning in pain. It is beyond true that if you do not have your health, nothing is going to work: bottom line, end of story. It got so bad I ended up in Boulder, Colorado as a college drop out just partying and waiting to die. I did not believe in anyone much less myself. Then what felt like the end of my life turned out to be the beginning of my dreams. Once I hit my rock bottom of chronic pain and spent a month in Minnesota learning how to accept and manage pain naturally, I began to believe in myself. Slowly but surely my world changed. I graduated Summa Cum Late with a degree in social work. I wanted to help people who suffered from chronic pain and give back to all those who had helped me at the Mayo Clinic. However, that passion for writing never left me. Years went by and I loved so many aspects of social work. I loved my patients, I loved helping people, I loved teaching people the tools I had learned on how to manage pain without medications or treatment but as I did better and better in my field, my job became more about helping the company I worked for than helping the people who truly needed me. I stopped believing in myself again and did not think I could make a difference. Fast forward a couple years and my biggest dream in the world came true and I became a mother: nothing compares to that job, not even writing. My biggest fear during my darkest hours of chronic pain was not being able to be a mom, a dream I had had since I was about five years old and taking care of my newborn brother. I believed in myself again, I love being a mom and because I love being a mom I am good at it. I do not take motherhood for granted and cannot wait to have another child.
I had a miscarriage in 2013 on my birthday and that was the day I began writing. At the time I did not believe I could help people through writing but someone I look up to as my guardian angel suggested I start a blog (I did not even know what a blog was at the time) on my journey with chronic pain. I’ll never forget her looking at me and saying: “Jessica, you start writing to help people with their struggles and I have no doubt that you are going to change the world for the better.” Because I believed in this woman so much I started writing. Slowly I gained confidence and because I enjoy writing so much kept writing. Here I am now: thirty four, a mother, and a writer. I believe in myself as a writer and I now believe what two people once told me: I have talent and I will make a difference through writing. I have my ups and downs as I still am a work in progress and chronic pain is still a part of my life but I believe in myself and no one can take that from me now.
Today is Martin Luther King day, a day where many of us forget why we have off work and school because we are too excited to have a long weekend! However, this is a man who beat all odds and literally died believing in himself and his cause. He changed our country forever and is one of my heroes and someone I look up to and this is one holiday I do not forget the significance of. He had a dream and although his life was sadly taken because of this dream, he made a difference: a huge difference. My dream of writing and helping those with chronic pain does not compare to the enormous dream Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had and to say I would take a bullet for my dream would be a lie but I do believe in myself and I will keep writing no matter how many set backs I have and no matter how many people do not believe in me. If you have a passion or dream for anything: do it! All of us can make a difference in the world but we have to start by believing in ourselves.