I know right now you are in complete and total shock and truly do not believe you can go on. You fell off of your bicycle (that amazing pink cruiser you got right before seventh grade) and ended up having brain surgery that would alter your life forever. Don’t worry, cognitively you are fine but you gave everyone quite a scare. You fell off your bike into a stone wall and being the stubborn Jessica you are, walked home from the accident despite the many cars that pulled over to help you. You had no idea your brain was bleeding from within, you only knew that you had broken some bones as you were unable to move your right arm. Your head was pounding and you were dizzy but even before the diagnosis that would change you forever, you only said: “I’m fine” to any car that pulled over to help you. Once you arrived home, dad took you to the hospital where they too thought you just broke some bones and had some bruises. After strapping your arm up in a sling due to a broken collar bone the doctor’s released you. Halfway out the hospital doors you began to throw up, which you would later find out is the first sign of a head injury. The doctor decided to give you a cat scan, just in case and you must have had an angel even back then because had you not thrown up before leaving those hospital doors, I am not sure I would be here writing you this letter. Fifteen minutes later, you were in an ambulance headed to the best trauma unit in our area to have immediate brain surgery. All I really can remember to tell you is that you were not afraid but more sad for dad as you watched tears fall from his face in fear. You awoke in the ICU the following day with half a shaved head, a feeding tube, catheter, and a ton of confusion. Dad was right next to you and explained everything that had transpired just twenty four hours prior to this crazy awakening. I wish this was the most difficult part of my letter to you but sadly it is not. Flowers, balloons, visitors, and cards poured into the hospital where you would spend the next few weeks and then the rest of the summer on the couch in our childhood living room. It was a rough year to say the least but you were alive and beat the odds of a tragedy no one saw coming. You got a ton of attention and people were so happy you were okay and there were no serious affects from surgery: you were still the smart, funny, happy Jessica who would look just as she did once all the hair grew back and the ouside scars healed. This is the part of the letter I have dreaded writing you but I promise your story has a happy ‘ending’ so bear with me Jess.
Although the scars heal, you end up being diagnosed with something called chronic pain: an invisible illness you spend the next ten years trying to cure. The next ten years of your life will be the scariest, most painful years of your lifetime but I promise you these years will make you the strongest person I have yet to meet. You have many surgeries during these years to try and take the physical pain away, which I can tell you now only end up making the pain worse but who were you to know? You are prescribed every medication known to man and endure every side affect possible. You spend most of your time either in doctor’s offices, school, or with friends drinking to numb your pain away. You gain a ton of weight because as the years progress, your hopes for any cure or relief to this physical pain will disappear. You declare medical bankruptcy because of all the medical bills that pile up over the weeks, months and years and end up coming to a point of self destruction. You drop everything in your life including college and your dreams of motherhood, a family, and your hopes of being a teacher/writer. The idea of living in physical pain for the rest of your life becomes too much to bear and you hit rock bottom. You fly to Colorado without even telling Dad, who never gave up on you and spend your days and nights partying and crying. This cycle of destruction continues for a little over a year until a person who cares for you takes you to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and against your will you enter a program where you actually learn to live with chronic pain naturally and accept this diagnosis: a diagnosis that came way too close to your death sentence. Chronic pain came closer to killing you than brain surgery and my heart breaks for you Jessica. You endure so much pain both physical and emotional for over a third of your lifetime and I left you. I gave up on us and I am very sorry for that. However, I picked you back up and you worked your ass off to accept chronic pain and learned to live with it without it affecting your happiness and/or stealing your dreams.
I want to write that I found a cure for you and you never had to deal with chronic pain again for the rest of your life but I cannot do that for you. I never found a cure to chronic pain Jessica and I know how much that kills you right now. However, I did find you/us health and happiness despite chronic pain. You get your degree in social work, become a health nut who loves to exercise and practice mindfulness/meditation and yoga. You become a mom, a great mom at that. You are now thirty four: that must sound ancient to you huh? The good news is, your thirties are far better than your twenties and chronic pain no longer rules your life. You have some difficult moments and life has it’s ups and downs but you are not only surviving, you are living. You are making your dreams come true: motherhood, family, health, and best of all you are helping those with chronic pain who feel as you do now: hopeless, depressed, and at the end of their rope. I’m sorry for the destruction I caused you for those ten years once you found out you had chronic pain. I’m sorry I let you and dad down. I’m so sorry I cannot help you now but you will learn how to help yourself. Chronic pain will most likely be a part of your life forever but you do not have much time to focus on that: you have much bigger and better things to do.
I love you Jessica. I did not love you for a long time. I hated our diagnosis and I hated the actions our disease caused me to do but I love you now and I promise things will get so much better. Chronic pain will make you the strongest, most empathetic, grateful person I know.
The Future Jessica