“It doesn’t get better, you just get better at handling it.”
I recently received an email with different ideas for a writing challenge that deals with a whole bundle of chronic illnesses and there were two ideas that stood out to me: one writing a letter to myself when I was first diagnosed with chronic pain and two writing a letter to a loved one whom also has chronic pain. I chose the latter of the two and it is posted here on my blog and on http://www.themighty.com and is entitled: “A Letter to my Wounded Self.” It is a very honest, sad, yet inspiring letter I wrote to the Jessica of twenty years ago who was spiraling out of control both inside and out due to the wraths of chronic pain. I began thinking about all the people I love and BAM out of no where thought of a family member of mine that also suffers from chronic pain. I will keep her name anonymous as she does not yet know I writing her a letter and shockingly or not so shockingly up until I began sharing my story with the world, neither of us knew the other had chronic pain. I have shocked a lot of friends and family members with my honestly and I guess I hid chronic pain pretty damn well from the people I love because most had no idea I was suffering from an invisible illness. I was shocked this beautiful, intelligent family member of mine had chronic pain as well. She is filled with such radiance and I remember as a little girl dancing with her at one of my Uncles weddings. Just goes to show how deceiving looks can be especially when it comes to an invisible illness. About a year into writing, this certain family member contacted me and she was un sure if I remembered her or not: also goes to show how little credit we give ourselves. She is a very memorable person as she is warm, cheery, and has a very loving personality. She cannot be forgotten and all for good reason. Clearly, she and I have kept in better touch because of our similarities due to our illness. This letter is for her and I hope it finds her well. I will call her Bonny.
First off, I was shocked, happy, and sad when you wrote me about your story; selfishly I was happy just to hear from you but it is kind of like seeing someone you really miss and have not seen in years at a funeral: “Hey, it is so amazing to catch up and see you, just wish was under better circumstances.” My heart hurt for you because I know all too well what you were/are going through. Honestly, when I think back to the younger Jessica who was literally drowning in pain I get tears in my eyes thinking about the former me and all the millions of people crying in bed at this very moment because of chronic pain. You do not deserve this, none of you do and even to me some things make no sense. Yes, my story goes from brain surgery, to years of literal hell, to wanting to die, to acceptance/learning how to manage pain naturally, to now at the age of thirty four with a four year old daughter who I never thought would be due to chronic pain. However, I did not snap my fingers and do a BIPPITY BOPPITY BOO kind of thing and POOF I felt better, quite the contrary. I went from almost dying twice to living a life I never planned but made happen despite chronic pain. With that said, there have been many bumps in the road and I still have some difficult days or nights. Last night was difficult because I over did it yesterday and by eight at night my body was yelling at me. Years ago my mind would have been in total catastrophic mode shouting into my cells: “Great Jessica. Now you really screwed up. Do you realize because you did so much even though you knew it would not turn out well, we are doomed. Tonight is just a little taste of what the next few days will be like, hell the next week. Kayci’s birthday part is in nine days what if your pain levels are high then!!!!” I do not do that anymore which is a feat in itself. I know when I wake up it is a new day and I have control over my pain and the pain does not control me. Yes, I awoke from a bad dream that I have had many nights in a row but instead of laying there thinking about my worries, I got up and did a forty five minute yoga practice which helped my body and mind.
Bonny, I love you and you have so many blessings in your life that you are very aware of and have gratitude for despite damn pain. I know that if I can get to the point where I am with this invisible illness, you can. I wish I had known years ago. I wish you lived closer so I could hug you and truly let you know everything will be okay. I hope you see in you what I have always seen in you: light, kindness, and a warm heart. Chronic pain nor any chronic condition can take away that: EVER. You are not your illness by any means and I am sure pain and worry cause you to act in ways you would not if you had no pain but this is absolutely, positively normal. People without a chronic illness act moody or different when they have the stomach flu or an acute migraine (nothing cute about a migraine by the way) and everyone understands why he or she is acting different. People just forget that we are dealing with some form of illness or pain that never ever goes away so give yourself a break ok? When you are sad or worried or having a difficult day or ten difficult days strung together: email me or call me! I love you and I am here for you. Remember this please: you are doing the best you can and you are not alone at all. I know what you feel each day and night as do millions of others suffering from an invisible illness. Everything changes, nothing stays the same and a few months or years from now you are going to be shocked at how far you have come. I am your biggest fan.