“Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help and brave enough to ask for it.”
Today is May 3oth, 2016: Memorial Day. Today we celebrate and give thanks to the many heroes and their families who stood up for our country, fought/fight for our country and allow us to have the freedom that we would not have had our soldiers not put their lives in jeopardy for the country we are proud to call: The United States of America. The soldiers both past and present demonstrate a type of courage and strength many of us could not even bear to think of. The families of those who serve must dig down deep to find their own courage and strength to keep their children and loved ones happy, secure, and brave. Courage comes in many forms and many ways and today we must honor those who have put their lives on the line to keep all of us safe.
I cannot imagine the things and events our soldiers have witnessed and the fear they must face on a daily basis. I will be very honest and admit that I have never been a very patriotic person. I never really thought about what Memorial Day and The Fourth of July truly stood for. I was always excited to have off of work or school, go to the parade and then to the pool. I do not blame myself for my ignorance or my lack of knowledge of past wars, this was just a subject in my life I never took a huge interest in. As I get older I realize all the sacrifices so many Americans make on a daily basis just so I am able to feel safe and know my family is safe as well. I thank every American soldier both past and present who fights for our country every day. Thank you for your courage and strength.
I met a sixty five year old man who had phantom leg pain from serving our country many years ago. He lost one of his legs and was not only wheel chair bound but had chronic pain due to what we call phantom pain. It is very difficult to explain what phantom pain is but I will do my best. Like most people who have chronic pain, phantom pain is invisible. This courageous man literally had physical pain where he no longer had a leg. This man was not only brave for going to war for our country but for being strong enough to ask for help. He, like many of us with chronic pain had been on many medications and had searched for a cure to his phantom pain for years upon years. However, the pain never went away and only became worse. He was not ashamed to ask for help. He was not only suffering from chronic pain but also from PTSD. He reached his own rock bottom, just as many of us have in our battle with pain and finally let the tears fall and told his wife that he needed help or he would no longer be able to survive in the terrible world of his invisible illness. That is courage.
Many of us want to appear strong all the time and feel this pressing need to prove ourselves to the world. After my accident and subsequent chronic pain, I never wanted anyone to think I was weak. Despite my search for a cure to chronic pain and living in hell on the inside of my body, I tried to do it all. If someone asked me if I needed help, I was too proud to say yes. I allowed my dad to help me but that was basically it. I believed I could get straight A’s in college, have a ton of friends, be popular, and cure my chronic pain at the same time. I was fighting a battle that there was no end to. When I was about twenty one, I finally asked for help. The most courageous thing I have done to this date is ask for help and surrender myself to chronic pain. I was tired of fighting. I was tired of trying to do it all. I was tired of being in pain twenty four seven and depressed that no medication or surgery that doctor’s promised would cure me ever worked and only made my invisible illness more painful. Finally admitting to the world that I needed help and telling the truth that I truly wanted to die if I was going to have to live in the severe pain I was in for the rest of my life was the scariest thing I have ever done. Accepting chronic pain and letting go of my need to cure my pain was the bravest act I have performed to this day. I have fallen a few times in the past ten years but I get right back up.
Everyone of you that reads my story is brave and you have more courage than you could possibly believe. That courage resides in you despite what your mind continues to tell you. I will end this post by quoting one of my heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Courage is the power of the mind to overcome fear.”