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Working With Chronic Pain: My Biggest Mistake

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Where do I go when I am faced with life’s biggest questions or when I am in the middle of an invisible argument going on inside my mind: the beach.  I am able to think and find my answers to life’s biggest struggles when I am right in front of the ocean. We live about fifty minutes from the Jersey shore and it remains my place of peace and where I go when things in my life seem to be unravelling.

My biggest fear when I left the Pain Rehab Center at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota was how I would be able to work with chronic pain?  I truly did not believe I would be able to be a social worker when I was managing pain naturally and had this intense routine I followed daily to manage my pain without it managing me.  I spent about six months or so not working once I left the Mayo Clinic and used this time to truly focus on my health and management of chronic pain.  Every day I followed a schedule and eventually I did not focus on my pain as I once had and happiness started to truly enter my heart and soul.  I felt alive for the first time in twenty years.   I was exercising, practicing meditation twice a day, taking walks, reading, and finding all the things I thought I had lost because of chronic pain.  It was the happiest I had been since I had fallen off of my bicycle in my young teens.  I was thriving despite chronic pain.

However, I was a college graduate with my degree in social work and knew I had to start applying to jobs in my field after my six months of getting my chronic pain under control.  I was terrified.  I knew I could not do a forty hour week but I needed health insurance so I had to make sure I worked at least thirty-two hours a week.  I was so afraid that work would take away all the progress I had made in my management of pain.  I went on an interview at a place called Senior Care which was a medical facility that had patient’s who suffered from Dementia, Mental health issues, Cancer, Autism: you name it.  The job seemed amazing and I loved the facility.  During my interview, I was honest with my soon to be boss and explained that I had chronic pain but was managing it naturally.  I told him that I would need about two breaks a day and he was very impressed with my honesty and how I managed chronic pain as many of my soon to be patients also had chronic pain.  He then began asking me questions on how I managed pain and if I would be able to teach some of the patients the techniques I used such as meditation.  BINGO!!!!  I was pumped.  I wanted to just tell my future boss that I would take the job and start the next day but then fear crept in and I asked him if I could have a couple days to think about the position.  The following day I drove to the same beach seen above by myself with my meditation CD’s, my books, and my journal.  I sat on this very same beach where years later I would be holding this precious daughter of mine and just asked the Universe if I should take the job or not.  My intuition was so strong that I really did not need to ask anyone their opinion.  I knew I wanted this job and after eight hours of sitting on the sand in my favorite place in the world I drove home and called my soon to be boss and took the job.  My intuition was right on point and I loved my job.  I was able to incorporate my chronic pain management tools into my career,  I was helping people and making a difference, and I was proud of myself.  It was the greatest job I have ever had so why did I leave?

One downfall of my job was that I made very little money and my health insurance was pretty bad.  Out of the blue one day, I received a phone call from a different facility asking me if I was interested in interviewing for the Director of Social Services at one of the most famous nursing homes in our area.  The Director was offering about twenty thousand dollars more than I was making and my ego took over and I agreed to be interviewed.  I was managing pain amazingly, I was in a great place: mind, body, and spirit so I thought: what the hell, may as well at least go for an interview.  Here is where I made one of the biggest mistakes in my career: I took the job despite my strong intuition to stay where I was not making a lot of money but I was healthy and happy.  I gave my two weeks to my dream job and began working as the Director days later.  By the end of my first week at my money making, high profile social work job I knew I had made a HUGE mistake.  I was working over forty hours a week, no breaks, no time with my patients, no time to incorporate my chronic pain management tools, and my self esteem began to spiral downwards as my pain began to increase by the day.  I was miserable, filled with regret, and in tears every night of the week.  Weekends were no longer fun because I was no longer taking care of my health five days a week because I chose money over my health and happiness.  Within a year of my twenty thousand dollar mistake, I found out I was pregnant and gave my two weeks notice.  My boss was not a huge fan of me anyways as he told me on a daily basis: “Jessica, you are just not a good sales person.  We need our numbers up.  We need more people who will pay privately.  Your focus needs to be on our facility.”  No, I am not a good sales person, I could not agree with this person more.  I was a social worker.  I hated sales, I hated shopping, and I went into social work to help people not make a business money.

Chronic pain has taught me more lessons in my life than any other ailment or event has.  This was another hard lesson I had to learn.  If I could go back in time, I never would have chosen money over my health and happiness.  I would have followed my intuition and stayed in the job where I was making little money but I was not only making a difference in my health but the health and happiness of those I worked with.  I did not go to the beach seen above when offered this twenty thousand dollar mistake.  Lesson learned.  There is nothing in this world that is more important than your health and happiness.  If you are lucky to find a job in which you are able to manage your invisible illness like I was able to find, do not leave no matter what!  Do not make my twenty thousand dollar mistake.

 

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4 thoughts on “Working With Chronic Pain: My Biggest Mistake

  1. I love your attitude. I too have offered up my pain to the Universe, and in doing so I have so many insightful thoughts as to the course of my remaining years. Yes, I still do have pain, but my heart is open to every new lesson that it teaches me. Compassion, Mindfulness, and Peace are now part of my very being. I have enjoyed every word that you write. You have been an inspiration; I look forward to much more of your wisdom.

    Susan.

    • Thank you so so so much!!! That means the world to me!!!! I hope I am spreading wisdom, I just write what I am thinking and enjoy doing so. Always here is you need anything, why I do what I do!

  2. Wow this really resonated with me. I too am an LCSW and I took a 20k decrease in pay w/ moving from private practice to a government job where I now have days off, great benefits, no weekend work and 40 hrs. I never missed the money. But I do miss my beach that I lived across the street from- because like you that’s where I do my best thinking 😇 thank you for this post! ~ Kelly

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