My family and I watched the movie last night entitled: “Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day” starring Steve Carrel. The movie is based on my favorite children’s book and I was extremely impressed by how funny, witty, and thought provoking the movie turned out to be. I honestly cannot wait to watch it again. I had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week for the most part and the reason was due to pain, however it was not due to chronic pain. That sentence may only make sense to those who also suffer from chronic pain.
One of my main tools for managing pain naturally is not talking about it. However, for this post I must point out where exactly my chronic pain is located. Because of my bike accident and subsequent brain surgery my pain is located in my face, head and neck. I had many surgeries to “cure” my chronic pain before I began managing it naturally which only made my chronic pain that much worse. However, this week I had my first real back ache. Of course, I have had back issues since my accident but not chronically. The worst of my chronic pain has always been in my face and head. For over ten years, while I was searching for a cure to my chronic pain I took many medications, was at the doctor’s at least twice a week, and lived my life on the search for a cure for my invisible illness. I never slept because the pain was too intense and over the years as each doctor, medication, and surgery did not relieve my pain I became depressed, agitated, angry, and began to isolate myself because I could not deal with being around anyone, even my family because pain had totally took over my entire existence. Jessica and Pain were one of the same.
When I did hit my rock bottom and truly was at my worst: living in Boulder Colorado, not going to school, seeing doctors constantly, drinking all the time with friends, and crying day in and day out I finally went to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. I unwillingly entered a program called the Pain Rehab Center where I learned how to manage pain naturally. To this day I utilize the tools I learned there and have found a fulfilling life despite pain. When I first entered the program I was pissed, and more depressed than ever. No one looked sick. Then again I did not look sick either but at the time I was so focused on my pain I could not imagine anyone else feeling as terrible as I did. At that point I thought my pain had to be visible because it was all I could see. There were about twenty people in my group and all had chronic pain but no one was talking about their pain. Some people were laughing, walking around, reading, playing board games, emailing friends as I sat there thinking: “This is crap. I could never be able to read or email a friend because my pain is way too much to bear. It is hard enough to sit in a chair much less laugh with people I do not know.” I wanted to quit. My dad being my voice of reason urged me to stay in Minnesota and give the program a chance. A few days in I began to hear people’s stories. Turns out everyone did have chronic pain but no one had had brain surgery or pain in their face and head. Some people had chronic back pain, fibromyalgia, phantom leg pain, migraines, etc. I always thought having any kind of chronic pain other than my own would be better. Having chronic pain throughout my face and head was and can still be torture. I thought back then if I had back pain or phantom pain I could at least read or do this or that. I learned this week how wrong my thoughts back then were/are.
I am not sure why I have had a back ache this past week. I came down with a stomach virus just yesterday as well so maybe they are correlated but I really do not care why my back hurts. I learned a long time ago that trying to figure out why something hurts will only bring more attention to the pain. This is not always a good thing and as a disclaimer I would like to say that it is always important to not ignore pain or any ailment for too long as there are times something could be seriously wrong. However, I knew nothing was life threatening and I was just coming down with something and/or had over worked my muscles through exercise or just not taking enough breaks. However, severe back pain is awful!!!! I had insomnia for over three nights. As I was laying in bed those nights that turned into mornings I remembered all those in the Pain Rehab Center with me. I was a hypocrite at the time. Pain is pain. Chronic pain is chronic pain: visible or invisible. Now I know what severe back pain feels like and it is just as bad as my chronic pain is: just in a different area of my body. I am thankful to not have chronic back pain and as it is slowly going away I am grateful. All of us who have chronic pain have critics within our life and those who are not in our life. Many people do not believe our pain. There is a huge stigma related to invisible illnesses. I have been writing for over three years in hopes to help those with chronic pain and all invisible illnesses for that matter. We need to stick together. Does it matter where our pain is? Chronic pain is an invisible illness that affects our lives in more ways that I can count. Why even ask another where someone’s pain is located? I learned this week after days of severe back pain that that pain was no different than when I was in the wraths of hell with my chronic pain which is located in my face, head, and neck. There is enough judgement surrounding chronic pain. Let us never judge one another who understand chronic pain. Pain is pain and we need to be a support system not a group of individuals trying to figure out whose pain is worse than someone else’s. Do not forget the three most important words to say to one with any invisible illness: I BELIEVE YOU.