Do not ever lose your sense of humor, no matter how difficult your journey is at this given time and place. I believe two things got me through my toughest years of searching for a cure to my invisible illness: the love for my family and the rare times I laughed. Ironically my dad is the person who fit into both these categories: I did not give up because of my love for him and there were times he was truly the only person who could make me laugh.
If you understand the above cartoon, I’m sorry for your battle with chronic pain. I remember back when I was in a terrible place with my invisible illness cancelling doctor appointments on a monthly basis because I was literally in too much pain to get out of bed, get dressed, and drive anywhere. I chose to lay in bed on those days and just cry at the unfairness of my disease and the frustration I had that I could not find any relief no matter what doctor, medication, surgery, or specialist I tried. I did not claim medical bankruptcy for buying clothes and having fun. I was spending all our families money on one thing: a cure to my never-ending pain.
I started laughing today as I was playing with my daughter because the most random memory came into mind. It was around the year 2001 and I was on my tenth year of searching for a cure to chronic pain. I was living in Boulder, Colorado living two lives: one life was with my friends having fun drinking and living the crazy college life; the other life searching for a holistic cure to chronic pain as I truly thought I had put in my ten years using Eastern medicine and Colorado was a great place to find a ton of different approaches to pain. Did any of them work? No. I was living two lives. It is hard to follow your nutritionist’s advice to stop eating all wheat based foods and be drinking vodka tonics most nights. Talk about an oxymoron. Back to the funny memory (this memory is funny now but at the time it was anything but humorous.) My dad was visiting me in Colorado for his birthday and Easter. His visits meant the world to me but I really wanted him to believe I was doing a lot better than I was despite the fact that I was still on my now eleven year search for a cure to chronic pain. I was seeing a hypnotist at the time who claimed she could cure all the pain I had. After a few sessions and no relief she recommended me seeing her friend who used the newest technology to help people who were in physical pain. I remember my dad taking me to this ‘doctor’s’ office and literally praying that the hypnotist was correct and this magic machine could cure me. This was a moment of intense desperation. The ‘doctor’ charged a fortune for me to sit alone in a room with what appeared to look like an oval robot. I am not making any of this up. After paying him an exuberant amount of money, he had me sit in a room by myself with this robot that apparently set off magnetic frequencies that dulled or removed a human’s physical pain. Both this doctor and robot made out well that afternoon, but I was a hot mess. Not only did I feel beyond dumb, I realized I had come to a point in my battle with chronic pain where I was relying on an oval, black machine to cure my invisible illness. It was mere weeks later that I hit my rock bottom and ended up at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Looking back, I can thankfully laugh at this madness but at the time I was in seriously bad shape.
This story that I just threw out there may seem very odd to the average person but to a person with chronic pain this anecdote is sadly much more common than one would believe. People with chronic pain will literally do ANYTHING to relieve their pain. You may think he or she is crazy but as Elvis Presley once stated: “We are all addicted to something that takes the pain away.” Part of my addiction to my invisible illness was searching for a cure and I am more than grateful that I found a way to live, laugh, and be the person I am today despite never finding that cure. None of you are crazy and I know all of you can one day laugh at the madness we put ourselves through because of chronic pain.