“Just a reminder in case your mind is playing tricks on you today: YOU matter. You’re important. You’re loved. And your presence on this earth makes a difference whether you see it or not.”
Recently someone I look up to and deeply respect asked me a question that truly made me think about myself and my self-love. She asked me why I thought it was so difficult to love myself the way I love my daughter, my family, and the people I write for who are suffering from chronic pain. I instill selflove into my daughter daily and try hard to teach her the value she has and the importance she makes to those around her. I want her to love herself as much as I love her so that she will always feel that she is enough despite the challenges life will throw at her during her time here on Earth. I consistently write about self love and see the value in each person who writes me for help or support during the darkest hours of their life. I know their pain and how severe it is because my life revolved around chronic pain for more than a third of my life. The number one reason a person with chronic pain dies is by suicide. I understand that, I had many thoughts of ending my own life fifteen years ago due to this insidious, invisible, horrific disease that I have been lucky enough to come to peace with. I believe self love and self worth to be more important for a person than any other attribute or value a person has. I don’t believe one can be happy without self love and a sense of being enough. I do love myself and I am very proud of how far I have come in my journey with chronic pain. However, I do not always feel enough. There are times when I doubt my self love and I am my biggest critic. My thoughts are too often negative and my mind plays more tricks on me than I care to share.
I truly thought about why I found it hard to love myself as I love and care for others and many reasons came to mind: difficult childhood, horrible boyfriends in my past, losing friends, etc. However, the number one reason hit me this morning as I was exercising and listening to a Ted Talks video. There may be many reasons for my difficulty with self love but I believe chronic pain is truly what stole my sense of self love and value twenty years ago and I am still suffering the side affects of that loss despite how well I manage pain now. I spent so much of my life in physical and emotional pain that it changed me. I believed for fifteen years I had no value to anyone and that I was just a burden to those around me because of chronic pain. I lived in guilt, shame, and self-hatred. The hatred I had for chronic pain began to become a hatred towards my own body, mind, and spirit. I lost myself to pain. I am only thirty-five years old so to spend that amount of time feeling like I would have been better off dead than to be alive with unrelenting pain would definitely have deep rooted affects that I am now carrying with me. I do not hate myself anymore and I am very happy to be alive. I am also very proud of myself and at times find it hard to believe I made it this far in my journey with chronic pain. My invisible illness does come out at times but I am able to look at it and smile and focus on what is important to me. Yes, I have difficult days that pain does impact to a point but overall pain does not define me as a person. Although, I am managing chronic pain well and have been for years I still suffer from the emotional side affects of this illness.
I still find myself comparing my life to others. I still focus on the future too much instead of enjoying what I have right now at this present time. I still allow my mind to have too many negative feelings about myself. I made it through chronic pain and have a life I never dreamed of despite my invisible illness. However, chronic pain is like an Earthquake: the grounds eventually settle, houses are eventually re-built, and societies are slowly brought back together. However, it takes many, many years for both the Earth and the people who reside on this ground to recover and find their bearings again.
You are not your chronic pain. I do not want anyone to feel as I did during the most tumultuous times in my journey with chronic pain. I did not think I was important. I did not think I mattered to anyone in the world and I believed the world would be better off without me. I believed my presence on earth made a difference but a negative difference. I was unable to see or hear other stories where people made it through their journey with chronic pain as I did. You are still a valuable, loving, important person. Chronic pain may rob you of many things right now but chronic pain does not define the true essence of who you are. You are not your pain. One day, you will make it through this journey and come to a peaceful place. I need you all to believe that you are more than an illness. You are a strong, important person and the world NEEDS you.