“Girls my age are all: I wish I was skinnier, I wish I was tan, I wish my hair was longer, I hate my teeth, I want a newer car.” And I am over here like I wish I could walk down these stairs without wanting to scream!”
Recently a young reader reached out to me who is suffering from chronic pain. When I began writing four years ago about my journey with this invisible illness I believed my target audience would be mothers with chronic pain and I would be receiving emails from women who are trying to balance a life with chronic pain while taking care of their children. I am a mother with chronic pain managing it well and am able to help those out there who cannot seem to get a grasp on this indescribable, invisible pain. However, over the years I have received more emails and been contacted by older teenagers and young adults more than anyone else. I was thinking about this last night and realized my target audience are those young adults who in the wraths of pain. This made perfect sense to me and I had an Oprah AHA moment. The worst years of my life were during the ages of eighteen to twenty two. I was at my breaking point with chronic pain and life in general. I can still remember, all too well how much my invisible disease had destroyed every aspect and facet of the person I was prior to chronic pain taking over my life. During my young twenties I reached my rock bottom and it was at this time that I was literally drowning in pain and honestly wishing I was no longer alive. I was not living any kind of life and to say I was surviving is even a stretch. Therefore it does make sense why I have helped or guided those who are at that young age because I understand their pain better than I understand the pain of anyone else. The people like who I am writing this post for do not realize that their words help me in ways I never thought possible. It astounds me how strong this person is and how he is in such a better place than I was at his young age of twenty.
He brought up a very important topic that I believe will capture the eyes and minds of many young people who are drowning in their own pain. When I was around the age of twenty I hated everyone and everything in the world. Worst of all, I hated myself. I isolated myself from all my peers because no one understood what I was going through and I could not bear to hear their problems because although I looked okay on the outside, I was near death on the inside. Hearing my friends talk about cramps or a recent breakup from a two week relationship made me angry. Hearing the problems of my friends made me want to scream: “YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW LUCKY YOU ARE! I WISH I HAD PROBLEMS THAT ARE SO EASILY FIXED. I MAY DIE BECASUE OF THE CONSTANT DAMN PAIN I AM IN EVERY SECOND OF EVERY DAY. I WISH FOR ONE DAY YOU COULD WALK IN MY SHOES AND YOU WOULD NEVER COMPLAIN OF SUCH FRUITLESS MATTERS AGAIN. AND MAYBE YOU WOULD UNDERSTAND ME BECAUSE NO ONE ELSE DOES!” However, I never said these words to anyone. I either retreated to my bed to cry or asked my friends to have drinks with me. I knew alcohol would numb my physical pain and I could then bear to hear about their problems.
I am thirty five now and I feel younger than I did when I was twenty. I never found a cure to my chronic pain but I did find a way through the pain. I still have chronic pain but it does not consume my life as it once did. I can now listen to my friends problems without resentment or anger. No one understands a pain or a struggle unless that person has endured that certain pain or struggle. Anger and resentment towards anyone or anything only intensifies our own struggles and our own pain. We are only hurting ourselves. However, I want to remind anyone who is reading this who knows a friend or loved one with chronic pain that your loved one is suffering. He or she is not selfish and wishes more than anything that they could listen to your problems and be there for you. However, they cannot do that. If you know someone who is truly suffering from an invisible illness understand that although he or she looks okay on the outside, that person is literally fighting for their life and doing the best he or she can.
This post is dedicated to Ethan: Thank you for your questions and please know that you are (like all of you) so much stronger than you believe.