To the College Student With Chronic Pain Trying to 'Fit In'
Have you ever felt like you are a hamster on a hamster wheel, running and running but you feel as if you are getting nowhere? I write all the time what I truly believe: If you do not take care of yourself first, then you will not be able to care for anything, or the ones you love, the way they deserve.
A young girl I will call M is 19 and in her first year of college. She is a mini-version of myself when I was 19 and trying to find a cure to chronic pain while trying to figure out my major and fitting in with my peers. She asked me the same questions I had at her young age: “How were you able to go to college with chronic pain? How were you able to stop focusing on the pain? How did you find a way to fit in with your peers and have friends without seeming like the girl who is always in pain and tired?”
My answers are my truth, but they might not be what anyone wants to hear: I went to college but was unable to keep up with my numerous doctors appointments, medications, procedures while trying to keep up my grades. College was awful for me. I compared myself to everyone and had no real support group because I was no longer at home where my only real support system at that time was my dad. I found a way to be with my peers and “fit in” by doing what I beg others not to do: drink and go out all the time just in order to numb the physical pain enough to not only try and have fun but to maintain friendships.
How long was I able to keep up a great GPA, patient of the year in the doctor’s office, and maintain friendships while drinking my life away? I actually managed two years of this horrible, exhausting, depressing, un-fulfilling lifestyle until I broke down and everything fell apart. I dropped out of school so there was no GPA to maintain, I gave up on doctors and quit even trying to do anything healthy for myself, and moved to Colorado on a total whim. The only thing I was able maintain was drinking and “friends.” It took losing everything I had to come to a point of reality: I had to accept chronic pain as part of my life, lose all my friends, put total focus on my health, and learn how to manage chronic pain naturally.
I did not return to college until I was able to maintain a routine where chronic pain no longer controlled my life. People may be thinking, “There is no way I would be able to live with chronic pain and be happy. It is impossible. How will I ever be happy? How will I ever have friends or the life I deserve? How will I ever study in college and even harder, how will I ever be able to work?”
I get it. I felt the same exact way. However, my question would be, do you have any of the above right now doing what you are doing? I did not. I wasted so many years, so much of my life fighting pain and overthinking everything, until I had to surrender and truly focus on myself and my health.
I am far from perfect and still have struggles in my life and this week I have spent all my time fighting a battle that I cannot win. I stopped taking full care of myself and put all my focus on things I cannot control and my daughter. I have been overthinking and thinking into the future so much so that my brain literally feels dizzy and I am exhausted. Now is the time to use the tools I use to manage chronic pain to manage my worries and fears.
Things always have a way of working themselves out, but I believe when we resist change in our lives or try to fight a battle we cannot win, we end up miserable.
I will never claim to know everything or have all the answers, but the one thing I know is that we must take care of ourselves before we can take care of anyone or anything else in our world.
Follow this journey on No One Gets Flowers for Chronic Pain.
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