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Why I Was Wrong to Think My Mom Hadn't Taught Me How to Live With Chronic Pain

My mom and I have always had a close relationship. Growing up, I loved spending time with her. Whether we were baking, reading, completing chores, or going on walks, I loved doing it all right beside my mom. Envisioning a future where I grew up and modeled myself after my mom filled me with excitement about my future. 

As a child, I wanted to do everything just like my mom did. I wanted to live life with the same joy and care that she exemplified. Her kindness and concern towards other people were traits that I wished I could embody as well as she did. The intelligence and wisdom she displayed about practical matters and about personal matters alike made me follow her lead in a lot of areas of my young life. 

There were many lessons I learned from my mom as a child about how to live my best life possible. However, these lessons seemed to run dry when I suddenly developed chronic pain as a result of numerous life-changing illnesses when I was a preteen. Suddenly, I was flung into a situation that no one around me had ever encountered before. I felt as if I had no one to look up to who could teach me how to handle chronic pain. While I knew that my mom’s life and the rest of my family’s life had changed as a result of my pain, the change seemed very far away and different from how my life had changed. 

The life lessons I had learned from my mom seemed to no longer apply to my life. I was suddenly forced to walk on unfamiliar terrain, and the lessons I had learned from my mom in the past, along with the ones I was still trying in vain to learn, gave me no leverage against my chronic pain. I sadly believed throughout my teenage years that the lessons I could learn about how to live with chronic pain would have to be found elsewhere.

I am now nearing the end of my teenage years, and I have come to the conclusion that I was vastly wrong. I did not need to look far or search hard to find someone who could show me how to live with chronic pain or inspire me to do so. My mom had been showing me how to live with chronic pain all along by teaching me the most important lesson I have learned on how to thrive with chronic pain. She taught me how to have grit in the face of life’s challenges. I just did not realize it until I matured enough to understand what my mom was trying to teach me.

“Grit” is defined by Merriam-Webster as “mental toughness and courage.” My mom showed me how to be resilient and tough when she took me to doctor after doctor when I was searching for a diagnoses, despite repeatedly failing to find an answer and having to deal with rude and uncaring doctors. She showed me how to develop hardiness when the demands of caring for me were piled on top of her responsibilities as a wife, mother and teacher. Her toughness of mind was modeled when she believed through adversity that it is possible to retain the essence of your true self. Through her stubborn refusal to allow me to give up on myself, she showed me that having courage does not mean it is not OK to stumble or be afraid. It means having the strength and will to keep trying when you are surrounded by hardships and fear. 

mom and daughter with mountain and trees in the background
Delaney and her mom.

Living with chronic pain requires the sufferer to become mentally tough. It requires a large amount of strength to get out of bed, push through the pain, and stay psychologically, emotionally and mentally strong. I am thankful that my mom was modeling how important grit is in the face of pain for me before I even realized that she exemplified the trait. Through my mom, I learned how badly I needed to develop it as well. I also learned what it took to possess grit.   

Now, when I struggle to keep pushing through pain, and I find that the pain is interfering with the goals I want to reach, I think about how my mom has never let the struggles she has faced because of life’s challenges get in the way of what she truly wants. I have learned that I never lost the ability to learn the life lessons I need to learn from my mom, especially when it comes to my chronic pain.

The Mighty is asking the following: What is the best advice your mom gave you while growing up with a disease, disability or mental illness? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.