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I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Self in Pain That Everything Will Be OK

I get a multitude of reactions from people when I tell them I have an invisible illness: chronic pain. I never tell people for pity or praise. I only tell them because they ask me what I write about.

I have yet to meet a person with chronic pain who enjoys being pitied. It’s bad enough when we, as individuals, get in self-hate or self-pity mode, but to watch others pity us is just agonizing. 

A woman asked me yesterday about my story about my bike accident during my daughter Kayci’s dance class. The woman was beyond kind and was genuinely interested and even asked me to send her a link to my site.

She had one of the greatest reactions I have ever encountered from a person who had no idea I lived with chronic pain. She stroked my hair, but not in a “I feel bad for you” way. She did it in a way that said, “You are amazing.” 

It is very hard to explain, but sometimes gestures and eye movements are more meaningful than words. She was one of the first people who genuinely wanted to read my story, and she asked me questions that didn’t make me feel uncomfortable or different from anyone else in the room.  

There was no pity in her eyes, just empathy. I showed her a picture of myself when I was at my rock bottom in my journey with chronic pain. It’s very similar to the before and after picture seen above. A lot of people who have met me in the past 10 years don’t believe the Jessica on the left side of the photo above is truly me.

I can promise you all that it is.

Chronic pain was at its worse, and I had already gone through every doctor, specialist, surgery and medication to try and cure my relentless pain. Nothing worked. Ten years of searching for a cure can really suck the life out of a person. 

The only thing that actually numbed my physical pain for a brief time was alcohol. I ate horribly, drank with my friends on a nightly basis and spent the days crying in bed. Pain had completely taken over my life — body, mind and soul.  

I look at the picture of the Jessica who was falling apart due to chronic pain, and I sincerely don’t recognize her. My friend from my daughter’s dance class asked me if I feel like I’m still that person seen above, and I honestly feel no identification to that Jessica at all. Chronic pain changed me. How could it not?  

The first 10 plus years in my battle with my invisible illness changed me for the worse. I don’t hate the Jessica I once was because I was doing the best I could with the cards I had been dealt. I was so unhappy I thought about ending my life more times than I care to remember. I may have been bigger on the outside, but I was totally hollow on the inside. 

The Jessica I found through the help of the Pain Rehabilitation Center at the Mayo Clinic is the true Jessica seen on the right-hand side of the picture above. She is happy. I wish I could say chronic pain finally went away or I found that magic cure but I did not. I found a way to manage pain naturally and work my ass off on a daily basis in order to never feel the way I felt 15 years ago. It took me a long time to love myself. 

After my bike accident, I hated chronic pain, but I didn’t hate myself. After years and years of searching for a cure and becoming hopeless and a total mess inside and out, I began to hate myself along with the pain. I empathize with the Jessica on the left-hand side of the picture above, and I wish I could give her a hug and tell her everything would be OK one day. 

I would never have believed the older Jessica, but I would still love to give that younger pain-filled Jessica a hug. The friend I have made at my daughter’s dance class embodies a presence of love and empathy, and I truly hope that with my stories people begin to see how a person with an invisible illness wants to be treated.  

She made me feel good and clearly knows the difference between pity and empathy. That is a rare quality to find in a person, and I am very happy to have bonded with her as I have.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Follow this journey on No One Gets Flowers for Chronic Pain.