The Silver Lining in My Chronic Pain

At just 25 years old, living with a chronic illness was not my plan. I have people to spend time with, places to go, and things I need to do. I have a new job I enjoy in a career that I am very passionate about as a social worker. Everyday, I wake up and go to work with the intention of advocating for my clients, who in my case happen to be students.

I make sure they get the special education services they need in school and I also make sure that their teachers are supported in helping these students succeed. It’s a job that has its challenges, because social work always does, but I really enjoy it.

In my childhood I was always rooting for the underdog, including the kid who others would leave out, and spending time helping people, it was always in my nature. So, at 25, when the tables turned on me and a doctor told me I had a Chiari malformation I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under my feet. Excuse me? Me….sick? I could never be. I had to “save the world”… or at least my corner of it.

“My focus was always on helping the next person, I simply do not have time for this,” I thought to myself.

Over the last few months I have quickly seen my identify as a 20-something who debates between weekends out on the town or chilling with Netflix, almost always succumbing to anything involving a sofa and my sweatpants. And my love of wine? Wine is now practically my enemy because of the vertigo it causes.

Explaining this condition to people is like training your dog to roll over only to have them cock their head to one side in confusion… they don’t seem to understand. The pain is unbearable at moments, the loss of friendships because of my lack of energy has been emotionally draining, and all of this makes me feel like I might as well crawl into my bed and stay there for a very long time.

Reality has really taken a turn. So now I decide – anger or gratitude, sadness or hope. I’m angry, sad and in pain – God am I in pain. But I’m thankful, too.

I am now learning how to take care of myself, treating myself well for the first time. I have had to make so many doctors appointments, but I did it. I have had to fight insurance companies, and I won. I have had to advocate for my medical testing and to be heard, and people listen. I am learning to recognize that even if I have a headache, I get to wake up today.

I have a good job, a family and an amazing boyfriend who takes care of me. I have good friends who stick by me. And I also have a new perspective.

So you see, I have a new reality, and it is not all sunshine and roses but it has given me some great lessons. And that is my silver lining. When you are living with a chronic illness finding your silver lining in each day, no matter how small, keeps you going.

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