The Moment It Hit Me That My Chronic Pain Is Here to Stay
I was involved in a car accident in 2014. Since then, I have been battling chronic neck, shoulder and back pain, on top of my chronic migraine and chronic tension headache pain. My life has dramatically changed since that day almost three years ago. I never knew that one day I would wake up changed forever, having to plan every detail of my day to avoid a flare of the pain.
You see, when you read your diagnosis of “chronic pain, chronic migraine, chronic tension headache,” you want to skip over the “chronic” part. Whiplash goes away, right? Concussion symptoms don’t last long, right? At least that’s what Google told me. But, I happen to be one of the “lucky” ones whose nerves decided to never heal, and in turn began to send pain signals to my brain constantly. My brain was altered and although there is still ongoing research on chronic migraine and concussion, there is evidence that concussion changes the nerves and even structural changes occur that lead to depression, decreased memory, decreased cognitive function and more. I kept reading on the internet that I should be “better” in, at maximum, a year. That’s the majority though. If
you’re the minority, like me, you won’t recover completely.
The moment I realized this was actually this week. I had an appointment with my psychologist and tried explaining through the tears that I didn’t know if I was depressed because I had depression or because I am in so much pain and haven’t found a cure yet. She told me, “You’re grieving.” I sat there for a moment and really took that in. She is right. I am grieving the person I used to be. The person who could go out every weekend, survive on small amounts of sleep, be happy and fun and pop an ibuprofen if I had a little headache. I so desperately want to be her again, but I can’t be.
My doctor also handed me an article on “the spoon theory” titled “But You Don’t Look Sick.” I read this and felt not so alone. Even though I don’t have the condition the author has, my chronic illness is still valid. I know others out there may have it worse than I do, but I can’t compare myself to others at this point because it isn’t making me better mentally or physically. I never wanted to label myself as having a chronic illness because I didn’t want the pity or the stigma associated with it; but my pain is real and I can’t downplay that anymore, or pretend it will go away if I just find the right doctor.
Although I’m not done grieving my old self yet, and may never fully accept it, I am growing. I am becoming stronger and more determined to find something that can at least decrease my pain. I’m not fixated on finding a “cure” anymore, because right now in science, there is not one.
Although it is really hard to accept that I most likely live with this every day, I am moving towards bettering myself and learning to manage it better, instead of researching every doctor and procedure possible to “cure” it. Living with chronic illness is hard. It’s exhausting and mentally draining. But I believe God gave me this to better the world. To be the light and strength for someone else who struggles just the same.
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Thinkstock photo via JZhuk.