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The First Time Chronic Pain Made Me Break Down in Front of My Parents

I broke down in front of my parents today. As I sobbed, I realized it was the first time in my adult life that I have done it and not run away to my room to be alone or immediately made a joke to laugh the misery off.

This year has been really hard. The hardest of my life, actually. I thought the year after I graduated was the worst because I was bedbound and in so much chronic pain, the girl I used to be no longer existed. I was a shell of a human just trying to make it through the day without any tears. And I did. I survived it, but I was alone. In my darkest hours, I was alone in the four unloving walls of my childhood bedroom. But not today.

I have always worried that crying the soul-wracking sobs in front of people I love would be embarrassing. I talked with strangers and physiotherapists and even doctors I had only met a few minutes previous and bore my pain-filled soul to them in the name of trying to find a cure or even a temporary fix. And though I still haven’t found something to even soften the sharp edges of my constant level-10 chronic pain for the past few years or even the pain for the past 11 years, I still find it terribly uncomfortable to be honest about all of the pain and misery I feel to these strangers. But I didn’t feel that way with my parents. Not today.

I cried “it just hurts” with all the anguish inside me leaking out of every syllable and I cried about the unfairness of it all. I told them about those bits of pain that have been eating at me for longer than any soul should have to deal with them. Fat tears rolled down my swollen and tender cheeks, sliced with pain from my latest health failure. Curling my even more swollen hands into tentative fists, I wiped the tears on my face, expressing my frustration with inability to swallow or touch my scalp in two of the strangest, seemingly unrelated symptoms I have fought.

I admitted that going on 12 years, I really am calm with each new pain-filled and poisoned health struggle life deals me. You don’t survive that long without learning how to live despite your body betraying you and curling into something you don’t recognize.

“But,” I heartbrokenly said with power in my voice and passion in my veins, “It still is really sad each time I have to deal with something new.”

I finished my emotional venting with a bone-rattling sigh. I have had so many compounding painful, uncomfortable, soul-chipping symptoms to deal with over the past many years that I often forget to list more than half of them when talking to a new “professional” who will cure everything with just a few uttered words. Sarcasm that they cure anything let alone everything, of course, but hours after the appointments I always remember five or so more symptoms that I forgot to even hint at, despite spending a week or so working up a list to take to the appointment so I can read it off with confidence. There is nothing like the desperate determination of someone ready to live a “normal” life. But the misery caused by all those compounding things is still there — the misery usually effectively beaten by my God-given gift of optimism, rarely rearing its head as I work to exist with an easy smile, laughing at even the smallest of things. Leaving the suffering forgotten until the next new addition of struggles stirs the memory of what I deal with in the forefront of my mind.

“Oh yeah, I also have to deal with painful goosebumps,” I added to myself softly. I usually am alone when I remind myself of the silliest of my painful sensations. But not today.

My dad sat beside me, not touching me because that would hurt and I hate being touched anyway, but a comforting presence. He talked with me softly because noise hurts me too. He asked me more about what I feel as I sobbed and, for the first time while I cry oceans, I felt like it is going to be OK. I didn’t feel alone. I felt strong, knowing I was being heard in that very moment. My tender and protective parents were there with me as I let it all out. Not hidden in my occasionally dreary room, I rallied faster than ever before. Usually, the burden of my broken and flawed body rests heavy on my sole shoulders, but not today.

Getty Images photo via fizkes