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Facing the 'Storms' of Chronic Pain

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Before I got sick, I was one of those people who had a five-year plan, maybe even a 10-year plan at some point in my life, when the world was my oyster and there were the endless possibilities youth provided. Yes, I had felt pain, I had lost people close to me in my life, I had struggled with the usual jobs and college and I had the usual illnesses that folks have as they get to adult age, so I was “normal.”

I could have chosen many paths as a high-achiever, law being one of them, but I went with my heart and chose design, and threw myself into grafting a career which I wanted to excel in and make my mark. Also, in choosing my particular college, I met the guy of my dreams, who I’ve now been with for 27 years.

As we set up home, worked every hour we could and planned a future with all the usual condiments, car, house, promotion, kids, etc. – you know the deal. With rose tints and all, what could go wrong?

Any signs of ill health I put down to overworking, stress and the usual factors of life. It would pass. Then increasing severity began to result in doctor appointments, and then hospital tests. My work was affected, not to mention my confidence, and the career I was at one point excelling in became a casualty, as did having a family. This further strengthened the feelings of usefulness; after all, I couldn’t even make my body function normally. Eating became more and more painful, joints became more and more painful, and after years of tests and pain, both emotional and physical, I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) and gastroparesis, along with other symptoms along the way such as osteoporosis, continued anemia, TMJ, etc.

Now that five-year plan is a five-minute plan. Chronic pain is one thing that many of us with long-term illnesses endure, with willpower and strength that no physician seems to research. It’s the acute pain on top, which throws in doubt and fear. We momentarily question if we can manage the pain as each minute hand moves on the clock, gaining a sense of pride as we do, and then we fear again for the next 60 seconds. I have lost count of the sleepless nights, the damp pillows from tears, the wish for an “off switch,” and the question as to what I’ve done to deserve this pain. I’m sure you’ve all been there. Chronic pain is like a storm; some are worse than others. Some are ferocious and hurricane-like, making you yearn for shelter, while others are gradual, intensity growing slowly, but with destruction less than expected.

Either way, the calm after the storm can feel inspiring, strengthening and even hopeful. You got through it, you managed the pain – like so many times before – and you’ll do it again when the next storm comes.

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Thinkstock photo via whiteson.

Originally published: February 22, 2017
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