The Mighty Logo

The Matt Damon Movie Line That Stops Fear of Chronic Pain From Holding Me Back

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

“Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage… And I promise you something great will come of it.” — Matt Damon, “We Bought A Zoo”

little girl on steps surrounded by snow
Jessica’s daughter Kayci.

I saw the movie “We Bought a Zoo” starring Matt Damon in the theaters when I was eight months pregnant with the amazing person seen the the right, my daughter Kayci. I was an emotional mess during this movie but blamed it on pregnancy and hormones. However, I watched it again yesterday in the comforts of our living room and once again I was crying both tears of happiness and sadness at this incredible, inspiring story about courage, love and hope. The film is based on a true story and the above quote has stuck with me for the past four years.

What are you most afraid of? I have chronic pain. Chronic pain is scary. I do believe the fear of pain is oftentimes worse than the pain itself.  I think the fear of anything is sometimes worse that what we are afraid of.

There was a time I literally had about 20 seconds to make a decision, and that was in Rochester, Minnesota at the Mayo Clinic. I had spent about two or more months there trying to cure the relentless physical pain I had been enduring for over 10 years with zero relief. The Mayo Clinic was my final straw. I knew deep down that if the doctors there could not help “cure” my pain, I was completely done trying and would just take copious amounts of pain medications for the rest of my life and give up all the hopes and dreams I had and deserved. After two months of tests, procedures, appointments, MRIs, etc. my main doctor looked at me and said, “Jessica, you have chronic pain and I do not believe there is a cure. I’m sorry. We have a program here that helps people with chronic pain learn how to manage it naturally. It is a three-month program that teaches you everything you need to know on how to live with chronic pain and be healthy and happy despite the illness. I will be honest, the program is difficult and it takes a ton of courage and work to manage chronic pain naturally, but I have seen great success rates and it can be done.”

I just cried and cried and cried some more. I said to this very kind man: “There is no way I am going. I cannot live with chronic pain. This is an impossibility.” He asked me to think about it, as he was able to get me into the program immediately and that in itself was a gift: a gift I did not want to open at the time.

I went back to my hotel room and fell apart with a bottle of wine and tears. I called my dad and told him what the doctor wanted me to do, and my dad who is very optimistic and supportive begged me to go. I yelled and cried to him, “No, I am not going! I will find a cure. I do not want to live with pain!” The following day I awoke smelling of wine and realizing I had slept until 2 in the afternoon in a hotel room in the middle of Minnesota. The taste and smell of that wine and the swelling of my face from crying most of the night gave me strength. I had had it. I was so tired of being miserable and unhealthy and allowing pain to destroy my life.

Then came my 20 seconds of courage. I called the Pain Center I had been referred to and told them I wanted to enter the program, and it was the hardest phone call I have ever made. My life began the next week and has continued to grow throughout the years despite some bumps in the road. It took literally 20 seconds of courage and my life literally changed forever. I beg you to not allow fear to hold you back.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a scene or line from a movie that’s stuck with you through your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead image by YouTube

Originally published: April 8, 2016
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home