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I Once Thought Chronic Pain Would Kill Me

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jessica with her daughter

I was speaking with someone yesterday who has been a huge part in my journey with chronic pain and has helped light shine into my life just as the light does in the picture to the right. The years I spent wishing I was no longer alive are difficult to relive or write about because I can still feel that emotional and physical pain when I think back to the years in Colorado right before I hit my rock bottom and truly gave up. That picture taken yesterday, and I swear if anyone told me I would be going on an “adventure” through the woods with my daughter at the age of 34 I would have looked at them like they were absolutely out of their mind.

I would like to go back in time to my most vivid memories of the Jessica who was defined by pain and truly wanted her life to just end. It was around the year 2000, and it was a Sunday in Boulder, Colorado: the place to live if you truly want to forget you worries and party your ass off. Sundays scared me. Why?  Liquor stores are not open on Sundays in Colorado, so the only way to numb the physical pain was to pray my friends and I did not drink everything we had bought the day before, or waste a lot of money at a classy bar. We usually ended up at a bar that served cheap appetizers and had a great happy hour, and I would down as many glasses as Merlot as possible. Just as one can become dependent on pain medication for relief to chronic pain, one can also become dependent on alcohol for the same relief. Elvis Presley once said, “We are all addicted to something that takes the pain away.” I recently discovered he too had a form of chronic pain.

My friends and I would not stay at the bar long, as most of my friends wanted to study and get ready for the week ahead in the place I dreamed about and missed so desperately: college. I “took a year off” not because I wanted to but between doctor visits, medications, self medicating, no sleep and thoughts of dying there just did not seem to be enough time for school. My pain had reached such a horrible point that I lost one of my favorite things in the whole world: reading and writing. No, I was not blind for those years, but the pain was truly so intense that looking at pages on a book hurt both physically and then emotionally. I would watch my friends study and get ready for exams as I sat there with my other group of friends drinking. Jealousy ran through me like you cannot imagine. I hated drinking, I hated that nothing could take my pain away, I did not enjoy what I was doing, I had lost myself to chronic pain and I never thought I would come back.

I did. I beat the odds, and when I think back to those days I am shocked that the Jessica then and the Jessica in the above picture are the same person. What is more shocking is that I never did find a cure to chronic pain, and yet I read, I write, I graduated college with a degree in Social Work, I am a mother, I have a family, and I am following my dreams. No cure. Just a ton of acceptance, dedication and work. I write this often, but I promise you if someone 10 years ago asked me to read a blog about a girl who manages chronic pain naturally I would have screamed: “You don’t understand! Screw her! Manage pain naturally? Crap,” and would have run away in tears angry, hopeless, scared and alone. The tears would not have stopped falling until I fell asleep and I would not be reading what I am writing now. I get it. I get it so well that when I write about my darkest hours of chronic pain, I cry. I cry for the years I lost. I cry for the mistakes I made. I cry thinking about how much I really wanted to die. I cry thinking about the millions of people who feel as I once did because I know how terrible it is. I have been through a lot, but I promise you nothing compares to my battle with chronic pain. I never want anyone to think I do not understand, and I know I do not have to prove my pain to my readers because you get it.

Note to all of you: you should never feel the need to prove your pain to anyone… such a horrible feeling.

Yes, I write because I want to help and I want people to know you can live a happy life despite chronic pain, and you do not have to find a cure to be happy. Do I believe I am a success story? Yes. Do I believe what I write is inspiring?Yes. However, don’t for one second think I do not understand how you feel because I truly almost died two times in my life. Chronic pain nearly killed me, but I am alive.

Follow this journey on No One Gets Flowers for Chronic Pain.

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

Originally published: April 28, 2016
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