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How Photography Helps Me Battle Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

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When I was 14, I developed complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), a rare neurological disease.  I lived in the middle of the woods, and I would often walk the trails to clear my mind after a bad day. Many people who get CRPS have very type A personalities, and I was no different. As a straight-A student and wanting everything to be perfect, it brought on a lot of stress. Being hit with a chronic illness that brings on extreme amounts of pain instantly changed my life. It took me over two years of unrelenting pain until I received a diagnosis. I began to wonder what I had done so wrong in my life that I was given this to deal with. I began to see the world as a cruel place.

Taking a photograph
Nora taking a photograph.

One day five years ago, I decided to take my camera with me on my walk. I snapped a few photos and uploaded them online. I didn’t think much of them, until the comments started rolling in. I was told the pictures were beautiful and I had a photographer’s eye.  Since that day, photography has been a huge part of my life and my battle with CRPS.

Over the years, photography became a way for me to express my emotions with the click of a button. The sound of the shutter trapped all of my emotions in one picture. I took my camera everywhere. Looking back on all of the photographs, I have realized just how beautiful the world really is. It has also shown me that the world isn’t a cruel place, because if it was, I wouldn’t have all of these pictures. When they say a picture is worth a thousand words, it really is true. Looking back on all of the pictures I have taken, a flood of memories comes back. Although most of them are good, like going on vacations, experiencing milestones, etc., it also brings back some of the hardships in my life, such as hospital admissions, surgeries, and doctors’ appointments.

Taking a photo at sunset
Nora taking a picture of the sunset.

Photography has helped me cope with CRPS. To be a good photographer, you have to focus on what you are doing, which makes the mind think about only that. The location you are in is usually so breathtaking that it can make anybody feel better. On particularly bad days, going through pictures I have taken over the years boosts my mood.  Photography has also been a way to document my story and bring awareness to this rare disease. Placing pictures with blog posts helps others to understand CRPS and everything that comes along with it. They give my experiences more meaning knowing that somebody is going to look at them and be better prepared to take on their own battle.

I believe that if I hadn’t discovered my knack for photography, I would be in a very different place than I am now, and that place is nowhere I want to be.

Follow Nora’s story at CRPS Does Not Own Me.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? 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.

Originally published: March 23, 2016
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