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Even Though You Can't See It, I Am in Pain

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Being a college sophomore while facing chronic pain from degenerative disc disease isn’t a dream situation, but I live in that situation every day. Having chronic pain with no relief, day in and out, changes you. Being in college, while most students, myself included, are worrying about keeping good grades, maintaining their extracurriculars, as well as improving their resumes, I catch myself wondering if I will be able to sit the whole time through a two-hour lecture. I wonder if my friends are annoyed when I keep canceling plans because I’m having a bad day, and it simply hurts to move and get out of bed. I have to struggle to validate my pain and medical necessity to the insurance company for them to approve treatment.

Pain makes it difficult for me to do things on my accord. While I would love to study for long periods of time at once or get my assignments completed at one time, I can’t. Even though I would love to go see my brother hit a home run, I can’t. Despite wishing to lie on the floor and play with my puppy, I can’t. Any of these things will end in more frustration, tears and the worst pain I’ve experienced, although that can be achieved by simply getting out of bed the wrong way or too quickly.

Pain can take over my life until the only thing on my mind is my pain. It’ll make me lie awake in the dark, stealing my sleep, making me question, “Why me?” Or “Should I try to take that painkiller even though I know it’s not going to work?” It’ll make me have days where everything just is piling on, overwhelming, and all I want to do is break down.

On the outside, if I don’t outwardly moan in pain or wince every time I stand up, there is no way to see the amount of pain I’m in. When a person sees me, they see the front I put up, the smile that covers the tears from the night before, the laughter that conceals the internal screams from the pain. I have had people ask me directly, “Are you in as much pain as you say you are?” or look at me skeptically when I say I need a few minutes before I walk to my next class. It makes me frustrated because there is no way to let people know the immense pain I am in without letting pain completely take over my life. Living with chronic pain can come with doubt from others, not taking you seriously when you need reassurance, saying “Really? Another one?” when you go in for another procedure your doctor thinks will definitely give you relief.

Pain makes me want to cry and scream, it makes it hard for me to function, and all I want to do is get rid of it, but I can’t. There is not a right or wrong way to deal with chronic pain. It helps to surround myself with people who understand me and will stand by me, without ever doubting my pain. It helps to have a coping mechanism for those bad days, which occur more often than OK days. It helps to be distracted from the pain, such as surrounding myself with the things I’m passionate about, and the things that engross me. Every day I get through is another battle won, and that’s a pretty good day if you ask me.

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Thinkstock image by stevanovicigor

Originally published: June 6, 2017
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