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When Chronic Pain Takes Away Your Freedom as a Teenager

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Chronic pain has made me lose a lot. It started slowly, with having to quit my favorite sport (trampoline and tumbling) and then gained speed when I lost my ability to take a shower without sitting down. I have degenerative disc disease and have dealt with chronic pain for four years. I am only 17, and as a teenager you are usually just starting to use and discover all your freedom, but for me, I see it slipping away right in front of me.

It was hard to see all the kids in my grade getting their driver’s license and me being stuck in the car with my parents because I am not allowed to drive with the medications I am on. It is hard to see people run up the stairs to class when I am moving slowly, gripping the railing because stairs cause so much pain. It is emotionally painful to see the difference between “normal” people and a person, like me, with severe chronic pain.

When I first got my diagnosis, I was relieved. No more questioning of where this pain was coming from, but if I had known how much I’d lose, I think I would have thought differently. It makes me feel pathetic that I can’t stand without wincing, let alone get dressed in the morning. Going to the bathroom hurts, sitting hurts, standing hurts, lying down hurts; normal functions everyone does, pain now dictates for me.

I guess I never realized the little freedoms I had before pain; they were so simple but life-changing. The freedom to walk up the stairs, to play a sport, to go to the bathroom, to sleep peacefully; these are things I never thought I would have difficulty with. I never would have imagined not doing any of them. My freedom of everyday life functions is slipping away a little bit every day, and that has different effects.

I have always dealt with depression, anxiety, and OCD, but when my pain started to get get gradually worse, all my mental illnesses worsened too. My mental illnesses and chronic pain walk hand in hand, trampling my insides, making life very difficult to live, but I did find light in the darkness. I have realized life is hard, unfair and sometimes downright cruel, but it also has its beauties, and if you choose to look at those, it often becomes more manageable. There is a quote in a song by The Head and The Heart called “Another Story, saying, “The sun still rises even with the pain.” This quotes reveals the hardest thing I had to accept with chronic pain; life still continues even if I am in pain. I just wanted my pain to go away so I could get on with life, but the truth is, I still live, even with the pain.

No matter what living looks like for me that day, I try to make the most out of it (even if it is laying on the couch watching the sixth Harry Potter for the fourth time that day). Even on the days where I am bawling because I just can’t take it anymore, I let myself bawl. Sometimes you need to just let yourself cry and say, “Yes this sucks and I don’t want to deal with my pain,” and that is OK.

Today I am writing this in hopes it not only helps give me a reason to continue to fight but also helps you too. I may not know you or what you are going through, but I want to let you know you are so brave, and the pain you are in is unfair and it does suck, but life can get better if you want it to. The pain might always be there, but hopefully your hope will be there too. I really do wish you all the best and hope one day you will find peace.

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Getty Image by Antonio Guillem

Originally published: December 14, 2017
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