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My Journey Towards Finding Peace in Life With Chronic Pain

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For all of my life, I have been known as the one who always saw the bright side. The one who always had hope it would all work out and be OK in the end. The one who not only would find the smallest things to smile about, but find ways to make others smile as well.

For 24 years this was the case. And then my years of pain turned to 12.

12 years with ever-increasing pain. I went from a swollen, aching, sharp pain in my knees to so full-body that I can feel when everyone is in my house just on the vibrations caused. I am so sensitive to even sound that I almost always wear earplugs and have even found my favorite style.

I haven’t actually hugged anyone in just about eight years and I plan on keeping that record. I hate being touched because of the pain that comes. I avoid it at all costs and lurch away fast when it occurs. In shows I watch to distract myself from my pain, I always catch myself cringing for the characters as someone high-fives them or even goes to shake their hand. Even on the strongest of sleeping medications with a fancy concoction of muscle relaxants, the most consecutive sleep I get is only three hours before the pain is too much and it wakes me. I try to take naps but they last seemingly not at all because inevitably, my pain of course worsens and I wake up.

I even have pain in my sleep. The pain has spread so that I now have limited mobility with walking, using my hands, and I even struggle to brush my teeth for longer than 10 seconds. The disability in my body also leaches into my dreams. Even as I walk in the dream world, I can’t walk for long and can’t use my hands hardly at all. With each action in my dreamstate causing currents of pain to surround me even more, until I wake into the real world with pain as my shadow.

Up until now, I have dejectedly been OK with it all and just hanging on for the ride. But then for the first time in my life, I had a suicidal episode. Within three months I had had 10 and they seemed to be getting worse. All I could think about was a plea that I would die. Life was not worth it. Just existing was too much and the pain too stabbing and sharp.

Through lots of work on myself and how I order my thoughts I have been changing my outlook, choosing the life I lead instead of just settling for it.

Instead of settling for my broken and “defective” body, I choose hands that don’t work how they used to and I choose to love all of my stretch marks that cover my torso, legs and arms.

I would love to say that this outlook change cured me and now I never wish to die, even when it hurts so bad I can’t stop sobbing, despite family being near and my pride at stake. I would love to say that this mental change has made my limbs work again and I can cook just as often as I used to — but I can’t.

My outside is unchanged. But my inside, where it counts, has. In moments where my pain rises to a new definition of level 10 pain, I still wish I could be released from this weight. But I am OK if I stay here. I have found peace and regained a semblance of control in the loss of control.

I know my body is not mine to completely rule. I know that fate and destiny have other plans. But come what may, I choose it. I choose it all. The good and the bad. Because it is mine and I am proud of who I have become and who I am fighting to become. Because of all pain, strife and the ocean of tears I have been able to help others. I have been awake when others are asleep, causing me to be there for those who are up struggling. I have felt what others can only imagine, and the ones who have actually felt it can find company in me, a fellow mighty. I have turned my existence into learning as much as I can and finding positive things to share, focus on and tape to my walls, so that not only can I keep myself going, but others as well.

To others I know my life might seem superficial. But that is OK. Because they don’t even have the barest clue what mountains I have charged and what storms I have weathered. The ones that matter will understand. Or work to understand the effort it takes just living millisecond by millisecond.

There are so many who need me to be there, even if it is just the knowing I am there still pushing through beside them. We are all only human after all. As a wise man said, “We may not be able to alter the journey, but we can make sure no one walks it alone” (Jeffrey R. Holland). So I will walk it with my friends and family. And just maybe, together, we can find that peace and make it stay a little bit longer than before.

Getty image by Jungsukhyun

Originally published: January 18, 2020
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