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Why I Choose to Push Through My Chronic Pain

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Most people would be baffled if I told them that I battle with chronic pain every day. This is not because my pain is any less real than someone else’s. I have accepted that I have fibromyalgia and yes, I do know that I have limitations. But what I also know is that it doesn’t have to take life away from me completely.

I am currently in my final year of high school and I’d be lying if I said that pain hasn’t impacted my life greatly.

But I do choose to push through the pain, and here are just a few reasons why:

1. I am in pain, but pain is not who I am.

I live every minute of every day in pain and it is a much bigger part of my life than I ever would have imagined. But I am not just my pain. I am also a young adult with my whole life ahead of me. I am a daughter, a sister, a niece, a cousin and a friend. I experience many of the same issues and dilemmas (and probably more) as my friends do. I know what it’s like to want to be able to go out and drink. I know what it’s like to have crushes and to spend hours on the phone to a friend discussing boys and clothes and completely stressing out about the smallest of issues. Because regardless of my illness, I am human. Because my life is about more than just pain. It is definitely one part of my life, but it is not my whole life.

2. Maintaining stable mental health is equally as important to me as my physical health.

Physical pain is one thing. Mental pain is another. And together, they can make life hell. Having fibromyalgia means that I will always experience physical pain and I am prepared to have flare-ups as a result of sometimes putting my health second. (Just to be clear, I am in no way putting myself in danger by doing this.) I feel the most alive when I am with my friends. I love to go out to nice restaurants and I love to spend time in bustling shopping centers or explore the city. These are just a few of the things that make me happy and I believe I deserve to be happy so I will continue to keep doing them. I believe that just because my physical pain isn’t going away any time soon, that doesn’t mean I have to have mental anguish, too.

3. I don’t want my pain to take more away from me.

Five years ago, when I got my first nerve palsy and my Ehlers-Danlos syndrome was diagnosed and I began to understand what pain really meant, I lost a lot. I used to be the best swimmer in my school, I was a dancer, I was top of my class academically. Since then I have had to stop the sports I love to do. I also have lost the ability to write so I have to have a scribe and I struggle immensely to be able to concentrate and retain information like I used to be able to do. But I won’t let my pain take me away from my friends and family. I will go out for dinner, I will go get coffee, I will go shopping, I will go to school, because I will not let my whole life be taken over by pain that is out of my control.

4. I don’t want to be treated differently.

There have been countless times when I have spoken about my pain to someone close to me, and all of a sudden I go from a friend or relative to someone who is ill. I am in no way ashamed of having fibromyalgia and I want nothing more than to be able to open up and educate those around me, but what I don’t like is being treated like I am less than someone else because of it. So to the majority of people, I want to appear “normal.” All the people who I need to support me know the truth about what I am like behind closed doors, but to everyone else, I choose to keep my illness hidden so that no one looks at me like I’m different again. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me, I don’t want their pity. Honestly, that’s the last thing I need.

5. It gives me a sense of control.

I am a control freak. I like to have everything in order and organized so I feel like I can be in control. As my fibromyalgia has gotten more severe, I have found the inability to control flare-ups one of the hardest things to deal with. But when I push through pain, I feel a sense of control, rather than feeling as though the pain controls me.

6. Chronic pain means it is lifelong, so I can’t wait for it to get better.

The word “chronic” changed a lot about the way I treated my pain. Not that it is less important or easier in any way, in fact I’d say it is a hell of a lot more difficult than acute pain, but because it isn’t going away any time soon. For me, this meant I wasn’t going to wait for the pain to get better, because it won’t. Instead, I decided that I would enjoy my life as much as I can while I can.

I’m not saying that doing this is easy. It’s far from it. Every day this technique of coping with pain becomes increasingly more difficult, but while I still can, I will continue to live life to the best I can despite pain. This way I know that if pain eventually begins to take over, I can confidently say that I have lived life to the best that I know how.

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Thinkstock photo by Grandfailure

Originally published: May 22, 2017
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