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Why I’m Thanking My Chronic Pain and Hydrocephalus

I should be here to write about how much of a pain and problem you are to my everyday life. I should be here to complain about how my hair is growing back completely split-ended because of the three surgeries I needed a year ago. I should be here to let you know that the hand strength my doctor said would come back in a year never did. I should be here to let you know that the chronic pain you left me with is excruciating, and each surgery I have will only make it worse. But I’m not. I’m here to say thank you.

Thank you, hydrocephalus, for showing me that life isn’t perfect. Thank you for showing me things don’t always go as planned, and that’s OK. Sometimes, it’s better than OK. Thank you for showing me people’s true colors, which can sometimes be good and sometimes not so good. Thank you for showing me how a family rallies around you when you’re hurting and enrobes you in their love when you feel like taking another step is incomprehensible. I’m not saying my family is not happy, but when people look at all those pictures of happy families in magazines, they always seem to think, “Oh, it looks like everything’s perfect,” or “They must not have any problems because look how happy they seem.” In fact, whenever you talk to friends, it’s sort of rare that you sit down and say, “You know, things aren’t going well.” Usually you’re just Mr. or Ms. Jabber Jaws about the great things that are happening in your life. Let’s face it, we all want “normal lives.”

I had all these plans after college. I was going to go to nursing school and get an apartment with my best friend. All my parents wanted was for me to graduate college — for them, that was an achievement. I was your typical college student: ready to take on the world, ready to go out and fend for myself. But all of those plans were thrown out the window. After college was over, I needed three more brain surgeries within the next two years. Further complicating things was my chronic pain, which was now getting even worse. Every time you tried to knock me down, I got up twice as hard. You have shown me I have strength I never even knew existed. You have shown me what family truly means.

This is going to sound strange, but thank you, chronic pain, for always being there. I know this is going to need some explaining. I’ll be the first to admit I was a little spoiled. I never really knew what it was like to struggle, and you showed me. You made me ever-so-thankful for my life, whichever way it went. You showed me I had determination. You showed me I had everlasting courage and ever-forgiving grace every time my doctors said a surgery didn’t work, and then with tears in my eyes, all I said was, “At least you tried.” I try to think about what my life would be without you and your little partner in crime, hydrocephalus — and yes, while it would be less painful, more fun and I would have more money to do stuff with friends, I can’t imagine life without you at this point.

Am I upset things haven’t gone the way I planned? No. Am I upset that I couldn’t become a nurse? No. Am I thankful that I’m still here? Yes. Am I thankful things haven’t gone any worse than they have? Yes. In my mind, that’s all you could ask for. You can’t have everything you want. And these days, I’m thankful for little victories. My ideals of little victories have changed. Now, little victories to me are: when my finger muscles move rather than my entire arm muscle when I’m trying to write my name. When I can walk without a limp. When I can stand on one foot.

Hydrocephalus and chronic pain: I am stronger because of you. I get up whenever I’m kicked. And for this, all I can give you is the most whole-hearted thank you! And bring it on!

kimi sorensen at restaurant table

Follow this journey on Blessings in Hydro.

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