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To People Who Ask How I Can Have Such a Good Attitude With Chronic Pain

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Over the past 12 years of my devastating diagnosis of irreversible nerve pain that will in fact get worse with every additional surgery I have for hydrocephalus, I’ve gotten this question a lot. “How can you have such a good attitude when you have so much stacked against you?”

I think the first thing I would say to that is that it’s a multifaceted question. The first thing I would say is I am human, so no, I’m not always happy. I try to be in a good mood most of the time because the facts are the facts: “I’m not going to get any better, and with every additional surgery, I’m only going to get worse.” I accepted that because I had to, not because I wanted to. Because one day when I realized my energy level was about a third what it used to be, I sat there and thought to myself, “Is this really what you want to waste what little energy you now have on? Something that will never change, no matter how mad you make yourself? Or do you want to focus your energy on making yourself the best you can be, mentally?”

I believe happiness is a choice. Just like anything else, it takes practice. Lots of it. You aren’t just born happy. I think it takes disappointment to prove that happiness exists and that you yourself can attain it. I can’t change the cards I’ve been dealt, so why not just turn them into something new? It’s no different than turning a six into a nine. You just need to shake up the cards you’ve been dealt and deal them in a new way. A better way. I have no reason to be unhappy.

Look at my life — I was adopted by the most loving, giving couple in the world. I gained four amazing siblings and an amazing extended family. I have four parents who love me! What is there to be upset about?! Yes, my health situation isn’t fantastic, or even good in most peoples’ minds, but if that’s the only thing wrong with me, I will celebrate, because I’ve gotten through many tougher things in my life!

With health problems, you don’t get to choose a lot of things in life. Your life’s plans are chosen for you by your illness, or by your doctor’s schedule. So why not choose to be happy? It’s the one thing you can choose! There is no rhyme or reason to it — you just must make the choice. You have two choices in life: to be happy or not. So why not be happy? There are very few things you can control with a chronic illness. Well, at least most of the time. Of course it’s painful and I would do anything not to have it, but I do. So I do the only thing I can do. I live!

So here’s the short answer. There’s no magic pill that’s going to take my list of problems away. No magic wand. I wish! I made a choice. That’s no different than you making a choice of what color socks you’re going to wear that day. Well, maybe a little different. But it was a choice I felt like I had to make to survive. If you were faced with the choice you had to make to survive and thrive in the world, what would your choice be? You already know what mine is.

woman in purple dress with arm around woman in black dress
Kimi (left) and a friend.

Follow this journey on Blessings In Hydro.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: March 25, 2016
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