Suffering from Chronic Pain

“Throughout the world, 1 in 5 people suffer from moderate to severe chronic pain.”

Breivik H, Collet B, Ventafridda V, Cohen R, Gallacher D. Survey of chronic pain in Europe: prevalence, impact on daily life, and treatment. Eur J Pain. 2006;10:287-333. 

February 24, 2015 – It was 3:10 in the afternoon. I was working as a Pre-K teacher at the time and had just finished setting up for the next day. I grabbed my things and headed to my car. I called my husband at the time to tell him I was leaving, and I proceeded to pull out of the parking lot. Little did I know that the next twenty minutes would change the course of my life forever.

Thirteen minutes passed. It was now 3:23 in the afternoon. For some reason, I remember the time distinctly even if the rest is a bit fuzzy. I was driving down Rt. 30 when I came to an intersection. I pulled around the car in front of me and continued to drive straight. I saw a car coming in the opposite direction. I prayed “please don’t turn in front of me” because I literally had nowhere to go. In milliseconds, the car turned hitting my driver’s side door sending my car spinning into an electrical box. Smoke from the air bag blew up and that is about all I remember in those moments.

Fast forward eight weeks later – after being out on medical leave, I tried hard to put the pieces of my life back together. I suffered a concussion (and, from that, frequent migraines), pain down my arm from a pinched nerve, and pain in my neck/back from bulging and herniated discs. With the help of a neurologist and chiropractor, I was back up and moving around at the end of those eight weeks but the pain still persisted.

Now, almost five years later, I have learned to compensate for the days I feel the pain the most. Unfortunately, chronic pain has a way of changing you, whether you want it to or not.

Here are five things that I struggled with following my accident:

  1. Isolation/Loss of a social life – When your body hurts, the last thing you want to do is use what little energy you have left to go out. As a result, I definitely began spending more time alone and less time with friends.
  2. Loss independence/career – This past year, I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease twice. That was the frosting on the cake — I honestly re-evaluated my teaching career and decided I no longer had the physical energy to keep up. I started working a desk job instead.
  3. Unpredictability – Some days are good, some days are bad. This makes it hard when it comes to getting things done or working out. You are at the mercy of your body.
  4. Ignorance/Lack of Understanding from others – I hate to say it like this because it wasn’t like others purposely didn’t care…it was just hard for them to understand my pain when they did not feel it everyday and you could not physically see it.
  5. Depression – As someone who likes to be active, it is hard to be a slave to my body – especially in the colder weathers when I feel more discomfort. I fight to get out of this mindset almost on a daily basis.

Moderate to severe chronic pain affects one out of every five people on this planet.

I wanted to share my experience because pain can have a major impact on an individual and how they lead their life. For example: Plans may be changed at the last minute. Texts might be answered later than expected. Fits of frustration might just come out of nowhere. All of these resulting factors can begin to impact relationships over time. It is important to stay open-minded and to try to understand how adapting to pain can change you as a person.

If you personally are the one suffering from chronic pain, know that your physical and emotional pain is valid. You are not lazy and you are not crazy. Letting yourself rest does not make you weak. The pain you smile through everyday makes you strong. It is okay to take baby steps. The pain itself does not define who you are – YOU DEFINE WHO YOU ARE…..AND YOU ARE ONE STRONG ASS BITCH for every breath you breathe and every day you wake up determined to make your dreams come true.

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