Hi, I’m Sarah. I have chronic pain.
No, that’s not like your occasionally headaches when it’s rainy out.
A normal 20-year-old’s pain routine might look something like this: you wake up, go about your day, feel a headache or soreness coming on. You groan, guessing at the cause. You take some over-the-counter pain medicine, lay down for a half hour till it works, then go about your day not really thinking about it.
My daily pain routine for the last year looks something like this: wake up in debilitating pain. Grab pain medication from the nightstand, take a huge dose of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Beg your liver for forgiveness. Once mobile, do the yoga everyone says is supposed to “fix your pain” but that really just makes you slightly more bendy and uncomfortable. Apply layer after layer of CBD, essential oils, and muscle soreness balms. Eat if you can. Alternate heat and ice, hoping it’s subtly hidden under your jacket more often than not. Watch the clock and take more medication on time or you’ll regret it. Repeat.
My calendar looks like someone in their 70s, filled with appointments and treatments and PT exercises and reminders to take my medication. My best friend has it worse, but we make quite the “chronic pain buddy” pair. Most of the time the days we can’t drive don’t fall on the same day, so we can help each other out. I don’t know what I’d do without her. Probably think I’m crazy and alone in this struggle.
This might be the point where you start to pity me, but you really don’t need to. Sure, it sucks to not be able to walk or load my own dishwasher sometimes, but my life is one of vibrancy and so much love I could burst. In some ways, chronic pain has made my life better, and made me better.
It means I don’t have time for bullshit. For people who are fake or shallow. For things that don’t bring me joy or success. It means I find out really quickly who is going to be a real, good friend and who is just focused on upping their numbers on snapchat. It means I had to get really good at asking for help, instead of giving it and wondering why I felt burnt out all the time.
If I could wave a magic wand and cure myself, I would in a heartbeat. That’s why I’m in various doctor’s offices for tests and treatment 4 times a week. But, going through this has forced me to become deeply intentional about everything in my life, and I could not be more grateful for that. I am more appreciative about my garden because I know how hard I’ve worked to keep it alive, and nurture myself in the process. I know how lucky I am to live in a place where everything is 10 minutes or less away, and to live in a time when I can work remotely and borrow library books without leaving the house (Alliance Overdrive FTW). I know how to prioritize my life and my time in a whole new way.
Hopefully it won’t take a chronic illness for you to learn these lessons, but if you have a chronic condition, leave me a comment about how it has affected you and your life for the better (or for worse — I’ll be happy to commiserate and listen).