My Experience With Chronic Pain
Technically, my journey with pain began around 11 years ago, when I was 19. I was finally getting somewhere with my life, with a boyfriend I adored, a job I enjoyed, hobbies that interested me, and a social life I cherished. Almost overnight I developed chronic constipation, and it wasn’t until it was removed two years ago that I discovered my large bowel had ‘died’. With the bowel problems came daily stomach pain. In a blink I lost my relationship and my social life. Fast forward to today and my 20s have disappeared in a haze of worsened health. I’ve had 6 bowel surgeries, the first of which caused endless problems and long-term damage. I’ve got a stoma bag, pernicious anaemia, migraines, connective tissue disease, lung problems, chronic fatigue, anxiety, osteopenia and fibromyalgia. Pain has become as regular as breathing, but it comes in different forms and intensities, from all over pain with fibromyalgia and constant lower back pain from the first surgery, to hip pain that brings me to tears and regular crushing migraines.
Acceptance of a ‘new normal’ and life with chronic illness and pain is incredibly difficult. I see it as a constant work-in-progress. Learning to manage it can be a case of trial and error and some days are better than others. Other days get written off altogether when pain renders you useless. Despite chronic pain knocking my life off the rails, I’m on a new track now. Sure, it can get really rocky and I’ve lost a lot because of illness. My job, my relationships, my social life, my interests. It’s had a significant knock-on effect to my whole life, including those around me and my own mental health. But where I’ve lost so much, I’ve also grained in ways I never would have imagined I would. A powerful tribe of friends online. I run a blog. I’ve grown more resilient, empathic and assertive. I’ve grown appreciative of the magic of simply being at home and the joy in small, simple things.
Everyone will experience pain differently. Everyone also has different life circumstances, health issues, and differing levels of support. Although your journey will be unique, please know you are not alone. Chronic pain is pervasive, insistent and relentless, and it can have anywhere between a niggling impact to a monumental impact on life. Don’t underestimate the toll it can take on mental health. Please do not feel you have to suffer alone.
Life with chronic illness and pain is possible. We owe it to ourselves to find ways to live the best life we can with the situation we find ourselves in. I think that it takes a change in perspective and perhaps a lot of adapting, but it’s possible. Pain can be a priceless teacher. I know I’ve learned a lot over the years and there are blessings to be found from illness, even if some days you have to squint really hard to see them.