Reclaiming My Life from Chronic Pain
Everyone experiences pain occasionally, especially as we age and our muscles and joints aren’t as resilient as they used to be. Those of us who don’t suffer from chronic pain can’t imagine pain that is severe enough to take over one’s life.
Eleven years ago, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Outside of a few monthly flare-ups, I could function normally and go about my everyday life. At the time, it was manageable – regular exercise and prescription medications when flare-ups surfaced were sufficient to manage my symptoms.
However, three years ago, my life was halted. I experienced what I hoped would be a flare-up, but it ended up lasting almost two years. The pain was too intense to handle, so I continuously returned to my doctor, and he continuously prescribed me a new medication and alternative therapy treatment program.
My pain was all-consuming. It controlled my body, my thoughts, my emotions, and my relationships. I stopped doing the things I loved and I pushed those that were close to me far away. After years of volunteering, reading, intense exercising and baking that had given my life meaning, now I didn’t have the energy or focus to partake in them. I was fatigued, in agonizing pain, constantly confused, and my life was slowly unraveling – I began to lose hope that I could recover and severe depression sunk in. I felt isolated in my suffering, while I should’ve known and considered that an estimated 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain.
I knew that I needed a new approach to tackling my pain and living my life, so I entered into a residential program, focused entirely on recovery from chronic pain, to better learn how to live with my pain. The first thing we did in the program was to paint and draw pictures of our thoughts and feelings. A black canvas symbolic of my depression and red smudges that communicated my intense suffering from the inside out – it was as if I wanted to rip through my skin to stop the pain.
In the days that followed, we learned about many chronic pain management treatment options including exercise, meditation, water therapy, and mindfulness to help us cope with our pain. The support group and peers around me that shared similar experiences and conditions had a profound impact on me, as I reflected back on my experience. Over the course of the one-month program, my mindset shifted and health began to improve. The support network and group of experts that I worked with continue to help me – they changed my life.
Once I left the month-long program, I kept practicing the tools that I learned at “pain camp". These small changes to my life have allowed me to really live again. I’m back to being the happy person that I used to be, even if I still struggle with chronic pain.
- Anonymous, 43, Seattle, WA