My Reality with Chronic Pain

I really value being as real and transparent as I can be on social media. There are many parts of my heart and life that don’t belong on social media, but instead are more appropriate to process through in a safe environment with friends. Though with the way that social media often portrays life as being perfect and put together for many people, I like to highlight the fact that that isn’t my reality, at least.

It’s pretty easy for me to focus on all of the positive things that are happening in life and not dwell on the negative. I am happy that that’s the way that my mind tends to process things, but I do believe I’m entering a season where it’s going to be necessary for me to dive into some of the harder emotions about my pain and recovery from the Nuss Procedure. In the past, when I’ve faced difficult things, it’s been pretty easy for me to write and share openly after I have made my way through it. For over a year now, it’s been very difficult for me to write about how I’m actually doing because I am still very much in the midst of the hardship. There have been times where I share some of the pain but also highlight how good God has been through it all (that’s my constant positivity!). Every time that I try to simply write or share how I’m truly doing without putting a positive spin on it, I’m just led to instant tears. This journey has been very difficult for me to let people into. I definitely have my main people who have walked through my recovery with me – both rejoicing on the good days or caring for me on the bad ones – and I am so unbelievably thankful for that. The people that I get to share life with are the best ones out there, in my opinion!

I usually only tend to write when I feel that the Holy Spirit is really prompting me to, and for whatever reason, that’s how I’m feeling. So here I am… writing and letting y’all into this season with me. I’m one year into this journey and probably will be on it for at least another four years until I get this bar out of me. I’ve always stopped writing before because the situation sounds depressing or people want to help (when they can’t really) or they simply feel concerned (which is kind, but not necessary). There are a lot of good things happening in my life and I’d love to share those another time – but right now I’m focusing on the hardship. I simply say that because you do not need to worry about me, but I would definitely benefit from your prayers.

It was very interesting winning an award last week that highlighted the fact that I’m contributing to my community in many ways. That award came at the perfect time for me because I have been back in a season of elevated pain in my chest and feeling incredibly discouraged about that. (And here come the tears as I type). The reality for people with chronic pain/illness or disability is that we really still can and do accomplish a lot of things, but it isn’t easy. It almost felt ironic to me that I could ever possibly win an award for doing a lot of things when I’m never sure how I make it through a single day. Each day is a constant push to get through. And you truly have to take it day by day, hour by hour. I recently looked through some of my Instagram photos that I’ve posted since my surgery, and two thoughts stood out to me:

  1. I somehow made it to each one of those moments even in this difficult time
  2. I was experiencing pain in each one of those photos and moments

That second point for sure makes me cry. The fact that I have not had a break from my pain for even a minute since July 11, 2017 is difficult to reflect on.

That leads me to part of why I’m writing this. I think that the Inlander article accurately captured what I’ve been up to and some of what this season has held, but it’s not the reality of my day to day. I want to be open about that because life is really very hard and I want to encourage you to keep pushing through alongside of me. This summer was a nice break because my pain in my chest was more dull, so I was actually able to get out and enjoy a lot of the summer, not having to think about my spoons (look up Spoon Theory). The reality of my life lately is this:

I have basically taken out every scheduled commitment that I can because I can’t make it to a lot of things and then I’m discouraged. I simply make tentative plans and have to cancel often. Work is a different story because I have to work and I’m thankful that the work I do most often energizes me and gives me a reason to push through. I’m unbelievably thankful for a boss and team who support me and understand when I’m walking through weeks where I might need to balance work and self-care a little more. I spend a lot of time laying in my bed resting and feeling discouraged and sad about my pain coming back or being bad. I often hit a point where my energy is so low and my pain is so bad and I cry because I can’t even get up to make an egg. For some reason I always just want a little bit to eat but can’t manage to make something as easy as an egg. I dedicate a ton of my time to going to yoga, the sauna, the pool, etc. because those things help me manage my pain. I’ve stopped pursuing a lot of relationships because I can’t try to keep up with people like I used to – I’m in more of a season where I need my friends to be intentional with me. So friends, know that I love you and would love to hear from you, but can’t always add more to my schedule. I’ve had to depend on Joe a lot more to do many of the things that I used to be able to handle more, such as grocery shopping, cooking, keeping things clean, etc. He’s the best husband I ever could have found, and I’m extremely thankful for his patience and care. When I’m feeling good, I try to fit in all the things that I can. I get so excited that I feel good that I often over-do it and then I’m back in bed feeling worn out for a few more days. It’s such an important balancing act and it’s been quite the struggle to figure out. Though my wonderful friends in my Chronic Resilience Social Group help me out a whole lot – truly such an important piece of my life right now!

There’s a lot more that this season has held, but that’s a little summary of where I’m actually at. I carefully have stepped into commitments like being the Chair of the Logan Neighborhood Council, how many classes to take at once, what I can handle at work, what plans with friends I can make, etc. I love that there is a lot of overlap between them all and they are all things that are life-giving and energizing to me.

The purpose of this post was to begin to let you in to the realities of this season and to share a little bit more of what walking through life with chronic pain looks like – and I’d love to hear some of your experience if you relate at all. I cannot emphasize enough that every single day is a brand new experience and battle to push through. Some days start out great and end rough, some are all decent, some are all bad. I say all of this but then at the same time I would tell you that I am so completely in love with the life that I have. I think it’s the best and I absolutely love my situation and all that God has placed in front of me. Walking through this pain is for sure terrible, and I’m extremely sick and tired of being sick and tired, but I’m completely open to whatever our very good God wants to do with my life. I don’t know why or how I still have that perspective, but He has always been worthy of my trust and has never, ever failed me. If He has purpose for me in this pain, which I have already seen even in the way He has drawn me closer to Himself, then He can continue taking me on that journey.

Thanks for reading! I’m usually very open and would be open to talking to you more if you have any questions – as long as I have the energy to respond and you catch me on a good day, but you will hear back eventually!

Artwork in the photo: I Have Grown by Makenna Lee. I think that this artwork is my favorite art that I’ve ever seen. I felt it was made personally for me as it shows the beautiful sternum bone (which is what my surgery pressed out) and highlights how growth has come through it all. I now own the original and love it so, so much!

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