No matter what I do in life, it is going to hurt.
At every given moment, my entire body is in pain.
Walking, getting dressed, putting on my makeup, typing up this article, crooking my little finger at you…it all hurts. Everything hurts. All of the time.
I look just like any other healthy, happy woman in her early thirties.
But I could calmly sit across from you and tell you that right now, my pain is approaching a seven out of ten.
I could calmly tell you that my joints are pulsing, my arms and legs are burning with a fire that is never extinguished, and the fatigue, well, don’t even get me started on that!
I could smile at you as I said all of this, laugh, probably grimace a little at the irony of it all, then go back to smiling.
I could calmly tell you that despite the pain, I have worked today.
I met a friend for coffee and lost myself in the joys of chatter, cake and a cuppa tea for a couple of hours. I even went to the beach for a long soak in the ocean.
If you didn’t know me you would probably be left scratching your head and saying, “WTF? How can she be in ALL THAT pain and still do that stuff?”
Because I can.
What you don’t know is that working is a welcome distraction for me and a key element of my chronic pain management.
What you don’t see is the energy and determination it took for me to get out of bed and greet the day, much less show up for work and engage my brain to actually be productive.
What you can’t comprehend is that the simple act of lifting the tiny teapot containing my scrumptious soy chai latte caused the fire in my arm to flare with a vengeance.
What you don’t hear is the constant internal pep talks to keep myself moving forwards.
What you don’t hear is the scream of frustration, you don’t see the smarting of tears, when the overwhelm threatens to take over.
It doesn’t make me brave to be able to tell people this. It’s not a badge of honour that I wear.
It doesn’t mean people should jump to conclusions about my pain thresholds or the ‘realness’ of my situation.
It doesn’t make me the poster girl for inspiration because I can somehow function under high levels of pain when there are others who can’t.
It’s simply my reality.
I take calculated risks – the analysis that goes on in my head before I undertake anything cannot be underestimated – and I make informed choices everyday to live fully, balancing treatments and chronic pain management.
So yes, that often means that I make my own pain levels worse.
I’m not a sucker for punishment. I don’t enjoy making my pain worse.
But I do enjoy being able to live my life on my terms.
And the way I see it, pain isn’t a deal breaker or barrier for me to live my best life.
An article on The Mighty by Meghan Bayer, “Why I do things that make my chronic pain worse,” goes to the very heart of this matter and was the inspiration for this piece.
I was fist-pumping and yelling “YES!” as I read Meghan’s piece.
I completely understand why she does the things she does on a daily basis and why she embarks on exciting adventures that can cause days, weeks or even months of consequences.
There isn’t a whole lot of other choice available when this is your lot in life!
I have lived with constant, chronic pain every day for the past 11* years.
That’s right, 11* years.
I’ve completely forgotten what it’s like to not be in pain.
The scary part is no longer the pain itself; it is the knowledge that the pain may never stop.
The knowledge that I will still be hurting tomorrow, will probably be hurting in a year, and will quite possibly be hurting for the rest of my life.
Not exactly a thrilling prospect, now is it?
Which is exactly why chronic pain can’t be the obstacle that stops me from living my best life.
“So if we sit around waiting for the pain medications to kick in or our pain to break completely, we are wasting valuable time in our short lives for relief that may never come.”
I’m gonna hurt no matter what I do.
So the way I see it, I can either sit at home, feel sorry for myself and be all-consumed by the pain, or I can make the best of my situation and do the things that make me happy.
Even if the things that make me happy also make my pain worse.
Happy and in chronic pain or extremely unhappy and in chronic pain?
I’ve made my choice. What is yours?
*Originally published in 2016.
A version of this article was published on Huff Post on the 13th April 2016.