By Jessica Martin
“Sometimes to stay alive, you have to kill your mind.” – Unknown
The things in my life I feel that I have lost as of late are difficult for me to face at times. However, when I look at the picture above just taken this past Friday, Earth Day, I am reminded that I survived the biggest “loss” I thought I could ever lose: myself. I will be thirty-five in June and this past Friday was my dad’s birthday and he turned sixty. It was the first time age actually scared me and yet at the same time helped me to count my blessings. I started thinking back to when I was in my young twenties and on the verge of ending my own life because of chronic pain. Had I not faced the grieving process (the chronic pain grieving process) the beautiful child above would probably not be here, my dad may have spent such a beautiful birthday without his only daughter, and the smile seen in this picture would have been as fake as plastic surgery.
The first step I took in facing the chronic pain grieving process was loss. When most people think of the grieving process they think of a loss of a loved one or even the loss of a marriage/relationship. I was able to find what six things I felt I had lost when I was first diagnosed with chronic pain and entered the Pain Rehab Center at the Mayo Clinic. I will share them with you now:
- Loss of health. I am in pain twenty-four / seven and spend every second either thinking about pain or taking the next medication or sitting in the next doctor’s office. I am drinking profusely, smoking tons of cigarettes, and I do not even recognize myself.
- Loss of trust in doctors: I feel that all the doctor’s I see think I am making up this pain even though I had brain surgery. I feel they do not believe me because my scars are not longer visible. Doctors keep telling me: “This medication will take the pain away” or “Ten sessions of chiropractic work will relieve so much of your pain” etc. etc. When what doctors or specialists do to ‘make me better’ does not work I feel like they do not believe me.
- Loss of social contacts: I have lost so many friends and family members. I can only really hang out with friends if we are drinking because if not I am one hundred percent focused on the physical pain. If I go out with friends or family and my pain flares up, I will be miserable and ruin everyone’s time. Who wants to hang out with someone who is in pain all the time? I do not even like to be around myself.
- Loss of family: I have put my family through enough. They deserve the happy, healthy Jessica they had before chronic pain entered into my life full speed. My dad has already done so much for me, how can I ask him for more help? I am too embarrassed to tell the rest of my family and I want them to think I am okay. I miss my family.
- Loss of fun: I used to love reading, writing, laughing with friends, going to the movies, bowling, or just walking around the lake: I have none of that anymore. Gone. All my passions lost.
- Loss of my dreams: I never wanted anything big. I truly just wanted to be a mother and have a family and take care of people. I cannot even take care of myself. I used to want to be a writer but that’s impossible, I cannot even read for more than one minute without my mind going right to pain which leads right to tears and I feel hopeless. This has been my hardest loss. The thought of never being a mom or having a family and helping others truly makes me feel useless and pushes me to want to give up.
When a person losses someone they love they feel some of the following emotions: hurt, emptiness, loneliness, anger, disbelief, sadness, depressed, alone, out of control, and sick. The same exact emotions come from the feelings of loss due to chronic pain. When a person losses someone they love they demonstrate common behaviors such as: not eating or eating too much, insomnia/not sleeping, crying endlessly, thoughts that they should just die as well because the thought of living without their loved one is enough to want to end their own life, people with drawl from life and isolate themselves, many people develop bad habits in order to cope with their loss: smoking, drinking, drugs, etc. I can tell you from personal experience, most people (including the old Jessica) demonstrate all of the above behaviors and had all of the same thoughts because of the diagnosis of chronic pain.
If people who do not understand chronic pain or the adverse impacts it has on a person’s life, mind, and soul, I urge them to think about a loss he or she has faced in their life and try and remember how awful it felt. I was unable to get to a good place in my management with chronic pain until I went through the grieving process of chronic pain. I will share that personal process with all of you tomorrow. For today, share this with one of your loved ones. It is very hard for a person to understand an invisible illness. However, we all know loss.