Editor’s Note: November is CRPS Awareness Month.
I was diagnosed with CRPS 6 years ago after a surgery to repair damage I had sustained to my wrist while kickboxing. Yes, you read that right; kickboxing. I may not look very ferocious at 5’4” and 125 lbs, but let me tell you, I had a mean right hook! I had a full time career as an electronic engineering technician, an even busier schedule as a mom, and I had a bright light on my head that said “ASK ME TO VOLUNTEER!” Yep, I was that mom. You know her. The mom that teaches Confirmation classes, coaches volleyball and basketball, shows up to every dance recital, choir performance, athletic game, chaperones everything possible, and still manages to bake every time she is asked to! Whew-I am tired after just typing all of that! Kickboxing was my only escape. It was my “ME TIME”.
And so the story begins. After 9 months of tests, “You have Complex Regional Pain Syndrome” OK-I research and learn as much as possible. I cannot return to work. I can’t coach. I can’t kickbox. I can’t even volunteer! I am in too much pain and just too exhausted to keep up with life! My thoughts began to swirl. What good am I if I can’t work? I spent so much time earning that degree to get that awesome job. Now what? I can’t just waste away at home. Who am I now?
Learning to deal with the loss of my identity was one of the biggest hurdles that I faced along this journey that I am on. My biggest revelation was taught to me by my friend Kate. I had to learn to separate “who I am” from “what I do.” I had my identity so intertwined with my career and everyone around me that I had not taken time to separate those two out. I felt that I was worthless without my job and my paycheck.
I needed to find a way to understand that I still had worth and value on this Earth. Life was never going to return to normal. I had to adjust to my “new normal.” Hmm…what value did I have? Kate and I sat down together and drew out a thought cloud one day to help me with this. I am a woman. I am intelligent. I am a mom, a child, a sister, a neighbor, a friend….the list goes on and on. These are things that CRPS cannot steal from me. This is who I AM.
Taking this one step further, I have found additional value in this world by helping others. It helps me to help others. I do as much as I can to reach out to chronic pain patients and make myself available to them.
I believe that until we learn to separate what we do from who we are, it will remain very difficult to harness the confidence needed to fight off the depression that often comes with chronic pain.
I have a new identity now. I help others just like myself, chronic pain patients.