My Story: Having Chronic Pain and Finding Purpose

My Story: Having Chronic Pain and Finding Purpose

By Liza Zoellick.

If there is any benefit to being a chronic pain blogger, it’s that a door is suddenly thrust open on an entire community you had no idea existed, or maybe were in a certain amount of denial about existing. Each blog post, each step forward into social media and chat boards dedicated to chronic pain/illness sheds light on each face and each voice out there who is struggling with the same thing and suddenly, you are not alone. At the same time you become painfully aware of how many others are suffering right alongside you and it can steal your breath away. I am trying to use my voice in the community to shed light on a community that is still alienated by the world.

Liza Zoellick

We are outsiders, living on the fringes of the medical community because there is no easy fix for us. Many doctors don’t believe us; many doctors have thrown their hands up in the air and given up and some have their hands tied behind their back, unable to help us because the laws make it so difficult to prescribe meds they believe will help. So here I am, juxtaposition between being a part of the community and one of the voices of the community wanting to bring to light the many faces. Sometimes, in order to do that we need, we have to put ourselves out there and I try to do that on my blog and here but vulnerability is scary.  It’s scary to everyone but I think a little bit more so among the chronic community because we are already vulnerable and the idea of making ourselves more so, is not ideal. But in an effort to make it real I want to share with you the very stark reality I find myself in the midst of. I’m sure some of these feelings others can relate to but these are mine.

  • I am afraid. I live in this cycle of fear that grips me sometimes so tightly I can’t breathe. I fear for tomorrow, I fear for 20 years down the road and every moment in between. I don’t want to be a burden and despite all they say about marriage and taking care of one another through sickness and health, I wasn’t really planning on my husband to have to pick up a role as caretaker when I am 43 years old. I’m supposed to be the one taking care of everyone and I’m supposed to be the one caring for my parents and I feel awful I can’t help them more.
  • I feel guilty. I feel it for things I don’t think you should feel guilty for, like being happy. I feel guilty for finding joy in my life and smiling because I worry that people won’t believe I am sick. You remember when you were little and maybe tried to get out of school by playing sick and mom caught you playing in your room and there went your dreams of lounging in the house all day? That is pretty much what goes on in my head. But what people don’t understand is that when you are in pain 24/7 that you become accustom to being in pain. So when I smile at something silly my cat did or a laugh at a funny show on television or just exhibit any normal sort of happiness I want to let people know my pain wasn’t miraculously healed. But I refuse to allow this to take that away from me.
  • I’m still waiting for this adjustment period to end. It’s been almost four years since this all began and I am still…trying to adjust to it all. People have told me that I just have to accept this ‘new normal’ and press on, but I don’t understand, for the life of me what that means. I don’t understand how to define or quantify a new normal. I liked my old normal. I liked me and what I was able to do every day. This stranger I see in the mirror doesn’t fit with who I am in my head or my soul and it’s very difficult to be reminded minute by minute of your limitations. It also feels like something new pops up from month to month, so there is no plateau of symptoms that I can just get used to and work around.
  • If fear and guilt were not enough how about a side dish of demoralization? I suppose it goes hand in hand with the fear and the guilt because the feeling of demoralization stems from everything that has been ripped away from you. Everything that once filled my life and made it joyful and exciting was systematically taken away until it felt as though I was standing on an empty playground. When you are reduced to staying in bed, or glued to a recliner like I am sometimes because even the bed gets uncomfortable, you begin to wonder why. What is my purpose, why do I exist, where do I fit that I can be useful? The demoralization of chronic pain is punishing.

I want to believe I have purpose. I want to believe that my illness is a door opened instead of a door closed. Instead of being demoralized I want to be empowered and I want to share that with you too.

Liza is a 43-year old chronic pain warrior from Houston who has been chronicling her journey through chronic pain and illness for eight months now on her blog: She is a contributor to the National Pain Report.

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Authored by: Liza Zoellick

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32 Comments on "My Story: Having Chronic Pain and Finding Purpose"

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I couldn’t agree more if we do not use our voices we will not be heard. Thank you @TommyThis for speaking the truth and what we need to do.

Glad the device helps, but it’s something akin to giving in to the draconian laws this Country has passed to make us obsolete.
On March1st please text 509-04 (resist bot) either on your PC or cell phone which will put you in touch with every Senator, Congress person and Governor. There are so many CPP’s who have no idea that we are organizing for this on a monthly basis. Also check out the and type in CMS-2017-0163 in Docket ID and let them know about PROP’s trying to limit us to micro miniature doses. We have until the 28th, but there are other ones that are taking comments until March 6-8.
This Spring in D.C. and across the Nation we are organizing now to make ourselves heard.
Keep complaining and do nothing and we’ll all be swept away.
Say nothing, and you can keep on reading and complaining to the choir, but no one else will hear you.

Well done Liza, one of the best written stories of how pain patients can feel, I’ve ever read. And I’ve read a lot of them over the years. Thank you for sharing your Horror Story. Government needs to go after the criminals and leave the doctors and the patients alone.

There is no reason for all of the suffering that has been forced upon us. Haven’t we suffered enough just being in pain, and depending on medication to get on with life. But then have that medicine taken away without any explanation, I feel like a criminal because I need a higher dose of opiates to control my type if pain. My pain is different, everyone’s is different,

Jenny Wesner, RN, BSN

Alan, you are so correct. What the medical establishment has done to you and so many other chronic pain patients is an utter travesty! Like so many of us with chronic pain there are no alternatives and OPIOIDS ARE THE BEST OPTION. Their efficacy has been proven, lives have been improved (even saved), people are able to work, play, travel, love and LIVE!

What more is there to ask of a medication; a legally prescribed medication so useful, so helpful, so appropriate, especially for a group of people with no alternative but opioids to quell their searing pain when there is no other medical or complementary alternative?

What is there not to understand about this? There is NO prescription opioid crisis! The crisis is how the medical establishment is choking us off from the best medication out there for chronic pain that can’t be treated any other way.

Let me ask you Medical Practitioners, Doctors, Surgeons, Primary Care Providers, Physiatrists, Senators, Congressman, Representatives, Lawyers; would you like to watch your child, mother, father or loved one lay in bed in pain day after day when there is appropriate medication to treat their pain? I think not! THERE’S NOTHING NATURAL OR NORMAL ABOUT HAVING SEVERE, UNRELENTING PAIN. And not treating it is even WORSE!

Keep pushing, people. Write your elected officials. It’s easy. Try to do it or ask for help. Google “How to contact my representatives”. Go to and

We all play a role and we all need to help fight! Literally, 106 million people; 33% of the US population, are in chronic, unrelenting pain and their lives are at stake!

This is a response to the comment made by TERRY. You made many good points and I would like you to know that there is a place where all chronic pain patients (CPPs) can go to find studies, graphs and much-needed information that can be used to help CPPs when calling or writing legislators, responding to newspaper articles or editorials that use false information, or even for self-educational purposes. ATIP (Alliance for the Treatment of Intractable Pain) is a group focused on fighting against and changing the CDC “prescribing guidelines” and federal and/or state legislation that dangerously harming CPPs. There is now a Facebook page (it can be found by using the FB “search” tool) as well as a website (, which is still under construction but is now functional. These sites have a huge amount of information. There are wonderful graphs that have footnotes to verify the legitimacy of each one. There are studies with conclusions that are supportive of CPPs in many ways – they will rarely be published or broadcast by the mainstream media because they are in direct contradiction with what has been printed or reported over the last few years. Everyone reading the National Pain Report should visit these sites and take the necessary time to read and evaluate all of the available resources. I think those who do this will be blown away by the amount of information that hasn’t been easily available, in one place, until now. I beg everyone reading this to give it a try. Please report to other CPPs, whether here or anywhere else, your opinions, good or bad. This group is fighting for all of us in the most effective way possible and they are always looking for CPPs, doctors, nurses, journalists and families/loved ones of CPPs to help out in any way. I’d especially like to hear from you, Terry. Email me @

Jenny Wesner, RN, BSN

Alan, you are so correct. What the medical establishment has done to you and so many other chronic pain patients is an utter travesty! Like so many of us with chronic pain there are no alternatives and OPIOIDS ARE THE BEST OPTION. Their efficacy has been proven, lives have been improved (even saved), people are able to work, play, travel, love and LIVE!

What more is there to ask of a medication; a legally prescribed medication so useful, so helpful, so appropriate, especially for a group of people with no alternative but opioids to quell their searing pain when there is no other medical or complementary alternative?

What is there not to understand about this? There is NO prescription opioid crisis! The crisis is how the medical establishment is choking us off from the best medication out there for chronic pain that can’t be treated any other way.

Let me ask you Medical Practitioners, Doctors, Surgeons, Primary Care Providers, Physiatrists, Senators, Congressman, Representatives; would you like to watch your child, mother, father or loved one lay in bed in pain day after day when there is appropriate medication to treat their pain? I think not! There’s nothing natural or normal about having severe, unrelenting pain.

Keep pushing people. Write your elected officials. It’s easy. Google “How to contact my representatives”. Go to and

We all play a role and we all have to fight! Do it or ask for help. 106 million people lives in the US are at stake!

Liza, Thank you for yet another very insightful and relatable post!
Once again you have touched on the very core of my being, as a Chronic Pain person/Warrior. I have had chronic pain since 1990 after my 1st (of 3) spinal fusion surgery.
Yet, at that time I was able to continue working as a nurse, be a productive single mom, have a social life etc etc.
But, that was the beginning of the yet unknown journey with pain that was ahead of me.
In 2004 my life in pain changed drastically when a woman speeding and on her cell ph slammed into my car and changed my life forever.
Fast forward… 3 more spine and 2 shoulder surgeries later…. I have traveled a long, confusing, difficult, and emotionally challenging journey.
What I am getting at is in the earlier years, after the accident, I struggled immensely with not being able to work anymore at age 50, what was my purpose in life, how can I socialize anymore, how do I deal with life with debilitating pain, etc…
I began losing friends and family in some sense of the word..simply because I was no longer the same active person. I lived alone through this all and therefore I became depressed.
I had no help (even post-op!) and had to dig deep to help myself maintain life with sanity.
God is good and kept my head above water.
But, if it weren’t for who I was before all of this (a strong, positive and insightful person) I’m not so sure I would’ve made it.
It has now taken me 14 years to finally accept my life in pain (which is not easy).
Yet, it constantly stings the core of my being.
I’ve had on/off therapy for the emotional struggles, from which I took just crumbs of lessons each time. I’ve come to accept that it will always be a struggle. In those years I thought that I was the only person who suffered with my condition.
If it weren’t for finding Paul Gileno in the early days of the US Pain Foundation (I used to live in CT. where he founded his mission) and for finding Ed of the Nat’l Pain Report site 4 years ago I would still be feeling very alone in this.
These sights, the people involved and folks like you have helped me tremendously with getting over many humps in this interrupted and unexpected way of life.
I Thank YOU from the bottom of my heart for all that you do for me/us, with putting into words what we all need to read to help us along. May God bless you and keep you uplifted.
I’m proud of you for finding ‘purpose’ in your writings!
We have to succeed in our endeavors! Keep strong Warrior! Maureen M.

Well said, Jenny Wesner. RNs should stand for what is right. CDC guidlines are now in almost total control of pain control. Opioids are probably going to be used only for near death or palliative pain.
This goes against thousands of years of medical knowledge, denying Chronic Pain even exists. Since 5 years old and 50 years, severe pain has crippled me and caused suffering that is indescribable. Instead of being treated, I HAVE BEEN ABUSED by doctors, nurses and other professionals. Opioids are thousands of years old yet outdo any other modality for severe pain.
My pain trek ended 6 years ago but started again almost one year ago. An effective, inexpensive opioid was reduced in dosage and went below effective dose.
I am preparing for complete withdrawal and opioid withdrawal is not difficult because I have done it before. But the many types of pain do reemerge. Rehabilitation is absolutely not necessary and is a money draining option.
This is the truth. MY TRUTH.

Well said I am 42 and have also been journey down this pain road for four years. You took the words I have spoken and wrote them down thanking for sharing your story.

Well said, and your words are evidence that you do have a greater purpose.

I feel bad that someone as young as you has to experience this. I have the satisfaction that I had a long career before I was felled by incessant pain. But being young, there is time for medical advancements to improve your life. Make no mistake about it, pain will be cured. See for instance this Wired article ( ). Medical advancements are accelerating dramatically. You will know a normal life at some point. You just have to hang on until that day comes .

My heart goes out to you all, I feel your pain as we are all in the same boat. We have to find a way to organize as a group, get petitions going, contact our congressmen and senators, we need a voice that will be heard. Imagine if a senator took time on the senate floor to champion for us. Imagine they have REAL statistics shown on graphs for all to see. People believe what they hear no matter how misconstrued the information is. The data is out there we just need a champion with a loud voice. So beg if you have to, email your elected officials, all of their information is on the web. I write to them 3 times a week, all of them! (for my state). We have rights as citizens and they are being tossed aside like garbage! Take the time, get the stats and send them to your elected officials, I do get responses from some, there just nice, empathetic, responses. Let’s ALL unite and bury these people with our emails and phone calls. Get your facts written down so you can talk intelligently, be firm but don’t be rude or disrespectful, they just need the facts from a LOT of people. Do it today, dig for the truth, stand up for your rights! Our lives are worth saving. I’m writing them immediately following this comment.

Thank you for speaking my truth.

Well written. You have spoken the words I’ve been unable to find. God bless you and all of us COP’s.

Wow, I have tears in my eyes! Your story is my story. Thanks for your blog, and being a wonderful warrior!

Hi Jenny, I loved reading your passionate comment. I did take the time to read that article and, the whole thing really hit me wrong. It feels full of the same bunk that so-called professionals keep trying to peddle as a weak and truly useless response to the after affects of the CDC Guidelines. Additionally, any change that is to come, the very first one is going to have to be to those guidelines, because our other wonderful government agencies are the ones actually going in and doing the threatening, and the raiding, and the prosecuting, of the ONLY PEOPLE WHO CAN GIVE US THE MEDICINE we need. Our doctors.

Until the dogs are absolutely called off of them, nothing AT ALL will change.

I know these pretty articles come out from time to time from people we actually think should be “in the know”, or appears “on our side”, but once you get in to the details and pay close attention to what is being said and how it applies, you then realize that the writer – oh boy, just doesn’t get it. “IT” being the need to see the “whole” picture and to also know it as well, be able to REALLY know what we know.

I don’t know why I felt the need to share this with you. Perhaps because of your great passion, and my desire to want to present another possible opinion to that article that you believe in (possibly)

Thanks for that passion – because most days I can’t write in and share much of anything because I’m in such bad shape that the thought of charging my phone, let alone writing thoughts any where, is so impossible that I’m SO THANKFUL PASSIONATE PEOPLE LIKE YOU STILL CAN, AND DO!

@ Tracy Lacy
I understand. I wish I could offer you more comforting words than that. I hope that if you have to transition to not working that you are able to find joy in something else and maybe see it as a different chapter or opportunity. It doesn’t take the sting out of it though.

@ Portia Matthews
Thank you for the kind words. Sadly, I’m becoming very aware at how un-Alone I am and I think that is the second hardest thing to deal with. Knowing so many are hurting and feeling helpless to change opinions on how to treat it.

@ Tim Mason
A lovely analogy and I work hard at baby steps even though my brain doesn’t work like that! Sometimes the universe finds a way to slow you down so you can breathe.

Thank you for the kind words. And I’m sure time does change perspective. I think about that often.

Thank you so much. I really do wish we did not share this kinship of sorts but I’m glad I can help.

@Jenny Wessner if you can reach me via my blog which there is a link to st the bottom of my article, I’d love to chat with you! Thank you for the amazing commentary.

Your story is MY STORY! Well said! Thank you for putting it in words! I don’t want to give up. That’s not who I am. I just wonder what’s next. I’m waiting and waiting. It’s like I’m waiting for something to drop out of the sky and enlighten me!

Your article is very appropriate. I understand what you are going thru very well as I have had many of the same thoughts. I have been suffering with chronic pain for 17 years and on disability for about 5 years. My problem has been easy to assess. it started with neck pain, then lower back pain and scoliosis. I have been treated well until recently with the opioid crisis. Now my doc is lowering my pain meds, and my suffering has gotten worse. Liza, keep writing, it is an encouragement. I have been trying to help fight this opioid problem for pain patients, but it is a tough fight when your authorities are in the fight against the patients.
Jim Moulton

Liza.. Your article is wonderful!! I can’t say enough about what you’re doing! This IS defineately your calling.. soo well written and heartfelt💗. Thankyou for your wonderful work!! Sending you gentle hugs💗💜🦋💜, Thankyou you, Deb

Beautifully put, Liza!

Jenny Wesner, RN, BSN

The story breaks my heart, as no one in pain need suffer like this. People in CHRONIC PAIN–33% of Americans, are forced to live in hourly, daily pain are DENIED by the CDC, the Government, the DEA and Doctors (made fearful to prescribe medicine that works well for us–yes Opioids) the ability to live one hour without chronic pain.

THERE IS MEDICINE READILY AVAILABLE FOR US which works when NOTHING ELSE will-Opioids. You wouldn’t stop giving heart medication to a cardiac patient or insulin to a diabetic or chemotherapy to a cancer patient, so WHY. DO. THEY. STOP. TREATING. PAIN?!

This fabricated “Opioid Crisis” has nothing to do with properly treating 106 MILLION PEOPLE in the US whose lives have been severely altered by PAIN (physically, emotionally and psychologically) which doctors know they can treat well with Opioids. It’s a mass travesty by our government!

Beware, there are 2 distinct points of discussion surrounding Opioids with completely different origins & completely different prevention and treatment modalities. DO NOT confuse the 2! There are PRESCRIPTION opioids used for acute & chronic pain & ILLEGAL opioids used to get high (and many times used by addicts for their physical and/or psychological pain). For this, mental heath care, drug abuse prevention and treatment strategies in addition to adequate pain control/treatment comes into play. However, you can see these are all woefully lacking in America and it’s getting WORSE! The statistics are daunting and no one is immune.

To our Medical Society, take care of the sick, the infirmed and the suffering as you were TRAINED. Take a stand and do not allow uneducated dictators and regulators in our government to rule your role as a Physician when you know what’s right. Don’t be fearful, as you must advocate for the sick. We must all go ght for what’s right, as this may very well be you or a loved one some day!!

Here’s a great article:

You have THAT VOICE for me that an uncanny knack for being able to tell it like it really is. To say all the things that REALLY go on inside my head ALL THE TIME.

I hate that I find it comforting.

Thank you. For speaking MY life also.

I appreciate everything written here, and I hope she can find her “opened door”. But while she’s 4 years into her pain, being 27 years into it provides a completely different perspective. For me, at least. Like Liza, I have always tried to be an activist for CPPs, and I’ve recently found a group that’s doing great things in fighting agencies and legislature (ATIP – that I’m trying to contribute to as much as I possibly can. And I do have to confirm that, when I have contributed, it’s given me a sense of purpose I haven’t felt in 27 years. But, while I had high hopes of doing great things with this group, the reality of my pain has dampered that fire within me and I, more often than not, have felt those familiar feelings of disappointment in myself and lack of contributing to “society”. Maybe because my first 5-8 years were spent without the internet and Liza, as well as many others have always had that outlet since their pain began will be the difference. I wish you the best of luck, Liza! There’s no doubt that what you are doing is helping someone, and it’s hard to ask for much more than that.

Lisa Zoellick, first let me say that I’m so sorry for what you are dealing with. You’re not alone in this battle.
I have been in this fight for a long time. In fact it took many many years for the medical community to even come up with a name for what I have and to provide a regiment on how to treat the illness. Followed by which area of doctors could treat patients like myself.
I had to retire from my profession because of my health at the age of 46 years old. It took me awhile trying to wrap that reality in my mind. Then I had to deal with the deaths of my parents and two sisters, all died of cancer. It was just so much going on in such a small amount of time. Through all of that I never gave up. My faith and constant prayers is what has kept me going.
I thank you for sharing your story. Remember you’re not alone and I know that you’re a fighter just like myself.

Every new beginning is the end of a previous new beginning. Living with pain is like a fresh canvas. Slowly the painting will begin to take shape. Just be sure you have enough paint and brushes.
I take it one day at a time. Baby steps.
It will all come together

My name is Tracy Lacey I don’t understand how I can work for 40 years I built the Georgia Dome I’ve worked on Bridges I’ve hung steel all over the United States now that I have back problems and don’t want to go out on disability because I love my job I love welding but I can’t get medication to ease my back so I have two choices work in pain or lay on the couch all day I prefer to work but it don’t look like I’m going to be able to much longer