Pills for Breakfast: Why I’m Almost Thankful for Pain This Thanksgiving

Pills for Breakfast: Why I’m Almost Thankful for Pain This Thanksgiving

I think, maybe, I really have found an inner peace. All I had to do was get through hell.

Or maybe I’m just a little further along the path up the mountain.

Or maybe it’s just the drugs.

Whatever it is, I can tell you with certainty that the pain has changed me. And I think, maybe, there’s a little part of me that’s thankful for that this Thanksgiving.

1024px-Thanksgiving_Dinner_Alc2I still have so much hate in my heart for the pain that I never like to admit it could ever result in anything good. But when I stop to take a look at my soul, I can see how different I am now — and I know that most of the changes are good.

The pain has a way of ripping you apart until you’re a million different pieces scattered on the ground, and all you can do is grab what’s important and stitch back together what you’ve managed to pick up.

Of course, like any other project, sometimes when you’re rebuilding you end up grabbing materials that were never part of the original design. And the finished work only faintly resembles what you started with.

So here I am, almost two years after first waking up with obscene pain in my right ribs — and I am not the same.

I Am Less Stressed

I have finally realized that there is absolutely nothing worth stressing out about.

When you’re so sick that taking a shower wipes you out, you realize that it doesn’t really matter if you get to dinner on time, or make your flight, or whether or not you clean the living room. In the end, the only thing that really matters is your health. And one of the main ways to maintain my health is to avoid any and all stress.

So, I really have learned to let it all go.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t grieved for the part of me I’ve left behind.

I miss being the one everyone could depend on to get whatever needed to be done, done. I miss my old life as a relatively successful youth leader who managed to lead mission trips, organize fundraisers and help kids cope with divorce all before noon. And I miss having big dreams of running the world one day.

But I don’t miss feeling anxious all the time, or getting just 5 hours of sleep a night, or working 18-hour days on a regular basis without even taking a break to eat.

I am at peace now.

I Am More Compassionate

I also understand compassion in a new way.

I had always thought of myself as the type of person who cared about others. And looking back, I’m pretty sure I did, but only to a point.

Now though, living with pain day in and day out, I’m more attune to how others are feeling. It’s almost as if this whole other dimension of life revealed itself to me since I’ve been sick.

I get it now. I get what it’s like to be sick. And what it’s like to lose everything. And what it’s like to deal with doctors, hospitals, and medical bills. And what it’s like to stare down depression.

I understand how hard it is to completely give up your independence, and to walk away from something you love in order to save yourself. I understand so many things so differently because I have lived them.

All of those things are clearer to me now, and because of that, all of those people out there suffering from those things are clearer to me now too.

I Have Accepted Myself

But most of all, because of the pain, I have somehow found a way to truly accept myself.

I am the heaviest I have ever been, I rely on box dye to go blonde because all of my salon money now goes to prescription companies, and I only shower a couple times a week.

Yet, somehow, in the midst of it all, I’m more confident than I’ve ever been.

I think it has something to do with the fact that once you’ve gone through hell you’re just so happy to be alive you don’t care how you look.

It’s like I constantly wake up in that state you find yourself in right after the flu, where all of your body image issues are temporarily at bay because you’re just so happy to have a body at all.

And when I meet people, I have this little voice inside of me saying, “You’ve survived another day. You’ve beat this pain for just a little bit longer. You are strong. And you are amazing. And it doesn’t matter if other people know it, because you know it.”

So yes, I am very different now. I am not the same person I was when I woke up with unexplainable pain almost two years ago. And even though I’d still give it all back to wake up tomorrow healthy, I am just a little bit thankful for the new me for this holiday season.

I am thankful for the peace, thankful for the compassion and thankful for the inner confidence I wouldn’t have been able to find any other way.

It’s been a long journey, and I’m likely still only in the midst of it, but I am finally at a point when I can sort of see some light on this path — and in the end, that’s reason enough to be thankful this Thanksgiving.

Crystal Lindell

Crystal Lindell

Crystal Lindell is a journalist who lives in Byron, Illinois. She loves Taco Bell, watching “Burn Notice” episodes on Netflix and Snicker’s Bites. She has had pain in her right ribs since February 2013. It is currently undiagnosed.

Crystal writes about it on her blog, The Only Certainty is Bad Grammar.

The information in this column is not intended to be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Only your doctor can do that!  It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s personal experiences and opinions alone. It does not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report or Microcast Media.


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When you focus on the things you do have instead of the things you don’t have, you are happier, more content and at Peace with yourself and others.

I often wonder when I read about how angry some people are because they have to wait to get their meds, or because of the way their dr and/or pharmacist treats them, how much better off they would be if they didn’t allow themselves to be consumed with anger. If they focused more on the fact that they have their prescription and remember that there are many chronic pain patients who don’t have that much, they would be so angry. If they realize fear, ignorance and a lack of caring about others are some of the reasons for their dr and/or pharmacist attitudes and not take it personally, they may be more at Peace which would lead to less pain in everyway.

Crystal, crystal, Crystal! You have reached the point of no return. You have entered the path to the positive from the intersection of darkness. When you say,” I think it has something to do with the fact that once you’ve gone through hell you’re just so happy to be alive you don’t care how you look, ” you created something I can only prove through the ironic statements that to most, don’t make sense. People always ask me how i was able to become so positive when my disease and its prognosis didn’t change. I tell them, I became grateful for pain, or how pain helped me to become my true self. But you said it better because I had reached these plateaus when I had “gone through Hell and was just so happy to be out of there.” I found that when you reach a point of not caring about the drama of it all, or the implications or provocations; when you’re just so tired you can’t dwell anymore about losing the house or the job. When you find yourself laughing hysterically at the unbelievable circumstance you find yourself in…this is when it happens. Suddenly, as the fog of negativity starts to clear, you think of how and why you are grateful, maybe because it’s all you have left, but it’s true. I became grateful that pain corralled me into a job I would have never chosen, a job that allowed me to be with my kids all day. I saw how, because of Pain, I learned to start saying “NO”, because I just couldn’t do things for people anymore. After being called a drug addict and malingerer I found the real me, the strong and forceful me. I am not and never was lazy, or sensitive, or addicted to anything but enjoying life. I found the true spirit I had before pain, and used it to put Pain in its place and get on with a happy, productive life. Pain showed me how important things are and how some things aren’t. It taught me to prioritize and stop letting the stupid things run the show. I was grateful for not being afraid anymore. I had reached that point where all I could think of was, “What are they gonna do to me? Are they gonna shoot me? Are they gonna throw me in jail? Well, good. Inmates qualify for medical care and they get 3 meals a day. Arrest me!” When you reach that point, and you don’t end up dead or in jail, fear finds its true place. And when that happens, wow! So you are so correct when you say, ” Or maybe I’m just a little further along the path up the mountain. ” Yes, you are. I hope all people with permanent pain can read this and understand…You must go through Hell to find Heaven. Anyone who knows about God, knows that prayer is NOT about asking for things, but for being grateful for… Read more »

Silvia A

As i read your article, i SWEAR I was the one who wrote it because we live such similar lives and my prospective in life is very similar to yours as well.! My chronic issues began “one day out of the blue” in 2008 and has NEVER STOPPED since then. Since my 1st expierence with pain which was Sciatica back in the summer of 2008, ive been diagnnosed with Lyme disease (ask me how the hell i got that, beats me! Dont remember gettin bit by anything!), SLE LUPUS which has lead to lung, heart, skin and kidney problems. Fibromyalgia in itself is enough for a person to go insane plus other chronic pain issues i have like my spine for ex which i wont get into and OH MY God the Chronic Fatigue! There is not a caffeen pill or meds that i have triedthat worked! But my point is ALTHOUGH, I DO MOURN THE LOSS OF THE PERSON I USED TO BE, I HAVE SLLLLOWLY COME TO ACCEPT THE PERSON I HAVE BECOME. Sure Like u, i miss being the go-to person and becoming the “i need a go-to person to help me, i miss being active without paying the price later on, miss being “Mom”(have 3 kids 16yr, 12 yr and 9yr old) that would take the kids to the mall and movies, go to football games etc. But although I miss being “THAT MOM, ” I am STILL MOM , one that I have come to accept and my kids still love. Everyday is a challenge when you’re in pain and the STUPID THINGS THAT COME OUT OF IGNORANT PEOPLE WHO STATE THAT IF “THEY CANT SEE THE DISEASE, THEN IT’S NOT THERE!!!!” Makes me want to go to jail for assault!! Just because i’ve showered, dressed, brush my hair and manage to put my shoes on without help and put a dab of lipgloss on DOES NOT MEAN I’M ok!! It just means I pushed myself through the day to BE OK. God bless u and I hope you can get a diagnosis soon so u can begin treatment and hopefully get better. I speak from expierence and the worst thing a person can go thru life is NOT knowing! (((Gentle Hugs))) ❤️


It is impossible for those who don’t suffer from chronic severe pain to know what it is like for those who do. Not being able to take a shower like others do is a good example. When the pain is so severe that you aren’t able to do anything but lay in bed all day, every day, you don’t have the opportunity to get dirty like those do who are able to be up and moving.


I’ve read many of your articles here, and followed the link to your blog.
You relate eloquently so many of the same things I feel…right down to the fact I never thought I’d be the lady who showers twice a week! But I am.

Our main difference is I’m in my 40’s. But as I know you know, pain..chronic pain, has no age limits.

And Judi,
I got a laugh at your saying you don’t really do much to get that dirty.. Well said, and I think I’ll consider that as well when I’m coming up on day 5-6 and wondering is that smell REALLY me??.. 😉


Well said. Those who suffer from severe chronic pain, pay a high price. But, the things they lose are replaced with other things. The things you’ve spoken about and much more.

Lisa Cooper

None of the specialists my son has seen seem to believe him about the fatigue that comes with his chronic pain. I’m so thankful I’ve found articles like this so I know that he’s not being lazy. Maybe because he’s still a kid, he doesn’t feel like a burden and has accepted his limitations while still trying to find ways to increase his functionality.

Judi Warner

Thank you Crystal for writing this article.Thank you for mentioning that showering twice a week takes it out of you. I’m happy if I shower once a week and I wash my hair MAYBE once a week, bathing used to be a daily riitual and I actually enjoyed it but it has become a major ordeal! I pat myself on the back now when I shower and pat myself several times if I wash and dry my hair. Actually, when I stop to think about it my activity level is very, very low, I don’t even break a sweat, guess I’m not that dirty anyway but comforting to know I’m not alone, thank you for telling your story:)