Hi. My name is Jen (aka Camper Jen). I live with Chronic Pain. After living with pain that had been treated acutely for 20 years, I went to a general practitioner that finally told me “you have chronic pain.” From there I struggled with attending to various doctors, tests and treatments all the while picking up several diagnoses on my own personal tour through hell. Six months (and several thousands of dollars) later I decided it was time to check into a Chronic Pain Rehabilitation Program (aka “pain camp“).
I was working both a full-time and part-time job. I was fully capable of “thinking” and “rationalizing” my way out of the pain. I thought to myself, “A diagnosis of Chronic Pain doesn’t happen to someone who is in their mid-30s, right?” and “Maybe it I’m just under too much stress.” I was overtaken not only by physical pain but also by fear, guilt, shame, denial, anger, sadness, depression and anxiety. So, what was my final breaking point? Well, I had several. Here are 6 of them:
|No More Doctors Please, Thank You!||I was trying to manage my life (2 jobs, family, volunteer commitments, etc.) and about 5-6 appointments PER WEEK. This was on top of the 2-3x a week that my son would have his own appointments. I couldn’t envision spending the majority of my life in waiting areas, doctors’ offices and surgical procedure rooms.|
|My Poor Family||I had only been married for a year and a half when the diagnosis of Chronic Pain Syndrome came. Because I didn’t understand the life cycle of chronic pain or what was happening to me, I let my emotions and physical pain take me over and I became a slave to my Chronic Pain. My family took the brunt of my emotional outbursts, sleepless nights, chores and long periods of couch hogging because I was rendered useless.|
|My job||As a Masters level clinician and specializing in a couple of key areas of my field, I felt that I was intellectually superior to the pain. I’d simply worked too hard to get where I was and there was no way I was going to let daily migraines, low back pain, neck pain or my hands going numb and tingly get in the way of me being an over-achiever and basking in my hard earned professional identity. But with all of the missed hours and days of work and not being able to concentrate when I was actually present at my job, I needed to do something and do it ASAP or get fired. That’s when I talked to my manager about taking Short Term Disability leave, got my Family Medical Leave Act paperwork together and got an admit date scheduled for the next month.|
|Am I going crazy?||If you have Chronic Pain or you know someone who does, you may also know how much emotional and mental turmoil tags along for the ride. I had always been challenged with depression and anxiety symptoms throughout my life, but they were well managed. Once Chronic Pain decided to befriend me, I ended up on a roller coaster that I couldn’t get off of. The side effects from some of the medications I was taking were horrific (confusion, increase in depressive symptoms, brain fog). My “I’m not good enough” buttons were being triggered. I was scared of the past, the present and worst yet, the future. I was also having flashbacks associated with traumatic events and was unable to control my body’s fight-or-flight response, which would then increase the amount of pain I was in too.|
|I’m lonely||Chronic Pain is very isolating. There was about a year and a half there where my friends thought I had either died, been locked up, or moved to another planet. I wasn’t emailing, texting, calling, facebooking, no tweeting…not a peep. The only thing I had energy for any more was to try and get to work, appointments (myself and my son’s) and that was it. Not only was I now a person with Chronic Pain, but I was also a “chronic canceler”. Out of guilt I would still say “I will be there for sure and I can’t wait to see you!” but then would have to cancel because the daily migraine was settling in.|
|Hopelessness and Hope||I had lost all hope and faith in the medical system and their ability to “cure” me with their injections, medications and manual manipulations. I had hope however that I may be able to learn how to live WITH the pain rather than AGAINST it. I had hope that I could move from surviving to thriving and move on with my life!.|
I had to come to acceptance of the pain and that I would have it for the rest of my life. I had to learn tools to manage my symptoms the best that I could so that I could move on with my life. I can gladly say that things have gotten so much better for me since my participation in a Chronic Pain Rehabilitation program. I’ve made many lifestyle changes (job, nutrition, how I cope with stress) that I’m sure have helped. I couldn’t have made these changes without my time in a “pain camp”.
Pain Camp is a safe place to share your thoughts, experience, strength and hope. Have you thought about going or have you been part of a chronic pain rehab program? If you haven’t gone yet, what are some concerns you have? If you have gone, what was your experience? What cool things did you learn?