Chronic Pain Rehab: What My Life is Like 5 Years Later

Today marks the 5th anniversary of the day I entered the chronic pain rehabilitation program at a local facility. Looking back over the past 5 years, some things have definitely improved. However, one thing has remained the same: I still have chronic pain. Regardless, I consider myself to be thriving rather than surviving.

To celebrate, I decided to review some of my medical records from the program. Great idea, right? I have an unexpected flood of emotions spiraling me back to that period in time. The majority of the emotions that are coming up for me today are related to the grief, loss, and trauma of that time period in my life. I vividly recall the “fitness test” they had us do right away the first morning. Walking around the gym on a black piece of tape, with what felt like lead blocks on my feet. Even though I wanted to go back home and lay back down on the couch, I had some hope, and I felt like I was in the right place.

There are also pleasant emotions and memories. Two of my best friends today are women that I met in that program. We had many laughs, and were there supporting each other through the challenges of the program. I am so glad that I made the decision to go to “pain camp”. I do not know where I would be today if I hadn’t made that choice.

But yet, 5 years later, here I am. Do I still struggle with chronic pain and all of my related diagnoses? Sure I do. Do I still struggle with the stigma that comes along with it? You betcha. In fact, I was just presenting on the topic of stress management and self care for health professionals. The thought that kept coming to my mind? “If they only really knew my story!” Stigma.

Rather than focus on the fact that I’m not where I would like to be, I instead choose to celebrate how far I have come! The past 5 years have been a delicate dance between balance and chaos. Every time I feel like I’ve got this thriving thing down, I have an increase in symptoms, or life is just life, and then I need to enlist ALL of my skills in my chronic pain tool kit. These are humbling moments. Gratefully, I have many more “good days” than not. I have adapted my life to fit around the chronic pain. I have continued to challenge myself while setting attainable goals, and mastering those goals. When I go to the gym, and do 20-30 minutes of light cardio, I know that I have come a long way from being the chronic pain patient who could not walk half way around a gym.

I have continued to spend a significant amount of time trying new holistic avenues to aid with my “healing”. I think that the most helpful things I’ve tried have been acupuncture, physical therapy (specifically postural restoration), dietary changes, and really, anything that I’ve got on this list of things I’ve tried for a “cure”. Five years ago I was looking for a “cure”. Now, I’m just thriving in the moment with radical acceptance. I take the good days, when they come, as a blessing. The days that are flares, or I run out of spoons too quickly, I just count those as days for learning, practicing my skills, and rest. Today, I am focused on my overall wellness, and any areas that may be attended to to bring them back into balance.

The chronic pain rehabilitation program taught me crucial skills and tools of how to live my life along side of the chronic pain. How to move from just surviving, to thriving. If you have not tried a chronic pain rehabilitation program, I would encourage you to discuss this with your medical team.

Pain Camp is a safe place to share your thoughts, experience, strength and hope. Have you had experience with being a patient in a chronic pain rehabilitation program?  


  1. Thanks dear friend for sharing this beautifully expressed update which of course you know coincides with my beginning that program, and the beginning of a beautiful friendship for which I am so grateful! Though our journey through that program and our everyday lives since are different in many ways, the core truth of choosing “life” despite the chronic pain we have in commmon, every moment of every day with whatever “tools” we find that are positive, are very much the same.

    I am so glad we have each other and for all of the ways in which you have helped me to keep on keepin on… are an amazing person and such an inspiration to me!

  2. Jessie Skindelien says:

    I have been doing some thinking lately and have decided Jen, that I have been purposely ignoring our anniversaries from Pain Camp. I guess I am still having mental issues with accepting that I have chronic pain, in which it is 3:47am and I am awake and on your blogs spot and guess why I am awake?! Pain. I can’t believe that it has been 5 years since I first met you and almost exactly 6 years since my back surgery. I did learn a lot of “stuff” at camp and am really still using a lot of the copping skills they taught. One thing that I learned from a guest speaker there, can’t remember his name but he was talking about things lost and gained from chronic pain. Couldn’t believe he was talking about GAIN with chronic pain as those things aren’t supposed to go together! He had said that he lost friends and a wife from his pain but not to worry because he gained new friends and a new outlook and a new wife who he loves so very much. I too lost friends which is sad but if my pain would have never happened, I would have never met you, Jen. You are one of my many gains through my chronic pain. My pain was meant to be even though I don’t have to like it-at all.

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