?My Beloved Souls,
Pain is a deal breaker for me. It has stolen moments in time from my memory, incapacitated me for months that turned into years, brought me to my knees, and broke my spirit in that instant of darkness. Pain has tarnished my view of people I loved, it unflaggingly deflated the medical field’s standards in comprehensive services, and it brought new meaning to the word suffering. I still live in pain daily, and just recently had a significant bout with it due to my sciatica and lower back because of pushing myself too hard while cycling thirteen miles against a strong head wind along the Lake Shore. I jogged three miles two days later with my puppy, which essentially, was the “straw that broke the camel’s back.” While reaching across with my left arm to grab a glass standing up, an intense rod of fire climbed up my left leg wrapping around it, as if squeezing the life out of me, and grabbed a significant muscle in my lower back, jerking me with horrific pain. I screamed and went down fast. The pain was undeniably a reminder of my second roll over car accident. Not wanting to relive that nightmare, I tried to crawl on my knees over to a chair from which to pull myself up to a standing position. This was no easy task, and I sobbed while doing it. On a pain level of one to ten, it was easily a ten. My world was once again spinning out-of-control.
With pain comes a sense of vulnerability and the looming enigma of having your world cycling into a spinning vortex of unimaginable fears. When you live alone, as I do, there is no stability, or safety net in knowing someone is going to care for you, be there for you, and/or rush to your aid. In a matter of seconds, your mind illuminates endless fears; a fight or flight mode kicks in, whereby you want to run away, take cover, be rescued, or get help. For me, there is no such thing available. There is a great sadness, that instead, casts a spell over my brain and festers inside of my soul. It is searching for resiliency of the spirit to regain consciousness, and has not yet found its source of nourishment…YET.
I’m sure many of you can identify with pain, having been through trauma or abuse. It can take your breath away and fill your lungs with pity, denial, a victim mentality, and anger. It can leave you feeling empty, alone, scared, depressed, and open to the world’s condescending treatment from those who hold no compassion, empathy, or knowledge of its agony. Pain is ugly. It changes the very nature of your world being turned upside down. Pain changes how you perceive the world and those closest to you in it. Pain is like a drug that can suck you under if not managed carefully, gently, and with love. Pain can alter your sense of self. Moreover, pain can be used as an excuse to let go of everything and everyone you love. Pain is that excruciating and a hellish torment that causes you to tip the scale of your balanced mind and slip into insanity, whereby you want to cease to live. It is not something one does by rational choice, but by pure desire to escape the horrific agony of a lifelong chronic pain that debilitates and crushes the very light from one’s spirit. And, even though drugs can assist in masking the pain, it is a short-lived escape, even when alcohol is involved. Alcohol, although it has a synergistic effect with drugs, especially narcotics, is deadly if mixed together and can cause overdoses, without realizing it. Those are the downsides of taking prescription with non-prescription drugs when escaping from chronic pain. Why would someone take it that far you may ask? Because, it’s the easy route of surviving the life of chronic pain. The hard work is in living through it and rising from it…To live in the GLOW!?
Throughout my injuries and traumas, which are many, the pain I’ve experienced along my journey have been one of grueling perseverance, an attitude of presence, a resiliency of light, and a warrior mentality. Every person’s injuries, trauma and experiences are unique to individual pain thresholds, the health and well being of their mind, bodies, and souls, fitness and nutritional lifestyles, support systems, and how they see themselves during the recovery and healing period. Being mindful of our mind’s implicit positivity and the humor we deliberately find in our trials and tribulations as we carve a new life for ourselves are what will support our future reality to one of resiliency and GLOW!?
Chronic pain is not for the faint of heart, nor for those who are unwilling to shatter the glass ceiling in speaking out and up for themselves. This is the time to seek out proper comprehensive medical care for chronic pain, pursue doctors who are willing to advocate on one’s behalf, conduct research for cutting edge medical practices, and thus determine a careful diagnosis for individual needs. Treatment options may include non-medication to medications that are on a continuum for pain threshold, holistic medicine, such as acupuncture, surgical implants for spinal pain, and electrical stimulation to diminish pain know as “TENS“. Other types of treatment may involve physical therapy for better physical movement and function, psychological therapy, to deal with the emotional anger attached to the pain, and mind-body therapies, which offer meditation and biofeedback to assist the mind in focusing on a deeper, more relaxing techniques and guided imagery.
There are no guarantees that MRIs, CAT Scans, X-Rays, or any other imaging system will be able to secure a proper diagnosis for you on what is causing the chronic pain. This is always a very disappointing moment when the doctors are unable to accurately pinpoint what is happening in your body to cause it to malfunction. It’s as if the computer you have been working so remarkably with, due to an inserted microchip to orchestrate miraculous functioning algorithms, all of a sudden was unable to perform at peak performance because a worm had been inserted by a foreign substance. It happens in a matter of minutes. That’s all it takes for one’s body to skip a beat and blindside you into a frantic pain reaction. Your computer has been corrupted, as has your body, and no doctor can seem to find the answer to this momentous challenge you face for possibly eternity. Not a futuristic glamor shot of one I’m sure any person would want for their 401K or tentative medical coverage!
Oh, the price we bear when dealing with chronic pain. As is noted, chronic pain is not a laughing matter. There are 100M people in America who suffer from chronic pain, which differs quite drastically from acute pain. Chronic pain lasts 12 weeks or longer. Chronic pain signals plague a person for weeks, months, or even years. Acute pain is short term pain that occurs from a cut, scratch, or burn. The difficulty in treating chronic pain, is that the cause of the problem is challenging to diagnose. Chronic pain can lead from injuries, illnesses, trauma, or other events, and finding the root cause may not always be possible.
As with any pain, the pain I suffered after my first car accident taumatized me, as if a truck had run over me several times, thinking it had missed me the first few times it tried. Ha! My first memory of pain began with insufferable migraines. I had never had a headache before in my life, unless it came with one of those intense head and chest colds from winter. I used to get them every year in Colorado, and it was from jogging during the severe cold with my puppy, Aspen. I loved to jog, especially after a fresh new snowfall, when the ground was filled with crisp cold ice, and there was not a single track in the snow…not until Aspen and I placed our paws and sneakers in it at 5am in the morning! It twinkled at us like diamonds under the stars and small lit lanterns along the streets. The snow would be like powder beneath our feet, and my breath could be seen each time I would exhale. It was magical!?
I greeted the new dawn with an open heart and mind, and would meditate as we jogged through our normal passageways along the subdivisions in the snow. We would scurry through a small middle school’s parkway and then behind it to where a big field would lay. It was the perfect play ground for Aspen, my Golden Retriever, to soar gracefully off leash, and I would chase her like a puppy at eight years old. She was a snow puppy, as her birth was during the winter months, and she welcomed the snow as if it gave her permission to dominate in her playful fashion. After our playful chase in the fields, Aspen and I would quickly start our jog along a different subdivision on the west side of my home, where there were more cul-de-sacs and less traffic to deal with. People were just starting to awaken to the beauty of the pristine morning. It was a work day, and many of my neighbors left early for Denver to their jobs. After circling back around to our starting point, we would finish our jog in approximately 40 minutes. Of course, Aspen’s paws would be inundated with so much snow, she would put her paw up to me to be cleaned out until all of them were snow free. Then, we might linger by the fireplace to warm our frozen toes and paws. It was a routine I loved like no other. However, surprisingly, I learned later from the doctor, was breathing in the cold air. I radiated from its crisp, freshness each morning. Yet, even with the pleasures, my lungs did not take well to the mighty bacterial infections that ruled in winter weather. To my knowledge, those were the only times I got sick. I don’t recall other illnesses before that dark day in September.
I had never heard of chronic pain before my first car accident. Sure, I had listened to people talk about pain and how they had become addicted to pain medications, which I could not even fathom doing personally. I thought to myself how weak these people must be to have to rely on medications, and then become addicted to them. “Why can’t people just deal with their pain appropriately?” I wondered. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact about narcotic addiction, whether from medication or alcohol. Until, however, the pain happened to me. I realized, with all the traumatic events that have occurred in my life, I could now understand so much better about other people’s pain, why they became addicted to narcotics, alcohol, have a higher rate of suicide, especially those with PTSD, and struggle with anger, loneliness, guilt, shame, and depression. When you look in the mirror and realize you are now one of “those” people with the chronic pain who are mocked and easily targeted as a scapegoat for others’ personal pain and issues you become frazzled. I have become less valued and less liked for my opinions due to a voice greater than life’s tragedies inadvertently blessed to me by car accidents. And, from the behaviors and sarcastic remarks from others lets me know I have arrived!? It didn’t mean I had all the answers, not at all! Yet, my eyes were finally opened to huge truths about pain, chronic pain that most people are not fully educated about. I had no idea there were so many of us united under the topic of chronic pain, yet no one talked about it. It’s no wonder I had never heard about what it was, how it was diagnosed, or even how it was treated.
Of course, my heart goes out to those of you who don’t understand the meaning of pain, especially chronic pain. If you’ve never experienced it, then you probably will never comprehend its intensity, nor how it changes one’s life for the worst. You won’t know it, because it happens like a cancer in one’s body, and changes it before you know you’ve even breathed it in. The transition from being pain free to chronic pain is like night and day. Such was my case. One minute I knew nothing about injury, as I had never experienced any painful trauma before, whereby I would not have needed narcotics or any type of Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Aleve, etc.
The only time I had been given a prescription for a pain medication was for my wisdom teeth surgery and for a tonsillectomy. Yet, those were acute pain events that were dealt with for only a month or so. I prepared for those surgeries and knew in advance there would be pain. Many of the chronic pain people experience, and especially myself, are types of pain that no one has been enlightened about, prepared for, nor been privy to its cause, how long it would last, the best treatment for it, and if there would ever be a “me” again. This is one of the most toughest questions of them all. There is a pain level from one to ten, ten being the most excruciating. My pain level was always between an eight and nine. Every time I went to see the doctor he always asked me my pain level for the day to check on the benefits of treatment.
In retrospect, the debilitating migraines I first got after my first car accident tied me to my bed post and left me there for days on end. I couldn’t function in a way that allowed me to go outside, drive, grocery shop, or even prepare my meals. In fact, my brain was so out of sequence, at the beginning I was unable to eat, open my eyes, or even cognitively process or comprehend what might be transpiring around me. A dear close friend of mine was kind enough to take over the responsibility of jogging my beautiful puppy, Aspen, while I suffered in bed. I was so separated from my emotions I couldn’t even cry, even though my entire life had just turned upside down, inside out. I struggled to make sense of this senseless nonsense, yet I just could not put the pieces back together.
I began calling myself Humpty Dumpty…! The pain swallowed me up and continued to do so for years on end. I tried to push through it, although, the migraines pursued until my neurologist found a medication that changed my life forever. This medication was a migraine med that started to work immediately. It was a miracle for me and changed everything in my brain. It was shocking how different I felt when I would awaken and not have migraines to follow me as an umbrella over my head, suffocating my every move and thought. With my migraines in check, the rest of my body still lingered with the powerful effects of the accident. I was grateful I had been an athlete for most of my life, as the fury inside of me due to my body’s chronic pain was released through my work outs. The pain, however, was sometimes greater than I could bear. After physical therapy at the NeuroRehab Center, I would wrap myself in a fetal position at home and try to sleep the remaining part of the day, as my brain suffered from extensive fatigue and thus, my heart, body, and soul fell short to accommodate its struggles.
Pain sucked the life out of me. It drained me of my joy, my gracious attitude, my hope, my faith, and my quality of life. It is a game changer. Do not underestimate the power it holds as it will strike you when you least expect it and you will have the rug pulled out from under you. You are NOT in control of YOUR life. Just when you think you have your life fully planned, God comes and changes it without your consent. He won’t ask you for it, nor pass you the memo in advance. He wants your attention. He wants a relationship with YOU. He has His reasons. Find a way to understand why you have been put through these trials and tribulations. What are you meant to learn from them? What is the silver lining you are meant to find? Maybe there are people you are meant to assist who need your help that you will one day meet. The masterpiece is still being threaded and woven together as I type these words to you. We only get to see the backside of the tapestry that has all the knots and broken threads due to our own brokenness we have lived and journeyed. Yet, the beauty is in the light that shines through our broken hearts, as that is where the glow is filtered out to shine its brilliance on to others so they may shine too. When you give yourself permission to shine, others will not be afraid to shine their glow either.
I have lived a lifetime of pain. It has been exhausting, depressing, and somewhat confusing to me. And, yet, I choose to live a life of glow. Living in the glow is always a choice, even in pain. Finding a pain clinic, a therapist, life coach, psychiatrist, and/or counselor are ways of seeking a life of glow. It is in choosing a path where you control YOUR life instead of having something or someone control you. It’s confronting your fears head on and believing in the power you hold is the light of your soul. The God spark in you is the flame that will forever burn brighter than any darkness. Choose a mindset that does not limit you, that gives you freedom to be the person you are meant to be…a worthy, beautiful, valued, brilliant, vibrant, and effervescent Star! YOU matter! YOUR Voice Matters! Stand up for YOU!
?My beautiful souls, if you carry the cross of chronic pain, like me, please know you are not alone. I hope you are able to find the resources and people who can assist you in easing your pain and help you through the darkness. Living a life of pain is not living. It’s agony. The lens you see through is one of depression, searing pain when one moves part of the body, and extreme fatigue. Let me know how I can assist you if you need to talk or just need a hand to hold. You are NEVER alone.
?Wishing all my tribal members a place of reverence, solitude, and tranquility. Life is challenging at best, yet there are small glorious moments that bring us joy if we seek them with a wider lens. We must be more cognizant of the shine that is all around us even when we tend to see the darkness first. It can be habitual due to our pain. Find the goodness in all things FIRST, and then you will notice the blessings God has surrounded you with. We have more than anyone in the world. We should focus on that every single day…?
May you find the beauty you seek within you today.
In Love and Light,?
Kimberly Lees, Ed.D.