I am certain that I never did grow in grace one-half so much anywhere as I have upon the bed of pain. – Charles Spurgeon
“This is the worst headache of my life. “
Wait. What did I just say?
Anyone with any medical knowledge knows that these words are a red flag.
My veins were popping out of my head and neck. My heart rate skyrocketed. My body hurt all over. I couldn’t see. I am not one to get nervous during a medical emergency, I can stay calm and care for others when those around me need me. No problem. When it was myself, it was a whole different story. I was helpless, I couldn’t care for myself the way I would care for someone else.
Off to Urgent Care we went. Then to the ER. Then to another ER. Then to Chick-Fil-A, but that’s irrelevant to the story.
The weeks following this episode were filled with appointments and scans. Several doctors and dozens of NPs and PA-Cs, even a massage therapist, out of desperation. Everyone around me had an opinion. If one more person compared this to their half-sister’s cousin’s migraines, I was going to explode.
Tons of experiments, minimal answers.
I am finally on the mend and I am not going to go into the terribly long and obnoxious diagnosis and healing process, but instead I will go into what I learned in the months that I dealt with chronic pain.
- I learned that it is okay to take a break. Ask for a break. Take care of yourself so that you can better take care of others. This is true with and without chronic pain.
- I learned that it is okay for a patient to tell you their pain level is a 10. In their mind, it very well may be. Stop the stupid medical humor memes about patients saying their pain level is a 10/10.
- I learned more empathy. No explanation needed.
- I learned that people cannot read your mind, your pain level, or your stress level. Be open. You DO NOT have to be okay all the time. It’s okay not to be okay. (Jessie J reference) Most of the people around me have been so supportive and understanding when I needed a morning off or I needed to leave early to go to another appointment or when I forgot about a meeting (or two).
- I learned to be humble enough to accept that I can’t figure it all out on my own. I am so guilty of self-diagnosing. I have to say, 90% of the time, I’m pretty darn accurate. I have even convinced a doctor to give me antibiotics over the phone. (Shall not be named.) Before this episode that landed me in the ER, I was convinced I could fix my daily headaches by eating healthier, sleeping more, ect. I was convinced there was nothing really wrong with me. I was wrong.
- I learned that pain is temporary. Don’t make permanent decisions on temporary feelings. I am so thankful for the forgiveness of those around me. (Looking at you, mom.) There were some times that I could not even think clearly, and I was a bear. That is putting it nicely.
- Most importantly, I learned to prioritize. When dealing with chronic pain, I learned to be functional while still in pain. However, it was not always 100% possible. There was no way I could do everything I wanted, or even needed, to do. I learned to prioritize. This made the workaholic in me cry. This made me cry in real life. (Crying did not help the headaches, btw) I felt like I let people down. Like I missed opportunities. But looking back, I would not change a thing. No one fired me. No one failed me. It all ended up okay.
To anyone dealing with chronic pain – you are not alone. Get a second opinion, get a third, fourth, and fifth. Don’t take no for an answer. Don’t give up. Research for yourself. Trust your gut. Pray, and know that I am praying for you.