Sharp, pinching, burning, shooting, dull, aching, prickly, throbbing. You name the pain, I’ve felt it. I’ve been living with chronic pain of varying degrees for over 20 years, but you can’t tell just from looking at me. From the outside, I look healthy, vibrant, fit and young, but the story on the inside could not be more different.

Twenty years of pain has made its mark on me. It has torn through me like a hurricane, destroying me and exhausting me. It has drained me, scarred me, and left its imprint. It took and stole things from me that I have not recovered. There is not one part of my life that hasn’t been affected by the pain. It has changed me. It created a void that, even now, I have not fully come to terms with, especially when it comes to relationships. There has been so much loss. 

I used to blame myself, believing I developed pain because of all the things I had done wrong. I punished myself for it because who else was there to punish?

I am not the same person as I was before the pain. I am more serious, less flirtatious, less funny. I am less me than I was before. I have lost parts of myself that I can barely recall. I find myself recoiling from things that would previously bring me joy because I am so afraid of the possible pain that could follow. The pain has taken its toll and left me to rebuild from the rubble. 

In my darker moments I still feel shame about my pain. I feel less than, inferior, defective, useless, undesirable, uptight. I have felt this way for years, and regardless of all the positive things I have done for myself, that feeling doesn’t just simply disappear. Pain ate away at my self-worth and self-esteem for over half of my life. Rebuilding isn’t happening overnight, it is taking years.

Living with chronic pain that is invisible to others can be defeating. No one sees and no one truly understands. The weight of carrying this pain around on my own has been unbearably lonely at times.

Today, I no longer feel the need to blame or punish anyone. I am going to continue to reclaim myself, one step at a time. I am going to add new pieces to the mosaic that is me. The pain has shaped me, but it has helped me grow as well. It has forced me to grow. I may not be as bright and sparkly as I used to be, but I am kinder, more compassionate and more empathetic. I am true to myself, I listen to body and I respect myself. Every day I work to lessen the feelings of defeat, of missing out, of loss, but they do remain. They are part of the grief that comes with losing so much of yourself to pain and illness.

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