Awaken the fighter within!
Being young and having chronic pain is a real letdown. You wait your entire life to “grow up”, just to feel much older than your years when that time finally comes.
The people who love you want to understand how you feel. Unfortunately, unless they have been there, it is hard for anyone to understand what it feels like to live with pain. Many of us have had to give up careers we love, hobbies we enjoyed, or even having children because of a chronic illness.
I have osteoarthritis in my neck and lumbar spine. I was 31 when I was diagnosed by my general practitioner. Due to the degenerative nature of my condition, I had to leave my job as a nursing assistant. I loved working with the elderly, but the pain in my body had become unbearable so I needed to switch careers.
I am happy with the changes that I have made and I am now a mother. The decision to have a child was easy for me, I’ve always wanted children. However, for people who have more serious ailments, some cannot have children at all. This is another good reason not to ask someone when they are having children.
I believe everyone has struggled in this life. I have a wonderful husband and a great support system but my struggle is the pain that I feel in my neck, back and now my hands. I have also been battling crippling fatigue. In spite of all of this, I have not given up on having a good life and neither should you.
Along with chronic illness can come a feeling of helplessness and if we are not careful, this can turn into apathy. There is nothing wrong with feeling sad, but if we let our pain consume us, we lose. We have our whole lives ahead of us, and we should live each day as it is the last!
I recommend using pain medications sparingly. They can be hard on the body and some narcotic painkillers can make you depressed or addicted. Take only what you need, and wait until being awake for a few hours before taking anything. This way you can measure your pain and you may realize you do not need to take anything! Use heating pads and topical lotions (Voltaren, tiger balm, etc) instead of pain medication.
Yoga and meditation have been medically proven to be helpful in the treatment of chronic pain. They are proven to be an effective treatment for the depression and anxiety you may be experiencing due to your illness. I recommend “The Honest Guys” meditation channel and “Yoga with Adrienne, which are both available on YouTube.
Different types of therapies are available for those of us with chronic illnesses. Physiotherapy and occupational therapy are both helpful to anyone having a hard time physically living their lives. Counseling is also a good idea if you are having a difficult time accepting your diagnosis. Counseling gives you coping skills to help process your diagnosis and live your life as normally as possible.
Unless it is physically impossible for you to continue doing the things you love, please keep doing them! There are assistive devices and braces available as well to make most actions easier for people with mobility issues. If you stop doing the things you love out fear, you’re letting your health get in the way of your quality of life. If this is an ongoing issue, I would suggest counseling. Therapists can help you understand your pattern of thinking and break that cycle.
Another important component of life with a chronic illness is resting. It is important to know your limitations and rest when you have reached them. I am a stay at home mom and I will work for 30 minutes and rest for a few minutes. I repeat this until I have completed my chores for the day. Go easy on yourself, you don’t have to do it all!
This action is difficult, but it is the most important: Acceptance. Yes, you have a chronic illness and no, it is not going away. This is for life. The good news is that through acceptance comes ways to positively cope with your illness. Once you accept that it is not going away, you will find your own strategy of living with it.
Being young and having any type of health problem is devastating, however, you are still alive and thriving. I have found that “mind over matter” is very relevant to this situation. If you allow yourself to become a victim, you will be a victim. It is okay to break down and it’s okay to have off days BUT I will always believe in the fighter inside of me that refuses to give up. I can’t give up.