Painfully Aware (#11 in my 30 in 30 series)

pain

I know a thing or two about Pain.  Pain and I go way back – back to when I was a freshman in High School.  I actually have difficulty remembering what life was like without having to deal with pain and discomfort on a daily basis.  I’m not complaining – just explaining.  I’ve actually learned a lot from my Pain and believe it has made me strong, even as it makes me weak at times.  When I was 13 years old I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA).  It was scary, painful, and frustrating.  I would go to bed in pain and wake up in pain.  I felt like a 98 year old woman, hobbling down my high school’s hallway with a cane.  My peers didn’t understand – arthritis was for old folks, they would say with a snicker.  High school is tough enough, but add excruciating pain, visits to the Rheumatologist (where I was always the youngest one in the waiting room), ever-changing pain meds, and an un-cool limp, and it’s nearly impossible.  Fortunately, I survived high school and eventually my JRA went into remission in my mid-twenties.  I learned much about depression, isolation, strength, resilience, and hope during that time.  I also learned one of the most important lessons in my life so far – the separation of mind and body. Since my pain was a daily visitor, I figured I had two options – let my unwanted guest ruin my day (and, in the long run, ruin my life) or learn to accept my guest but not let it dictate how I felt emotionally.  Sure, my physical state was out of my control, but I was the one who chose how I felt and thought about it and myself.  I was eventually able to exist in what seemed like two opposing states – I could be in extreme pain but still have a smile on my face and have a decent day.  I couldn’t let myself be in as much emotional pain as my physical pain, because it would have ruined me.  I believe this lesson has subsequently helped me get through breast cancer and is now helping me deal with Lupus.  My physical being does not rule my emotional being – although sometimes it tries very hard to.

*To learn more about Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, please visit  http://www.webmd.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/understanding-juvenile-rheumatoid-arthritis-basics

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