“The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable”—James Garfield
People are masters at self-delusion: It took me 34 years to realize that I live with chronic pain, and yes, I am a true blonde! From the age of two, I’ve lived with moderate to severe pain as a companion. My pain is like life- the only constant is change. It is so changeable that I never really know what I’m going to wake up to or how I’ll feel in a few hours. I think this is one reason I never put myself in the category of people who live with chronic pain until I had an epiphany at the age of 36. I was working as an occupational therapist, and had a client who told me in great detail about the pain she’d lived with since she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis five years prior. It touched a nerve in me because this is where my pain comes from as well. It made me think about my pain, and how I always put people with chronic pain in a separate category from myself.
I did this because I didn’t want to handle the truth. I didn’t want to be a young person in pain. I didn’t want to be less than desirable, gimpy, one of those people that others look at and say, “you poor thing.” So I did everything I could to convince myself, and those around me, otherwise. I maintained this façade of being happy go lucky, active, and successful until my body made this impossible. Shortly after the fateful day I listened to my client so openly tell me about her pain, my pain stopped me in my tracks.
It became so bad I couldn’t function. I couldn’t work, socialize, or bike ride. I also couldn’t deny the truth. I live with pain and it can be disabling. The funny thing is, once I admitted this to myself, I felt free. I still have to live with the huge load that pain carries, but I no longer have to hold tightly to a misbelief about who I am. A misbelief that was based on who I wanted to be, not who I was.
Photos by Steve Kammerer
As I learned to be more honest with myself my life transformed. One thing I realized was that occupational therapy, although a wonderful and fulfilling career, drained me physically to a huge degree. I was hurting myself to help others, and that is not healthy in any way. I realized that writing was more aligned with my purpose; it allowed me to serve others and myself.
When I look around me and listen to people, I see a lot of self-delusion and less self-honesty. We are all so invested in seeing ourselves in a certain way that we forget to stop every once in awhile, and really see. We forget that even if we can’t be our own ideal, we are still pretty awesome.