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What I Learned From Chronic Pain

The first two years of college were a really difficult time in my life because besides starting college and getting accustomed to new changes my body had stopped functioning as it should. I had developed chronic joint pain which just got worse and worse over time and had become a roadblock in my everyday life. At the peak of my chronic pain, everyday activities took a toll on me, walking for long periods hurt most of my joints and left me shivering, sharp pains would cause me to fall or make it difficult to get up, standing for too long left my hips and knees burning, and sitting for too long would also leave my hips and knees burning. This dictated how and when I did everything. I would always take breaks when walking to class so if I wanted to make it anywhere on time, I had to consider my stops especially if wherever I was going required stairs. Whenever my showers took too long my joints would hurt for some time, I stopped conditioning my hair to save myself the pain. I would have to wake up an hour and a half before leaving my house as I would spend one hour “thawing out” since I was stiff anytime I woke up. The most difficult part was trying to explain myself when I could not do something or when I had to do something in a specific way because how do you explain that at 19 years old your body does not support you.

To try to fix myself and understand what was going on I had started going to the doctor and researching chronic pain. I was hoping to find comfort in a diagnosis and tools in the knowledge that was out there but for a long time, I had just grown more frustrated at myself. I became exhausted by the doctor’s visits and hopeless by all the research. The research was never good. I had learned that people with chronic pain tend to get fired, change jobs, or retire earlier than others and I was well aware that the job I wanted, which is to be an OBGYN was not compatible with the capabilities of my body at the time. I also learned that people with chronic pain tend to develop depression as the pain could change your stress hormone levels, disturb sleep, and affect mood which makes someone more susceptible to mental health challenges. I became quite aware of that through first-hand experience. I had also learned that chronic pain was a very debilitating part of relationships. In early adulthood, those with chronic pain have less satisfaction and very insecure attachments in relationships. Unfortunately, I also became aware of the fact that divorce rates were high for women with chronic pain and that husbands were more likely to leave wives with chronic pain than a wife with a husband that had chronic pain. The more time went on the more I thought that what I thought my life was going to be had ended before it could even start, and I started to mourn a life I had not yet lived.

After a little over two years, I had learned that my chronic pain was the cause of a thyroid problem and something else which was never really understood. With medication, my body started hurting less and less which became some of the greatest days of my life, and even though I still have pain from time to time and I have certain triggers for pain it is never to the extent it had once been. This experience changed who I am and even though I wish it had never happened I have learned a lot which I believe can apply to everyone. I have learned the importance of appreciating the fact that my body works. I now work out and I hate it but I’m grateful for the fact that I can. I also eat healthier now because there is no way I’m letting my diet hurt my body and be in pain again. I have also learned that it is extremely important to take care of my body and not neglect it. That means eating the proper amount of food, sleeping properly, and taking rests when necessary, which I know a lot of people don’t and can’t do especially when consistently having all-nighters to finish assignments plus balancing work and extracurriculars. I still can’t do it all the time and I make a conscious effort to. To become better at taking care of myself I have now become stricter on myself with routines and use apps such as Habits to do so. I tell other people my plans to take care of myself so someone else can hold me accountable and it’s not just me telling myself that I am going to do certain things. I have also prioritized finding things that make me happy whether that is seeing a person that makes me happy or finding hobbies. Being a pre-health student makes these things difficult, but it is an investment worth making on yourself because once your body goes it makes it that much harder to achieve the future that you know you can achieve.

Written by: Alejandra Borges-Duran


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