Friday, September 5, 2008

Just the beginning...

On August 16, 2002, I was in a car accident at the age of 19. A pick-up truck had rear-ended the car that I was a passenger in. I had heard the tires squealing of the truck behind us and turned around to look when he hit us. Doctors believe that because I was twisted around when the impact occurred my injuries were complicated and this is the reason for my chronic pain.
I had grown up with a very active lifestyle. I rode my bike around, played soccer, tennis, lifted weights, and ran. One of my proudest moments was making it to the state tennis tournament for #1 doubles. Now, it’s difficult to play low-key for even 20 minutes. Not being able to do many of the activities I could do while growing up is something that I still have a very difficult time accepting, even after 6 years.
Every day is now a balancing act. What activities can I do without starting a flare-up in pain? What do I need to do tomorrow? This is an important question because what activity I do today, most likely, affects how I will feel tomorrow. Am I willing to be in more pain tomorrow so that I can do more of what I want to today? Perhaps I am cautious today and don’t want to take the risk of affecting tomorrow. Perhaps I don’t give a damn and want to do whatever I want to do.
School and work have been very challenging. I almost dropped out of college my junior year. I had had a migraine for a month straight with no relief. The specialist I had been seeing even injected 6 shots of lidocaine into the back of my head and given me medication for migraines. No relief. I had missed many classes and spent most of my days in bed. My parents told me that if I needed to be a part-time student to get through this difficult time then that was what I had to do. I would have, but when you go to school part-time you lose your parents health insurance, which I could not lose since I was seeing doctors several times a week.
When a class would meet for the first time, I would take the time to explain to my professor the nature of my chronic pain and that I might possibly miss a few classes. Most of my professors were understanding and willing to work with me throughout the semester. One I remember, in particular, was not very accommodating. I recall that at the beginning of each class, we were to turn in a paper. One day, I was having bad muscle spasms and couldn’t sit through class. I drove my paper over to class and then left to rest at home. I got my paper back and noticed that I had received a poor grade. When I asked the teacher about the grade she told me that I couldn’t receive full credit because I wasn’t in class the entire class period. She told me that if she were to “give me a break” about it, that she’d have to do the same for other students. The example she gave me of another student missing class was absolutely ridiculous. She told me that a classmate of mine was on a bowling team and had missed class because of it. If I was given a break, then the bowler was to be given a break. Gee, chronic pain versus voluntarily signing up for a bowling team. I didn’t sign up for chronic pain. I was pissed. I actually stood up for myself though, and was rather proud. I told her that if she wasn’t willing to work with me on the matter then I would have to report her to Student Disabled Services. That made her quiet.
If you have chronic pain, please learn about what rights you have. If you’re in school, sign up with a Student Disabled Services type program and see that they have the proper documentation to have your back when you encounter difficult professors, etc.
I’ve had three bosses over the past six years that had been unfair to me as well. I was working at a grocery store at the time of my accident and had to greatly cut back on my responsibilities on the job. I had been working in the deli at the time and bending down lifting salads and other items in and out of the deli case was hurting me. I had experienced stabbing pains in my back that nearly made me fall to my knees at work. My doctor wrote me a work release note stating that I couldn’t lift 10 lbs. repeatedly on the job. I gave it to my boss, explaining what I had experienced, and he laughed at me. I had worked there for 5 years and he laughed at me. I quit the next day.
The woman who had been cutting my family’s hair for years was opening up a coffee shop. She knew of my troubles and had similar pain with one of her shoulders. She appeared very understanding and offered me a job. One Friday night I was having terrible pain and muscle spasms and called her to tell her I wouldn’t be able to open the shop the next morning. I was hoping that, calling the night before, she might have been able to find a replacement for me. Afterwards, she stopped scheduling me completely. When I asked her about this, she told me that at the time I had called in sick…it sounded like I was having a party. A party! I frantically thought to myself…I had a roommate at the time and I know my boyfriend was over to take care of me…and maybe the TV was on. My mom felt that the woman stopped scheduling me until I quit because she was afraid that if she fired me, I would sue her because of the disability issue. This was a woman who knew me and my family for years and this is how she ended up treating me. It really hurt.
The next unpleasant boss was at a department store I worked at. For almost a year, I had had a manager who was very supportive and then she was replaced. The new manager scheduled me longer than the doctors work orders allowed. I asked him about it and he said that he would schedule me whenever he wanted to and in whichever department he wanted to. (I had previously been working in departments that allowed me time to sit and rest when I needed to.) Even with numerous notes from my doctor, he would not comply. I had to quit that job too.
At least this occurred right around the time I would have to resign anyways because I would be beginning internships in my masters program. I got an internship at a psychiatric hospital and it was such an amazing experience for me. I was fortunate enough to get an amazing supervisor who was quite supportive of my condition. It was quite difficult to get the required amount of hours at the site that I needed to. I’ll go into more of the emotional and physical struggles I experienced in my next entry.
My goal for this blog is to provide insight into the daily life of living with chronic pain and offer understanding to those who also experience pain. I also wish to offer hope and support to those who seek it. I have tried many different treatments for my pain and researched much on the subject. If I am able to provide any aid to others in pain, than I have accomplished my goal for this blog. Thank you.

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