The other day, someone asked me a very thought-provoking question. Why do I ski, do taekwondo, jiu-jitsu, and all of the other crazy things I do on a daily basis if I know it is going to hurt and ultimately, make me hurt worse? One exciting act of adventure can have days, weeks, or even months of consequences. These aren’t reckless, spur-of-the-moment decisions, rather, they are carefully calculated “risks”.
It is a pretty simple response, but I was temporarily at a loss for words. The short answer is that no matter what I do in life, it is going to hurt. Walking, getting dressed, brushing my teeth, and eating lunch… Everything is going to hurt. The real question is how afraid are you of the pain? Are you willing to fight through the pain to do all the things that you are passionate about in life?
Pain is an unavoidable part of human life and for people with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy/Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (RSD/CRPS) and other chronic pain disorders, pain is the norm. In fact, many people forget what life is like without pain. So if we sit around waiting for the pain medications to kick in or the pain to break completely, we are wasting valuable time in our short lives for relief that may never come. I am all being optimistic, but that is the reality. My reality.
I have been in constant pain every day for the last three years. Sad as it sounds, pain has become a part of my life. Even in my dreams, I am in pain. However, the pain doesn’t control me. I am the master manager of my pain. After all, it is my life, and I am going to live it to the fullest. I attend college full time and earn good grades. I am responsible for maintaining my apartment and ensuring that it kept up. I am active in community service and volunteer at the local children’s hospital where I have been a patient for almost half my life. During the summer, I am a lifeguard at a waterpark. I am a 1st Degree Black Belt, and when I am not personally training, I am assisting with classes for the younger children. When the snow flies, I enjoy carving down the slopes for fun, as a ski racer, and on ski patrol rescue endeavors. I am doing everything one would expect from the typical 19-year-old college student. The only thing that is different is that I am constant pain.
Trust me when I say that I pay dearly for acting like the typical young adult. I just don’t see pain as an obstacle that should limit or stop me from living, because, for all I know, I will always be in some form of pain. Maybe it won’t always be excruciating pain, but it will be there.
So if the opportunity presents itself for me to take a 12 mile kayak trip, take a weeklong skiing expedition through the Rocky Mountains, or a chance to hike a 100 mile section of the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, you can bet that I am going to take the opportunity to enjoy the thrill of the adventure. I am the boss of my pain. It will never control me. Does it control you? If it is controlling you, are you willing to take that first step to becoming the manager of your pain? The first step is always the hardest, but it gets easier.