Tag Archives: She Get Personal

Living With Chronic Pain

On this day two years ago, I was involved in a car crash that would change the course of my life completely. I couldn’t have known then but the injuries I walked away with would only get more and more complex as time went on.

My journey with chronic pain has been an uphill battle, an omnipresent force, a seemingly unsolvable puzzle. What started as a neck and head injury translated into widespread muscular malfunctions, spinal issues, nervous system problems and pain that manifests differently and unpredictably every single day. It has forced me to overhaul my life as an athlete, as well as massively scale back on highly active lifestyle I used to lead.

From the moment of impact up to now, I have used the majority of my energy trying to find any successful ways to heal. I’ve been treated by physios, chiropractors, osteopaths, massage therapists, psychologists, strength and conditioning coaches, naturopaths, more medical specialists than I care to count. I’ve had dozens of needles and injections into my spine, and many assurances that the next treatment will be the solution. I have dealt with so much false hope its been dizzying. While I there have been a few small victories through this process, I continue to press on trying to find solutions to my body’s pain responses that seem to get more complex with each day.

There is no facet of my life this hasn’t affected. I can’t stand still for more than a few minutes without becoming vastly uncomfortable; I can’t sit for more than thirty or forty without often experiencing excruciating pain somewhere down my spine. As you could imagine, being a university student dealt this set of cards has placed additional hurdles in my path. Predictably, this has also led me into a process of having to completely reevaluate my whole identity and what defines me as a person, when many of the things I love can no longer hold such a dominant place in my life.

Chronic pain is something that often goes unseen; to both the individual and everyone around them. I have good days where the pain is more of a hum in the background, but I often have bad ones, where it’s so loud and angry that my energy becomes completely depleted, my moods get ridiculously unpredictable and my body needs a lot of care, attention, and rest.

I have bad days that sometimes look like breakdowns in the car or Physio office, but I’ve also had dark times that stretched into months of anxiety and bouts of depression.

However, in order to maintain my own sense of sanity I often find myself striving to project an image of vitality during the manageable moments. But it’s always the same pattern, one way or another the symptoms will bounce back like a boomerang and manifest in ways that can be debilitating. I kept trying to claw my way back into the life I had before, the life where I felt strong and could work hard without giving things a second thought. The life where I felt comfortable in my own skin and in control of my own circumstances. In the low moments I felt like I had lost myself completely.

It took a lot of fighting and rebelling against my own body before I begun to explore the idea of accepting my circumstances as they are in the moment, and working towards placing the things that give me relief and happiness at the forefront. My mental health was hindering me – it shaped an outlook that was translating into even more physical degeneration. Luckily, I was still able to receive external help and support from others, helping me realize that my tenacity to heal and bounce back didn’t always have to manifest in fighting. Instead, this part of my life is teaching me that self care is something that is going to be one of the most important resources in my life going forward – listening to what my body has to say instead of fighting against it.

With the presence of sport and activity in my life massively scaled down, I have had to explore some different facets of what makes me happy and keeps me calm – mostly revolving around writing and art. I have tried so many times to sit down and write my story but every time I have, I’m left with pages and pages of what I hoped to be cathartic, but was instead just another pathway into emotional distress I didn’t need. I never wanted to let anyone else read the things I wrote. So I didn’t, until now.

I wanted to share my story somehow because I often felt disingenuous with the person I was projecting myself to be; I was not living as this person in the majority of my day-to-day life. The moments I conveyed were the good ones, where I was able to give myself a little wiggle room to play again and just hope that I wouldn’t wake up feeling completely broken again the next day. Sometimes however, I am lucky enough to see those good moments can spread into good days. Rarely do I have a day without pain, but the good days often come in the form of a shifted outlook. Lately, I’ve been trying to keep those days as dominant as possible, allowing myself to go through the daily processes of pain management while still maintaining as much of the positivity as I can.

Sometimes that can look like going for an hour surf with no muscle spasms, but sometimes it looks like a forced ten minute walk. It’s always a balancing act.

But I wanted to shed some light on the trials of chronic pain, and perhaps shed some light on the incredibly vulnerable parts of who my circumstances have pushed me to become.

I am still in the midst of this puzzle, my body still in a very different way than it was before the accident. But instead of always allowing this part of my life to consume me, I am striving to work with it; reminding myself to check in with what I need in the moment instead of where I want to be. I am lucky enough to have support systems in place and some truly influential people in my life that have dragged me out of some pretty dark places. For this I’ll continue to be grateful.

I am not fixed, but I am also slowly trying to reassure myself that I am not broken, either.

Under the Guise of the ‘Chill Girl’

The following is inspired partly by an article I recently stumbled upon, but mostly rather by a massive period of self-discovery and introspection I was forced to face over the last couple months. This article put into words what I simply couldn’t over the summer, when I adopted a version of myself that was so focused on appeasing others, I started to resent the parts of my personality that make up who I am. I’d like to think that this response is almost my reemergence into trying not to give a fuck about the constructed ideas people have of me, and instead, actually speaking my truth again. 

-N

https://www.vogue.com/article/how-to-let-go-of-chill-girl-persona

 

Under the guise of the “chill girl”, I misplace the parts of me that want to scream and dance and speak truths. All of a sudden all eyes find me and every word that is uttered as I leave the room becomes an attack – at least in my mind. I am to walk with my head up high not because I feel true confidence but because it is a way to sew in another a piece of armour, a badge to show just how unbothered I wished to be towards the world around me.

But this mask was my demise.

The vulnerability that wanted to escape so badly banged and thrashed against the walls of my plastered on smile, authenticity slowly siphoned out and replaced by a rudimentary set of expectations dictating that I was not to reveal my disguise under any circumstances.

We say yes to the billboards on our foreheads that scream “This girl has it together, she’s everything you’ve ever wanted and she’s never been more nonchalant about it.”

We change our costumes from the baggy “I am infinitely unbothered” to the tight-fitting “I am the pinnacle of confidence” a few times a day, only to step out of our skin at night wondering why we feel so itchy.

“I never expected this from you, I always thought you were just a cool, chill girl”

Variations of this swing around my ears and I cringe knowing how many have put me on a shelf, smacked a sticker on my forehead and decided that this is what I’m worth. Every facet of my personality cowers in the corner and hangs their heads knowing that it will not be safe to come out.

I work to slowly revise the words written all over my skin. The words that have become tangled in messes pushing back in forth between the vulnerable and the safe.

I have been taught that safety only lies in hiding the real.

We are not on this earth to be your puzzles, your codices to unpack and solve. Why do you chase us and convince us that our worth only relies on our ability to keep you guessing? Why is it that so many of us stand convinced that our feelings are fundamentally undesirable, only to come out of the woodwork when given permission?

Death to the chill girl, I think to myself.

But how can something disappear when it doesn’t even exist in the first place?

Fuck your reading habits.

I’ve always been the preliminary girl

the intermittent girl

the escape girl.

The one kept on the back burner

the one used as a vessel for things that cannot be expressed

to the ones they actually attach themselves to

What is it about me that screams

Use me as the prologue to your love story

Use me as the magazine you read to pass the time

Use me as the dirty novel you hide under your pillow.

These pages are my own

Bound with a discipline

That could only be learned through sewing back in

The pages that have been carelessly ripped out

I am not your old, overdue library book

I am the riveting fiction you can’t put down

The true story that inspires you

The poetry that changes you

So do not place me in the depths of your nightstand

Only to open me as an escape from the reality you grow tired of

I am a work of art

Sprung solely from my own fingertips.

 

-fuck your reading habits

 

 

 

Self Affirmations

Your body is strong, dear girl

For not only do you carry the immense weiht of your own thoughts

But hold tight to the thoughts of other as well.

 

Not many will know what it’s like to feel the world the way you do, sweet girl

With soft eyes and a tender soul, resilient yet often victim such anguish

Not many will understand what it is like to feel with their whole existence all at once

 

From the depths of your belly to the hairs on the back of you neck

You feel

And you mustn’t fall for the tricks of those who cannot taste pain in the backs of their mouths

Or feel the sunshine course through every synapse and nerve

 

You must learn that those who are meant to stay will not look at your naked heart with fear or misunderstanding

But rather

Will sit down next to you

And ask if they can show you theirs too.