This is a guest post from Ashlee Doulliard, a young Jamaican woman who has been in pain since she was ten years old. Click here for her personal blog - http://chronicpainpartners.tumblr.com
“You Don’t Choose the Chronic Pain life,
The Chronic Pain Life Chooses You.”
August 13th, 2005 is forever etched on my mind. It was probably the most defining moment of my life. At about 8 a.m. that day, the stretcher rolled into my hospital room and I was whisked off into the operation room for my 7- hour Scoliosis Correctional Surgery.
Only two years before I had been diagnosed with scoliosis. At the age of 10, I entered high school with a back brace to correct my over 20⁰ spinal curvature. That method proved useless and after two years of withstanding a daily regimen of putting on an undershirt, the brace, a shirt over that, my school shirt then tunic over it all, surgery was deemed to be necessary.
Eight years post my surgery; I am now in my 3rd year of a BA programme in Architectural Studies. My love for design and the arts has been an on and off relationship mainly because of my relationship on the side with chronic pain. Ever since my surgery, I have lived with pain.
I am in pain.
I am always in pain.
I live with pain.
I work with pain.
I smile while in pain.
I cry because of the pain.
Spending your entire teenage years in pain is not the easiest of things. I had to sit out of physical education, miss parties and endure teasing. I was always self-conscious first of my back brace and then the scar from the surgery. It became harder to participate in hobbies such as the violin due to the playing position. In retrospect, I was unaware that pain had begun to control my life.
With chronic pain came chronic fatigue and with the added pressure of school and family life, anxiety and depression. I maintained a bubbly social personality but inside, I was sad, lost, confused, frustrated and pained.
I began to hate my situation and myself. Between family life, school and friends, everything was a problem. Luckily, my grades did not slip too badly and I not only came 2nd in the island [Jamaica] for Computer Science, but I also got accepted into both the University of the West Indies for Computer Science and the University of Technology, Jamaica for Architecture. I went with Architecture, my true passion, and I absolutely love it!
Sadly, the long and demanding hours had mental and physical repercussions and eventually changed me from a top student to barely passing. I had pushed my mind and body to breaking point due to a lack of holistic care. It was this quite literal crash and mental breakdown that commenced my search for healing and meaning. By then, I was going to about five different doctors - my GP, pain specialist, rheumatologist, psychologist, and psychiatrist - for each problem.
It was around this period that I truly started my holistic approach to the healing of mind and body. My new psychiatrist handled every issue as symptoms of a major problem and by doing that we reduced my medications and doctors. I started Kundalini Yoga with a friend’s mom who, as a reflexologist, had already been a healing agent on my road to recovery. I did an allergy test and removed the triggers from my life, significantly reducing daily pains. I was well aware of physical healing through the mind and I began adopting other techniques including daily meditation and affirmations, noting every small blessing and most importantly, saying YES! to healing.
I said ‘Yes’ to a gluten- free diet and ‘Yes’ to acupuncture. I have been reconciling with people around me and although I find it hard because of my fear of confrontation and rejection I try to say what is on my mind, nicely, and be less fearful of stepping on toes in the process. Instead of bottling emotions, I let them free. It is one of the most frustrating parts of trying to heal but I am willing to be whole again, no matter what it takes.
I wanted to share the knowledge and understandings I have gained over the years. I have stumbled and been given the short stick many times in life but I try to keep going. If we, as chronically ill persons, are able to accept the inevitability of our symptoms and adopt healthy strategies to deal with them, we will be stronger individuals. I find that the friends we keep, the activities we participate in, our outlook on life and the strategies used by those like Jacquie and others all help us to maintain a fairly normal life.