I HAD A CHOICE - for me to define my life or for me to allow chronic pain to define my life. I chose the former. I decided to use my back pain as something to learn from, and this gave me a renewed sense of purpose. Through education, meditation, journaling, I learned that it was not pain that caused fear and rejection of who I now was, it was me. I reclaimed my power and learned to love my body and my Self, dis-abilities and all.
My name is Deborah Rogers. I am an occupational therapist with experience in mental health, inpatient, outpatient, home care, and hospice. I also have personal experience with chronic back pain and neck pain for 20 years and going. Early in my career as an occupational therapist, I was diagnosed with a L5-S1 herniated disc. Three painful back surgeries and complications (right lower leg and foot paralysis, a fractured back, torn spinal cord, leaking spinal fluid, osteomyelitis, and another Staph. infection) led to being primarily bedridden for 2 years and debilitated for many more. Later diagnoses emerged of myofascial pain syndrome of my back and neck, celiac, fibromyalgia, small (nerve) fiber neuropathy, adhesive arachnoiditis of the dural tube (spinal nerves L3 and down are adhered inside to the spinal cord membrane by scar tissue), and blah, blah, blah.
Refusing to go to skilled nursing facility and to believe doctors’ dismal forecast of forever living in severe chronic pain, on pain medicine, unable to work, and unable to walk without a cane or walker, I embarked on my own healing journey for the next several years.
From decades of chronic pain and neck pain, I have learned that it’s okay to be vulnerable. From vulnerability comes inner strength. Loss and change give us the opportunity to begin anew. Instead of fearing pain, I learned to use pain as a tool for self discovery and self-empowerment. When we embrace self-compassion and throw away self-judgements of what we cannot do, we reclaim our life and our Self, and we are better able to manage pain. Then, a world of possibilities opens. This is the foundation for coming back from pain and creating the fine art of our life.
We Are Not Our Pain
It is common to feel helpless and hopeless when experiencing chronic pain. Instead of asking, “Why me?”, “Will it ever end?” Let’s ask together, “What can I learn from this?” and “How can I be my own best teacher?” From understanding and transforming how I coped with pain, I began recognizing my inner strength and abilities, and I learned to accept myself more fully than ever before, limitations and all. I re-connected with my true Self–that place deep within me (which is in all of us) where pain does not exist, only peace and unconditional love. This reconnection offered me respite within the chaos. It is here that I realized, despite feeling pain, I am not a victim of pain; I am separate from it and it does not scare me or define me.