I’m Haley, I’m 22 years old, and I was diagnosed with chronic pain at age 14. I tore my ACL during soccer practice and had to have reconstructive surgery; I was supposed to walk out of there, but I spent then next two months on crutches. Even though there was nothing wrong with the new ligament, the pain continued and spread throughout the rest of my body. There were days when I couldn’t move, let alone walk, and I had sympathy pains in my other knee, my ankles, my hips, my back, my hands, my wrists. I had migraines and cluster headaches nearly every day for four years. It just took over my life.  

What helped the most was leaving home for college. As difficult as finishing high school was, college was so much easier because the stress was all-consuming. I had to be here. I had to be there. I was running the school’s lit mag, working multiple jobs, making straight-A’s, and ruling my own life. I didn’t have time for my hands to hurt, or my head, or my knee. I got better and better at shutting it all out. It never went away–I still have migraines, I have sciatica, carpal tunnel–but I also have a job to do and a drive to be better.  

Now that I’ve graduated college, I’m moving to Texas and will be applying to MFA programs in a year or two. In the meantime, I want to explore my new home, set up a painting studio in my garage, and work on my novel. I’m going to adopt an Australian Cattle Dog and plant a garden.  

My advice to other people suffering from chronic pain is that all this too shall pass. Don’t push past it, don’t push it away, don’t accept your pain; acknowledge it, call it a name, then move on. If you can’t go back to what you were doing before, do something else. If you need to take a break or the rest of the day off, that’s fine, too. But during that break, don’t focus on the pain that caused it, but the fact that you are now doing something you enjoy–watching a movie, eating a treat, taking a bath. 

I want other people to know that I’m in near constant pain and my pain is different all the time. Sometimes it’s a migraine, sometimes it’s muscle spasms, sometimes it’s sciatica. If I don’t talk about it, it’s not because it doesn’t affect me, but because I don’t want to talk about it. Just because it went away, does not mean that I was faking it before; I might just be faking being okay. Don’t tell me to push through because I know my limitations and I’m the one who has to live with the fallout, not you. I’m not in pain because I want to be; if you’re frustrated, think how I feel. My life is not yours, my pain is not yours, but you can keep your opinions to yourself. Thank you, no thank you.