Redefining My Relationship with Chronic Pain

“These mountains you are carrying, you were only supposed to climb.” Najwa Zebian

In fourth grade, my teacher assigned a quote every day, which I copied into my English notebook in cursive. Then I wrote a paragraph about the meaning behind the quote, using real world examples to illustrate my ideas. So here’s my quote for  today. And despite the fact that I got an A+ on my quote journal, I can’t think of anything to say about this quote. I’ve sat at my desk for 20 minutes trying to write about this quote, and I’m at a loss. Because I don’t really know what it means, but I know that this is exactly how chronic pain feels. It’s the suffocating weight of chronic pain, the grieving of how easy life used to be, the anxiety about future pain, and the isolation. So instead of writing a paragraph about this quote, I’m going to tell a story. And maybe the story illustrates the meaning of the quote, and maybe the quote is actually about climbing mountains and I missed the point:

8 months ago a new man walked into my life.  I was enjoying my independence as a single twenty-something, but I didn’t get a choice with this relationship. His name is Mr. Ice Pick. Since day one, he’s been sitting on my shoulder with his ice pick and stabbing my neck and head all day. He’s the last thing I think about before I fall asleep, and he wakes me up every morning. When I zone out in a conversation with a friend, it’s not because I’m not interested. It’s because I haven’t been giving Mr. Ice Pick the attention he wants. And let me tell you, Mr. Ice Pick is high maintenance. I like to exercise, Mr. Ice Pick is a firm believer in lying in bed all day. He gets angry when I sit too long; however he also hates it when I move around a lot. He’s never happy.

For a few months, Mr. Ice Pick consumed me. He controlled everything I did. It was exhausting to get through day after day with Mr. Ice Pick on my shoulder. And now I’m really sick of Mr. Ice Pick. He makes everything way too difficult. The things I used to find so enjoyable are now not. In order to cope with Mr. Ice Pick, I had to put my old self into a box and hide away. Because Mr. Pick made me not me anymore. I used to define myself by the things that I did: being a medical student, being active, and living life at full speed. But Mr. Ice Pick changed things, and I lost myself.

I decided to break up with Mr. Ice Pick. 8 months is way too long to stay in an awful relationship. All he ever did was take things from me. So I’m working on finding myself again, just me. And yes, Mr. Ice Pick is still there. He still sits on my shoulder all day. But I can choose to ignore him. This new me might not do the same things as the old me. I won’t be running a marathon anytime soon. I won’t be having a 10 hour study session tomorrow. I won’t be going to a loud concert next month. The list could go on and on forever about things that I can’t do, but that would be Mr. Ice Pick talking.

I’m still me. I’m resilient. I’m strong, and I’ve learned what true compassion is. I’m still searching to find myself, but I’m getting there. I’m not sure where’ll I’ll be 5 years from now. But when I close my eyes and envision my 29 year old self, I don’t see Mr. Ice Pick. I see myself, changing my corner of the world for the better. Maybe not as a doctor, but as me. I’m ready to lighten my burden and just keep climbing.





6 thoughts on “Redefining My Relationship with Chronic Pain

  1. As someone who is post concussive myself and suffers from light and sound sensitivity, daily headaches, and frequent migraines following a MVA almost a year ago, I have to say your outlook is so very healthy. It took so long for me to get where you are right now. To be accepting of my current place in life, to be gentle on myself, and give myself grace, and love myself for who I am and not demoralize myself for not being able to do what I could do before.

    It isn’t easy to live like this. Some days are so much better than others, while some seem impossible to get out of bed. Having a safety net around us to support us and remind us that we need to care for ourselves even when we don’t realize we aren’t is important. I wish you the very best in your recovery!


    1. I’m sorry to hear that you are going through the same thing, Kitty. And I totally agree with you, it is far from easy to live like this. It is very difficult sometimes to be patient with oneself, especially on the bad days. I have also found that support from family/friends is very important…because we need people like them to help us improve our outlook on the days when everything seems so bad. I wish the best to you in your recovery as well, I hope there are many more better days in your future!


  2. To ellenblogger123… As your cousin I’m so proud how far you’ve come! Remember you may go through things in life that suck but if you go through them it makes you a stronger person because of it!!! And it makes you wanna live a happier life! If you ever need to talk or vent or Anything I’m here!! Keep up the good work! 😀


    1. Hey Bert! Thanks so much!! I’m glad I have you in my life, you’ve been through so much yourself and you keep on working…you are a great example of overcoming so much! lots of love 🙂


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