Why were you inspired to do this?
I was always a very proud over-achiever. The oldest of five, with a professional athlete as a father, I learned very early that exceeding expectations was not a “nice to have”, but a mandatory life plan. So, I tried hard, I went to good schools, I got good grades and a good job.
In May 2004, I went to the doctor because I had a weird twinge in my lower stomach. I was a college athlete, and at some point in my life, I had pulled or strained just about every part of me, so I knew pain. Still, this was a little different. That was a Friday. By Sunday, I was in the Emergency Room. By Tuesday, I was an in-patient and I couldn’t breathe through the pain.
This is January 2010, and I have not worked in the “real world” since July 2004.
I have spent over 6 weeks overnight in hospitals, seen 37 medical specialists, and have been poked and prodded more than most lab rats. Beginning in June 2004, I was put on oxycodone and later more “serious” medications to manage the pain (yes, there are, in fact, medications that are MORE intense than oxycodone). Without the medicine, I couldn’t sleep or think. With the medicine, I was sleeping 15 hours a day. At one point, I weighed 98 lbs, 30 lbs. shy of my sprinter’s frame.
The most terrifying aspect of this “sickness”, though, was not the physical changes, but what happened inside my head. With nothing concrete to fight and no timeline to “better”, I began to simply endure. Everything I understood about myself as strong and powerful began to disappear.
…And then something happened. I realized that I was “existing” merely as a noun, and not a verb. That, yes, I was in pain, and yes, it was hard, but laying there waiting for all the king’s horses and all the king’s men to come save me was just not a workable model. I realized that if I wanted to get better, if I wanted more out of my life, it was on me. I decided it was time, and I decided I needed to get help.
What were 3 things you did to make this happen?
Pushed until I found the right doctor - It took more than 35 specialists before the right one ordered the right test to figure out my pelvis was cracked.
“De-toxed” from the medication – with a whole lot of supervision from my primary care physician and the pain management center, we got me off all the medicine. It’s hard to fight anything when you can’t think.
Re-connected with my network of friends and family to get back into the working world.
How did you feel once you had accomplished this?
I have spent the last week waiting to hear back from a prospective job. I am strong and happy and present in my life. The strongest medicine I took today was Advil for the ankle I sprained scoring the winning goal in a soccer game on Thursday. The most powerful metric for how far I have come, however, is my attitude. I wake up in the morning and I can’t wait to see what is going to happen next. I am a person and not a patient. There is magic in the world again just waiting to be uncovered.
That’s not to say that there weren’t seemingly impossible moments over the past couple of years, and I still certainly get discouraged. But the time we are given to live and love and dream is so short. I lost five years to pain, and I refuse to cede anymore of myself or my life to insecurity. I am coming back to myself in inches. Though I may still be in the trenches at times, I have earned my place in this world, and the security that comes with knowing that is unspeakably reassuring.