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My Story: When I Realized I Had Chronic Pain

My Story Series by Bethany Widdicombe

artwork by Ania

When I first realized I had chronic pain, I was sitting in a university library trying to write an essay. My hands kept seizing up while typing, which increased the throbbing pain running through my fingers. With a wave of frustration, I tried to power through but my hands refused to respond.

I thought to myself, why is this happening to me? What did I do wrong? For me, chronic pain had not just become a normal part of my day, it became something I barely recognized as an issue...until my hand could no longer write one paragraph.

After some discussion with my family, I was sent to a series of specialists. Many who shrugged their shoulders at my suffering. At the time, there were seemingly no resources available like Flowly, that offered help for people like me to find a sense of calm when everything else felt out of control.

I suffered silently in my pain because I didn’t know anybody else who was going through the same thing. After seeing nearly every type of specialist possible, I was sent to an occupational therapist. In their care, I was put through a series of e-stim treatments that created a sharper pain in my system. With little progress to be shown for the treatment, the specialist settled for putting braces on my hands to see if that would help at all.

For several weeks my hands were in braces, which became the only physical notion to others that I had a chronic issue. I had to learn to adapt the way I used my hands, all the while trying not to ask for help for fear of looking like a damsel in distress. I wanted the independence of knowing I could do things on my own, but the stubbornness in not asking for help often resulted in further injury.

When I finally was able to remove the braces off my hands, it only made my muscles weaker. In the months to follow, my pain increased and consequently, so did my fatigue. It felt as if I was walking through dark sludge that wanted to pull me to the ground. When I felt I was alone on a path, I would let my body collapse. Somehow the cold earth felt better than trying to pretend I could stand with any ounce of strength.

The thing with chronic pain is that we often don’t want to admit there is an issue. We fear losing our independence. We fear going to the doctor and getting a shrug in return. We fear our friends and family won’t believe us. We fear we will lose our job if we say anything.

Chronic pain is misunderstood, under-researched, and poorly recognized by many well-meaning professionals. I’ve lived with it for nearly 9 years now, but I have chosen to find new avenues to manage chronic pain.

I wish I could tell my younger self that she would make it through and find others who had similar experiences with chronic illness. That there were resources waiting for her to find an answer. When my body would collapse, every nerve and muscle twitching with pain, I would think of all the ways I could live beyond pain.

From my first inclination of having chronic pain, it would be another 4 years before anyone caught why and how my pain manifested. I persevered to find an answer, and I know you can too.

You don’t have to be alone in this journey of chronic pain. You have a whole community behind you willing to support when it doesn’t feel like anyone is listening. Resources like Flowly, which has an in-app community, interactive experience to guide you through new ways of managing chronic illness, and even gifts you can earn, are continually being developed for us.

We’re in this together.


Featured Artwork by Ania

Ania is a disabled queer artist and activist. Ania's art circles around experiences of adversity and chronic illness as well as the concept of intersectional justice and the ideas of radical kindness and healing.



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