Dear Pain…

I could start out this letter to you by just throwing a couple middle fingers in the air and saying “f*&k you.” I could do that, and on a superficial level, I probably would do that as a first step. In fact, for a long time that’s really all I wanted to say to you – and some days, it’s still all I want to say to you. But overall, there’s a lot more.

You have been something I’ve felt both physically and mentally, all my life. But not much more than the average person experiences you — I was sick a lot as a kid and adolescent, but everything else and all my other experiences with you were pretty normal.

No, it was really right after college when we met each other and became acquainted as adults. It was then that I learned so much about you, Pain. The breadth at which you could enter into my life and ooze yourself into every nook and cranny was impressive if I’m honest. Your all-encompassing persona was a little obnoxious and overbearing, don’t you think?

I’ll admit, it took me awhile to work through the stages of grief at your arrival. At first, no one, not even you, Pain, was going to tell me that things were changing, that my life would get flipped-turned upside down (90s’ kid shout out!). You think you’re going to waltz into my life at 23 and just flip tables and go nuts? I think not. That phase was a fun mindf*&k to transition into. Because quickly afterwards came grief and acceptance, but not without some hard work.

Being that ever so overwhelmingly self-aware person that I am, I pretty quickly realized a couple things about you, Pain, and about what our relationship was going to be like:

  1. You weren’t going aware. When they say chronic pain and chronic diseases, that pretty much means for life.
  2. You were going to impact my day to day life and dealings whether I liked it or not, so it was up to me to accept that.
  3. You were also going to throw my mental health into a spiral while we were at it.

The best thing I could have done for myself at that time was exactly what I did: throw myself into therapy and learn how to deal with these cards I was dealt. Pain, if you and I were going to live together and be in a committed relationship, some boundaries needed to be established, and some real talk acceptance needed to be learned.

Years of hard work landed me where I am today and how I feel about you now. Our relationship has grown, evolved, and ultimately settled into a comfortable companionship over the years. That’s not without discomfort; after all, we are talking about you, Pain. However, I think we have a mutual respect for each other now. And on the worst days? I can still credit you and think of you with an inkling of positivity.

You see, Pain — I’m actually eternally grateful for you. You’re a real piece of work, but you’re my work. The evolution of my early adulthood from an invincible college grad to a vulnerable, defenseless young professional and multiple chronic diseases fighter is something I look back on with awe, gratitude, and a hell of a lot of grace and respect. I have no doubt in my mind I would have turned out well without you, but I’m pretty damn grateful for what and who I turned into with you. In fact, it’s best said by the tattoo I got down my spine: Pain from today is Strength for tomorrow.

I applaud you, Pain, for your perseverance in my life. I’ve thrown the book at you with treatments and procedures and medications, and you allow yourself to be tampered down, to play second fiddle to the rest of my life. Nevertheless, you sneak yourself into my world just enough to keep me humble. One of my favorite qualities is my strength, my perspective on chronic illnesses. I owe a majority of that maturity and perspective to you, old friend.

So thank you for being what I needed in my life to transform me into the person I am today. Thank you for keeping me humble — just when I think I have you figured out, you knock me on my ass again just to stay relevant. Thank you for preparing me and giving me a perspective that helps me view the world with both grace and realism. And best of all, thank you for forcing me to take stock, to prioritize the right things in life, and to forever work towards balance.

I love you. I hate you. I respect you.


Chronically Kristin

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