Saturday, September 1, 2018

Because I raised a real person...

The last few days, I've had a sort of epiphany - I've raised an actual human being, an adult. A child who has been confident enough to leave home and move to Washington state to go to school and be near his girlfriend. A child whose dream is to keep playing baseball, so he signed and committed to playing for a the best NAIA team in North Dakota at Mayville State University. He found a home for him and his friend to rent right near the school. He's taken care of everything related to the GI Bill so he can pay his rent and buy food (enough with the gas station hamburgers, kiddo.)

It's like someone hit me upside the head, and all of a sudden, the kid who Adam said is basically me, is an adult, paying bills and going to class. Before he left for Washington, we had been away from each other for maybe a few weeks for his entire life. (He went on vacation with Grandpa and Grammie.) He calls me every day, we text throughout the day, we FaceTime when he's not busy, but it's still not the same. I wake up from a nap in a panic, feeling like a horrible mother because I fell asleep, until I realize that it's just me here, alone.

My baby is a man. He has chin hair and looks like Shaggy from Scooby Doo. He won't get a haircut because he says he's growing it out and then getting a mullet when he comes home for Christmas. I can't make him get in the car and take him to get his hair cut any more. I can't be hungry and say, "Let's go get something to eat, because you know I'm not cooking, and you're driving." Going through my first deployment without him here is hard. He's the one who makes me laugh constantly, like the time we were in Target in Savannah and he said, "Look, there's a cat down that aisle!" so I turned back around and looked. He was messing with me, which he learned from his father. One time we were at Wal-Mart, and he took a filter for a Brita and put it in the cart, nonchalantly, and said, "I need this for school." I kept walking until it registered in my brain that he was totally messing with me yet again. He may be like me, but he's also just like Adam. They love to  mess with me, and I love it.

We may not have the usual mother/son relationship - we shove each other around and tell on each other to Adam. We team up on Adam when he texts us on his Iphone 4 1/2 and each word is on a different line because his phone is so small he can't text in one sentence. We have the type of family I always wanted to have. The last 19 years have been the best of my life, raising my chubby baby into a toddler, to a kid who went to school, moved, graduated, and is in college.

Some days I feel lost. My greatest dream growing up was to be a mother and wife. I achieved it. Now Addison is off at college and Adam is deployed. I'm basically a dog mom who works from home and sits outside at night in the warm Texas night, reminiscing about the great times we had as a family, and the more to come. Some day I will be a grandmother (I hope Addison knows what he's in for if he actually leaves his kids with me and Adam).

I want the best for my only child, my son. I want him to be happy, I want him to earn a living wage and be comfortable and love his job, I want him to know that true love exists regardless of distance and time, I want him to know there's a God who loves him. I want him to put his toes in the ocean and feel the way I feel when I'm at the beach - the world is yours for the taking, Boy. Work hard, be honest, don't take any shit from anyone, and above everything, always be yourself, because you're one hell of a kid. I am proud to say I was part of raising you, because I'm proud of you every day.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Because That Day Finally Came...

The day finally came. Almost four months into the deployment, and I started ugly crying when I got into my truck in the grocery store parking lot. Maybe because I feel like shit because Texas has some mad-ass ragweed. Maybe because I missed a party with friends and a meeting with my fellow 3CR ladies because of my stupid body failing me again and again. Today was the day I lost my shit, and cried.

What the hell, Erin, do you go through life as a robot who doesn't cry? Sometimes. When and if I do cry, I get a little teary, then wipe my eyes and continue on, because I have to. I'm like anyone else - I work, I have a child, a husband, a home, dogs, responsibilities. It just happens that after 22 years of living the military life, I've hardened, because I had to. I make no apologies, ever, for how I feel. You cannot ever tell someone else how they should feel - to me that is the cruelest thing you can do. But you should be used to it, Erin, But doesn't it get easier with every deployment, but, but, but...the list can go on forever.

I can go days, weeks even, and feel good mentally. Of course the antidepressants help, but they don't suppress feelings, which I DO have. My husband is in a hostile country, and has been for each and every deployment. Don't tell me how I should feel as he's on his 16th combat deployment since 2001. Don't tell my husband I must be 'losing it' because I'm not used to a longer deployment.

Imprinted into my heart and soul are the wrenching sobs of the father I sat next to at his son's memorial ceremony. I will never get it out of my heart knowing that a wife was now a widow before she knew, or that a father lost another son before he knew. Military spouses are the strongest people I know, because we keep these things in our heart, and don't talk about them, until we need to. Some things haunt us, and knowing that on that day, someone's life would be changed forever, changes you. You feel guilty that your husband is okay. We volunteer to help the families in our units, because we care.

We all go through life as military spouses in so many different ways. This is my way. I fall apart one day and the next day I put the pieces back together. I have to, because that's my way. These are my feelings, and I'll always stand by them, because feelings don't lie. I'll wake tomorrow and remember two heroes, Jason Dahlke and Eric Hario. I'll think of their families that I know and love like family, and drink a beer with hundreds virtually for Jason.

I started writing this as a way to get my feelings out, because writing is how I do it. I let my brain work and my fingers type. Maybe I said too much, maybe I didn't say enough.

I'll be fine. I had my cry, I got it all out. My allergies will go away. My son will come home to visit at Christmas. I'll do what I have to do to get through every day, I'll be watching crappy Lifetime movies or reading a good book, because it's what I do.

"This life isn't fair
It's gonna get dark, it's gonna get cold
You've got to be tough, but that ain't enough
It's all about soul."

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Because this is my real life...

     A friend recently told me that I should write about what my life is like, what living with chronic pain is really like. That was a few days ago, and since that time, I've thought about it a lot. Are my friends sick of hearing about my pain? I know my best friends and family who care, because they ask. 
     Initially I resisted, because unfortunately, my health rules my life. I get angry, I get restless, I get frustrated, I get inspired, I get motivated, I feel a lot of things every single day.
     Three and a half years ago I was a normal, healthy 39-year-old woman. I've lived with depression for many, many years, and that was the extent of my health problems. Depression, in of itself, can be hell. Then one day it all changed. Suddenly I had spasms in every single place possible in my body, and I couldn't move because my lower back hurt so bad. I went to the doctor who gave me hydrocodone, muscle relaxers, and sent me to physical therapy. I had an x-ray finally ordered, and it said I had arthritis. That's all they told me. I asked for an MRI. That showed degenerative disc disease. Basically, the spongy discs between the vertebrae in my spine were losing their sponginess, and degenerating. I had a tear in one, bone spurs on my vertebrae, etc.
     I started seeing an orthopedic doctor. Fast forward two year and I'm still on hydrocodone, and many injections into my lower back later, I am not feeling any better. I find out that I have disc problems in my entire spine. Um, okay, but I'm young. It doesn't matter how old you are, what race you are, it can happen to anyone. Basically, in the years I was being seen in Savannah, nothing changed.
     Fast forward to 2015 - we live in Washington state, and I'm extremely lucky to be able to see who I'm told is the best doctor around, even though I'm not an active duty servicemember. The first appointment with him, I left crying in relief. He looked at all of my records and told me, "Basically, your back is pissed." He knew exactly what was wrong with me and how he could help me.
     So far, since 2013, I've had my lumbar facet joints fried twice, my right sacroiliac joint nerves fried three times, and my left sacroiliac joint nerves fried once, and have an appointment to have it done again in March.
     I know it can be boring reading this, so I'll get to the point.
     My quality of life has plummeted faster than I ever thought possible. Folding laundry is next to impossible. Sounds like a dream to most people, right? It's embarrassing to me, and still is, to have Adam gone for months, and to come home to still find his laundry in the bottom of the hamper. I have a really bad disc right in the middle of my back that Addison has to crack every night so I can move that part of my back again.
     I'm in constant pain. The medications may take the edge off, but the pain is always there. Whatever store I go to, I have to get a cart so I can lean on it while shopping. I order anything online I can, because I find that I can do one big thing a day, whether it be going to the library or some very light grocery shopping. 
     I can never make solid plans with anyone. I never know what my pain level will be on that day. I've had to back out of plans, social events I was really looking forward to, because of pain. It makes me want to cry every time Adam asks me if I want to go out to dinner. By that time of day, the pain has increased, and I feel like the world's worst wife, because I can't imagine how I can get dressed, sit in the car, and spend time sitting in a restaurant with the pain I have. 
     My dogs are fat. I tried, once, to take them for a walk. I spent the next week on the couch. I once had a friend say to me, "I wish I could spend all day on the couch." I know they didn't understand, but that cut me like a knife. I don't WANT to spend my life on the couch. I want to be able to cook dinner for my family, I want to make plans with friends, I want to be able to go grocery shopping without having to spend the rest of the day on the couch. 
     I don't talk to a lot of people about this, like I said. I don't want sympathy, but I want to educate people about chronic pain and what it's like to live with it. It's robbed me of a huge part of my former life, a life I miss every single day. 
     I can't lift anything heavy, for fear of slipping a disc and ending up in the ER. I have to rely on others for so much, and I've always been strong physically and independent, able to do everything on my own. I could lift the bags of dog food, use a ladder without fear of falling off, and so many other things I go to do before Adam or Addison tell me, "Don't do that!" 
     It's been 12 days since I had the nerves burnt in my right SI joint. Today is the first day I'm not still in excruciating pain. It makes me want to do things, fold laundry, vacuum, everything I have to usually plan out every single day so I don't do too much. But I've learned - the more I do, the longer it takes to recover. I've finally learned that I have to make myself sit down and rest, otherwise the pain just gets worse. 
     I still have spasms, in places you'd never even know you could have them, and in every muscle in my body, every single day, despite the medication I'm given for them. No one can answer why I have these spasms. 
     This is my life. This is going to be my life until the day I die. I won't "get better." It's basically maintaining where I'm at now, which means getting my nerves fried in my spine and sacroiliac joints, every six months, because even though they should not grow back that fast, my body likes to do it's own thing. 
     Thank you to all my friends and family who check on me, who ask me how I'm feeling, who bring me tokens of friendship on days they know I'm having procedures done and will be out of commission for awhile. Thank you for listening to me vent, to listen to me cry, and for the advice and compassion. 
     This isn't how I pictured my 40's going, or the rest of my life. It is what it is, and some days I get down, depressed and frustrated. Most days I try not to think about it, even as I am taking up to 30 pills a day just to try to control the pain, the depression, and of course a multivitamin, because I'm getting old. 
     Invisible illnesses are rough, regardless of what type it is. We look fine on the outside, but on the inside, our bodies are constantly going against us. It's hard to explain what it feels like, both physically and emotionally. 
     I'm always more than open to talk about my health. Much like I am open about my depression, I am open about my chronic pain and how much it has changed my life. I want to educate people about invisible illnesses. Ask me questions, and I will answer. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Because I have so many feelings...

     When I have a lot of feelings running through my brain and coursing through my veins, I take out the laptop and start typing. Some people get their feelings out by talking with friends, crying, eating, drinking and such, but I take to my blog when I need a release and get my feelings out through words.
     I've been through every emotion possible in the last week, but most of all, I've felt reminiscent. I'm not one of those people who ruminates on Facebook with, "Where does the time go?" because I've seen the time go by, from June 18, 1999, to November 17, 2016. I birthed a baby boy and now I have a man child seven months away from turning 18 and graduating from high school, and most likely going to college. We don't know where the Army will be sending us after we are done with our time here in Washington, and I'm scared I could possibly be far away from Addison. I know, Erin, cut the cord, but hear me out.
     Adam started deploying overseas when Addison was two years old. It was easy at that time, because he had no clue where Adam was. As the years passed and he got older, he realized dad was gone and would ask me, "When's dad coming home?" Luckily, "Soon" seemed to work. 
     Now he's 17 and when I look back at all the total years (around five of just deployment time), I find myself so incredibly thankful to have Addison with me these past 17 years, especially during deployments. He gave me a reason to get out of bed every day. He's kept me busy being a soccer, football, and baseball mom. He's kept me on my toes every single day, whether it was cutting his finger with scissors and needing stitches, or finding a flare gun in the garage and wondering what it was, went to the front yard with his friends, pulled the lever back, and it shot off down the road a good couple hundred yards toward the school. We all hightailed as fast as we ever ran back into the house.
     We've had our shares of ups and downs, like any mother and child. We've fought and we've laughed. We cried and we played in the rain together. We took trips to Florida and Massachusetts and Tennessee to see family to try and pass those long months Adam was away. We celebrated Christmases with friends, eating tacos and making crunk cups. I've put him to bed when we lost two Rangers, who gave the ultimate sacrifice, only to have him ask me not to take a bath because he was afraid I was going to drown, because at the age of 10 he understood what was going on. I tried to shield him from as much reality as possible, but he's a smart kid who picks up on my own feelings all the time.
     We have a connection, an unbreakable bond from going through so much together while Adam was deployed. My best friend and I left the house with our first dog, and when we came back without her, I had to try my best to explain to a young Addison that she wasn't coming home again, because she went to heaven. He saw me cry when my uncles died, when my grandparents died. I tried not to cry in front of him, and that was wrong of me. I wish I could go back and show him it's okay to show your feelings and cry when you miss your dad, when you need to get your emotions out. 
     This weekend Addison will travel to my home state of Massachusetts for a college visit and to meet with the baseball coach. He'll spend time with my brother-in-law (who is also one of my best friends, and has helped me more than I can ever thank him for during deployments and through life in general), my mother-in-law, (who I've given reason to dislike me, but forgives and still calls me "Little Girl," which I absolutely love, and loves me like a daughter, and I love her like a mother), and my brother and his fiance, who I miss immensely, and finally my dad and stepmom (I would sell all of Adam's fishing rods to be able to sit with my dad and some IPA's and watch golf or the Patriots with, and sit and talk with my stepmom, who I took for granted growing up, but I've grown up and love her because she's always shown me nothing but love). 
     I don't know what it will be like when Addison leaves the house. I don't know how I'm going to handle not getting up with him every day for school like I have since Pre-K. I don't know what it's going to be like to buy a bag of chips and it will still be there the next day, because he won't be here to eat the entire bag and I have no clue when I'm searching for it. I don't like the unknown. Adam and I don't know, and won't know for a couple more months, where the Army will send us next. I could be 30 minutes from Addison or thousands of miles, depending on where he ends up and we end up. I'm thankful for technology, although I have a feeling Addison might not answer the fifth time I FaceTime in one day.
     I've got to learn how to let go, not totally, but enough so that when he does leave, I can survive it. Addison has been my rock and he's been my thorn, he's been my son and he's been my friend. We've always been together. Adam commented awhile back, "You and Addison are the same person." I said no way, he's so much like you too! It could be the time we've spent together, or it could be the genes, or a combination of both. I can see it though, we both have no sense of fear or shame. Not sure if that's a good or bad thing. Let's go with good. I see a spider, I smack it with my hand. Addison has done many things growing up that he tells me about now (rope swings, riding small Barbie Jeeps down steep hills) and it doesn't surprise me. 
     Addison, this is for you. When I was pregnant with you, I couldn't sleep one night, so I went into your nursery, sat down in the recliner, and rubbed my belly while talking to you and crying. I promised you I would be the best mother I could be. I'd make mistakes, but I would learn from them. I told you I would protect you with every fiber of my being, I would die for you. I remember that night like it was yesterday. Now you're a senior in high school, applying to colleges. It hurts my heart to know you'll fly from the nest soon, but I hope you soar, and stay true to who you are and what you believe in. Keep your mind open, your heart open, and always keep that sense of humor, you are so funny it makes me proud when you make me and others laugh. The world could use more humor, and you are the perfect person to provide it. Be true to yourself. You are a strong kid, mentally, physically, and emotionally. I have the utmost faith that you will go out into the world and make it a better place. You're a military child - you are resilient. I will always feel bad that you grew up away from our family, and didn't get to spend weekends with your grandparents or sleepovers with your cousins. But, you have grown up with a sense of pride, pride in your father for serving his country, pride in our country itself, and pride in knowing exactly who you are and have been your whole life. Your incredible sense of self and self-esteem has always astounded me. You make me a better person, and everyone around you. 
     You've made it easy for me to be a mother, so thank you. I love you more than I can ever put into words, into a hug, into a kiss on the cheek when I grab you and am able to plant a big one on you (when you're sitting, of course, since you're eight inches taller than me). 
     I will always be here for you. You may leave, but I'm always here. You will always be baby. Love you forever.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Because this is for you, Adam

     Most days go by, and for me, it's a lot of the same thing. Baseball games, meetings and functions for 2nd Ranger Battalion, and trying to find the energy to clean something. Last night, while surrounded by my fellow Ranger wives saying their tearful good-byes, I realized how lucky I really have been as a military spouse.
     Sometime last year I read a comment on a post about the 75th Ranger Regiment - it was along the lines of, "It's easier to get into the Regiment than it is to stay in the Regiment." This gave me pause, as I thought about Adam's then 19 years in the Regiment. On April 4 of this year, he has been within the Regiment, at all three battalions, for 20 years - 20 straight years. 
     If you know me, I don't like statistics, or if I see one, I like to think I'm not one. In two short months we will celebrate 20 years of marriage. Statistically, Adam and I should not have made it this long in marriage. We are both children of divorce, and in our early days when he was a private and I was working a minimum-wage job ($5.50 an hour - it was a long time ago, okay?), we would scrape together our change to go buy the Sunday paper. We ate a lot of pasta and cereal.
     When I pause and think about Adam being within the same unit for now 20+ years, my heart swells with pride. Not just any unit, but the elite Infantry unit of the Army, a special operations unit. While I have been with him since before he left for basic training, and arrived at Fort Benning on his very first day at 3rd Ranger Battalion to live together as an engaged couple, I've seen him change from a timid private first class to a congenial, self-confident command sergeant major. I don't say this to brag, I say this because I realize what an accomplishment this would be for anyone, but this is about Adam.
     He was among the first boots on the ground in Afghanistan on Oct. 19, 2001, when he and other Rangers jumped from a perfectly good plane onto an airfield. It was shown on CNN and I nearly lost my shit seeing it and wondering, "Is one of those men Adam?" To be honest, I don't know a lot of what he has done in his 14 deployments. I don't want to know, because the war isn't over, and he's gone back again and again. I can't imagine the things he's seen, the experiences he's had, the strength he's had to garner to keep it in when his fellow Rangers gave the ultimate sacrifice for all of us. 
     I don't know a whole lot about his job, because we choose to not make it the focus of our life or family, even though that is sometimes the toughest part of his job. When he comes home, he's Adam, he has no rank and he is himself. I told him years ago, the day you retire, we are getting a couple kegs of beer, and we are going to sit down and he's going to tell me everything he's done while being a Ranger, both stateside and overseas. That way, I don't have to worry any more.
     I'm having a hard time putting into words the emotions I feel, which is rare for me when I sit down and write. Adam is everything I could have ever hoped for in a husband - affectionate, caring, compassionate, funny as hell, and so handsome I get compliments from friends who know I won't kick their ass when they tell me how attractive he is. It doesn't bother me, because the boy who I met with the Sun-In orange surfer hair parted down the middle has grown into a rugged Silver Fox. We don't have fights or if we disagree, it's rare. We've seen so many marriages fall apart, we've spent so much time not together, that when we are together, we cherish every second, and we are usually laughing. If you've ever been able to spend any time around Adam when he's not in uniform, you know just how funny he is, and even in uniform, I know he loves to keep his sense of humor going. 
     Adam, I appreciate you more than you'll ever know. I am not a vocal person with my feelings, as you know, but please know that every day when you are at work, whether here or overseas, I am thinking about you, about all the sacrifice you have made for our family and for our country. As most military spouses know, there will be birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays when your spouse will not be around. I can't tell you to not feel guilt over this, but I can tell you that you are always on our minds at these times. We've learned to adapt, whether we celebrate Christmas in November or January, your birthday three months later, etc. I know it pains you to have missed baseball and football games, and other parts of Addison's life. I have your back, always. I will take pictures and video and send them to you. We will Skype on Christmas morning while he opens his presents. 
     I may call myself a badass (or, technically, the weapon, weapon magazine, and socks that somehow have declared me a badass), but you are the true badass. You've given your heart and soul to your job and the 75th Ranger Regiment, but you also have given Addison and I a part of that heart and soul, which we grasp tightly and keep close to our own hearts. Your endless energy and motivation remind me of how much you love your job, and I love that you love it. You're good at what you do, but that's no secret. 
     You inspire me daily, even on my worst days. When I'm in pain and feel like giving up, you remind me I'm strong. You go grocery shopping, clean the house, and do whatever needs to be done around the house, even after leaving for work before the sun comes up and coming home when it's dark out. 
     I can never tell you how much I love you, because you are embedded so deep inside my heart, I know you are my true love, my everlasting love. It's been rough at times, being married to a Ranger, I won't lie. Eventually, you will leave the Regiment. I can't say I'm not ready, but I'm also not ready to leave the best unit we've been a part of for 20 years. Thank you for being THE badass. I love you, always and forever.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Because I'm done with the guilt

It’s been three years now that I’ve been living with chronic pain and invisible illnesses. It’s taken me the entire three years to come to terms that my life will never be the same, and it’s something I still struggle with every day. What bothers me most, what is usually on my mind, is the guilt I feel.

We are a military family who recently moved from the South to the Pacific Northwest. We’ve lived here 10 months now, and we have not been able to see any local sights, visit Seattle for the day, or do any of the things I see my friends here doing, because of me. I’d love to spend the day in Seattle, playing tourist, but I know I can’t physically do it. I would use half my spoons just getting out of bed, getting dressed, and for the car ride. I see friends going on hikes in the beautiful scenery here, and I feel guilty I can’t say one Saturday morning to my husband and son, “Let’s go for a hike!”

What makes me feel the most guilty is what I feel I am missing out on with my family. My son plays high school baseball, and there are some away games I have to miss because I can’t drive or even ride in the car that long without knowing I will be in a lot of pain and also paying for it the next day. I feel guilty that my husband, who works 12+ hours most days, has to come home and cook supper, and do the dishes, and in general, clean the house. When he asks me if I want to go out to eat on a Friday night, I want to say yes so very badly, but by that time of the day, I’m lucky to have one spoon left to use, if I can even get off the couch. I can see the disappointment in his eyes, but being the man he is, doesn’t express it to me so as to not make me feel bad about not being able to go out.

I feel guilty when I have to cancel plans with friends. I’ve learned to try to not make plans, but as a volunteer, there are certain things I have to attend, and I enjoy it. There are meetings and functions I sometimes have to miss because of pain or exhaustion. I want to be there for all of my fellow military wives and their husbands at promotions, ceremonies, etc., but sometimes it’s just not possible.

Will I ever be able to rid myself of this guilt? I don’t know. I want to be a super mom and wife, a good friend, a volunteer my fellow military wives can count on, and to be proud of what I’m able to do, instead of what I’m not able to do. Before my chronic pain, one day I decided that having a positive outlook on life was much easier than being negative all  the time, and it really did change my way of thinking, and made me happier in all facets of life. Maybe now is my time to let go of the guilt. No, not maybe. It IS the time to let it go.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Because it's painfully real ...

     This afternoon as I reached for my pills, I was angry. Like, want-to-punch-people angry. I thought back to a year ago, when I was looking forward to getting my own kayak, and spending time kayaking around the Savannah waters with Adam and Addison. I got to do that a few times, and then my life changed drastically.

     It wasn't one single incident. It was several, "Holy shit my back hurts" pain. I went to the doctor, I did physical therapy, then I finally got an X-ray and was told, "You have arthritis and degenerative disc disease." Okay, I can live with that, it's manageable. Then one day last summer I couldn't take the pain anymore. My entire body was wracked with spasms, (and I mean my ENTIRE body), and the pain was too much even for me, a total badass, to endure. I went to my doctor and after blood tests to rule out certain things, finally had an MRI. Bulging discs, protruding discs, bony growths on my vertebrae, well ... yuck. I started seeing an orthopedic surgeon, who also ordered a cervical MRI since I was having numbness in my arms. Oh boy, a pinched nerve, and a bunch of disc problems.

     The other day I counted I've had 13 different needles in my back or neck since last summer. You know what they've done for me? Jack and shit. But yet I still am holding out hope that soon I may become the Erin I used to be.

     I've only counted a handful of times I've felt sorry for myself. I'm 39, not 79. On the outside, I look good. I may sometimes walk slowly, slightly bent for pain relief, but for the most part, you or anyone else would never know of the pain I feel daily. That's the thing with chronic pain - it's not always visible, so it may be tough for others to understand. It seemed like every day Adam would come home from work and say, "What's wrong?" Some days I just smiled and thought, "Bless his heart." Other days I probably snapped, because my chronic pain is every single day. Some days are better than others. I almost feel normal again. Other days I am on the couch, moaning in pain.

     The thing that bothers me the most about chronic pain isn't the pain itself. It's that I feel robbed of being the person I used to be. I used to get dressed like a normal person, put on make-up, and feel, well, normal. On a recent morning as I was getting ready for a doctor's appointment, I thought, well geez, here I am putting on make-up and good clothes, when I really should just show up looking like what I usually look like - comfortable and most likely not-matching clothes, no make-up, and depending on what sort of pain day I'm having, showered or non-showered. But I still have pride.

     Is my pain fixable? I don't know. I do know it seems like it will take forever. With every injection, I hold out hope that this will be the one that helps, that slowly turns me toward a pain-free life. So far, no luck, but I refuse to lose my positive attitude, because if I lose that, I give up, and I'm way too stubborn to ever give up. I have friends who also live with chronic pain, and like anything else in life, having that empathy and understanding of what that other person is going through is similar is entirely therapeutic. Thank you Jennifer F. and Sharon P., for always answering my questions and being there when I have had questions or just needed to talk.

     I will not give up hope that someday soon I will be back to the old Erin. The Erin who didn't have to buy bags of dog food from Amazon, because I am lifting those bags at the grocery store with no problem. The Erin that has to pick up Addison from school or sports and tell him, "I'm having a bad pain day, I really need your help." The Erin who doesn't have to plan her days around when she takes her pain pills and when she has to drive. The Erin who doesn't have to plan when I can leave the house because of that day's pain level. The Erin who doesn't even remember the words chronic pain.

     My hope is by writing this, if you know of someone in chronic pain, just be a bit kinder, a bit gentler, more understanding. Chronic pain may control our life, but it doesn't control us.