"If you can't fly, then run. If you can't run, then walk. If you can't walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward." -Martin Luther King Jr.

Everyone always tells you that pain is only temporary. You get hurt and someone says "it'll be better before you get married." But what if the pain is in fact, permanent? What if I won't be better before I get married?

That is exactly what life is like for people with chronic pain. Chronic pain comes in many different forms. It is most often associated with chronic, autoimmune, and even terminal illnesses. There are people that lose their jobs, children, homes, and other necessities due to their illness. There are people that are harassed, abused, and bullied due to their illness. There are people that are discriminated against by the healthcare system because they are seen as someone who is a "pill seeker" or an "attention seeker."

The problem is, it's hard for people who don't experience this to understand it.

I know this because I have seen both sides of the spectrum. I used to struggle to understand why they didn't just get better. I thought that if I saw someone that was ill have a few good days, that they were fine and their illness was gone. I assumed that people didn't need a wheelchair if they stood up out of it.

Now, I'm experiencing the other side of things. I wake up every day and struggle to sit up because of the crippling pain in my spine. I have difficulty standing and walking because the muscles and joints in my legs are so weak. I am constantly afraid of getting sick and getting infections, because antibiotics make me sick. I struggle to cook, write, and use my phone because the joints in my hands burn when I hold things. I am constantly anxious and worried over people thinking that I'm simply faking it all.

When I have good days, I feel guilty. I feel like I'm "not sick enough" to need help. I am constantly worried that it's all in my head, but then I see my joints swell. I see my hair fall out. I see the muscles in my legs twist and contract. I feel my joints ache and watch as my shoulder locks, my ankles twist, and my fingers contort. I see the rash spread across my cheeks and make me feel like a blushing monster.

The worst part of it all isn't the pain. The worst part is watching the ones you love distrust you. It's seeing the look of irritation an the sound of annoyance in their voice when you explain to them that you're in pain. It's knowing that people don't believe you, but trying to advocate for yourself anyway. It's the doctors that ignore the test results, and just tell you it's because you're fat or because you're stressed.

Everyone tells me that I'm too young to be in pain.

Everyone tells me that I would be cured if I drank more water and exercised. It is so difficult to be invalidated by everyone around you while still trying to make yourself better. They don't see all of the physical exercises I try to release tension in my back and gain muscle strength back. I track everything I put in my body. I go to class every day and bust my bottom end to get the grades that I have.

So yes, I am too young to be in pain.

Everyone is too young to be in pain. I don't care if you are 9, 99 or if you're anywhere outside or in between. Pain is evil. Chronic illness, mental illness, autoimmune illness, terminal illness, and anything else that can impair you in any way, sucks. .Everyone that is struggling deserves to feel protected and safe when discussing their illness or pain.

If you are struggling, please understand that your struggle is valid. There is no right or wrong way to be sick, and we need to encourage people to seek out the proper care routine for them. We can't continue to try to fit all sick people in our quaint narrative that we've been taught to believe for our entire lives.

There are ways to make a positive influence on people's lives when they are sick. I'm very lucky to have a large support system.

My Family- Thank you for believing me. Thank you for understanding that I really am in pain. Thank you for pushing me to continue with school and do well. I am so grateful to have my mom, stepmom, dad, siblings, and other family members that don't treat me any differently because I am struggling.

My Friends- Thank you for making me feel normal.Thank you for offering rides to appointments, visiting me in the hospital or my dorm when I can't go out, and always making me feel comfortable. I was worried to go to college because I was afraid I wouldn't have a support system. So to Bri, Jake, Carley, Stef, Tiara, Matt, Hanna, and everyone else that supports me, thank you.

My School- Thank you for staffing such caring and wonderful people. I feel so at home here, and I am not afraid to speak up for myself when I need something.

And finally, my wonderful boyfriend- Thank you for continuing to love me and take care of me no matter how grouchy I get. Thank you for all of the sleepless nights you endured with a smile on your face to make sure I was cared for. No matter what I need, you do your best to make sure I have it.

I am not "suffering" from chronic pain, I am thriving with chronic pain.