If I had one word to describe my life at the moment it would be the word pain. Not the pain of a broken heart, nor the pain of grief or fear, but physical pain.
It follows me like an unwanted companion overtaking my life as a college student, withholding my dreams of being a musician, and isolating me to a foreign land.
I played the violin for 12 years before my injury. However, due to over-practice and little rest, my body began to fall apart. Tendinitis was what the doctors called it, as I described the burning sensation in my wrist. Eight weeks of therapy helped the tendons heal, but worsened my symptoms in the nerves.
Over months the tingling and burning spread to my elbow, shoulder, and eventually both of my arms. Throughout the progression of pain I went to see many doctors, therapists, and sports medicine clinics but the rigorous demands of college life have kept me from healing.
Perhaps it was not the best decision to stay in school, but as my condition limited my ability to function normally, I refused to allow this injury to rob me of an education.
The results of my injury have been the biggest issue in my life for the past three years and have caused the majority of my stress throughout college.
My nerve inflammation and muscle weakness control my abilities immensely. I was forced to give up violin and with it the hopes of a career in music. It was like saying goodbye to a most beloved friend. I had to drop my music minor, which lost me a scholarship, and as I suffered through every semester, regretfully walking through the music building and shamefully avoiding my music professors, the pain never subsided. It was as if a part of me had died.
Only now am I able to admit that I am a victim of chronic pain. For even as I type these words my hands begin to hurt.
A life of chronic pain is a possible one. But the difficulty with muscular or nerve pain is that it is virtually invisible to everyone. No one notices the pins and needles that press into my hands as I type in the library. No one can see the muscles tightening as I sit through long class periods with the pain building at each passing minute. Tell them? How can I? What words can possibly describe my condition?
There came a point in my pain journey where I stopped telling people about my injury. When you tell people that you are in pain, they naturally want to help. But what help can they offer when not even your doctors know what to do? Once I stopped vocalizing my situation I was able to forget about it to some extent. Suddenly, other people’s needs became more important than my own, and I began to see that I was not the only one who battled pain.
What I’ve learned from my pain journey is first to acknowledge my condition. This involves admitting the reality and hardship of my situation. I've learned to live life in spite of my condition. As I pursue more therapy, despite the slow progress, I can still enjoy life. I have been robbed of the things I love most but through it all, I’ve come to notice the small things in life, the beautiful graces God grants us on a daily basis.
Pain is the result of a broken world, and with this realization comes a better understanding of suffering as a global issue. But maintaining stability comes by recognizing that we are not alone.
Coping has taken me three years. I had to let go of my dreams of a miraculous healing and realize the necessary time it will take to restore my health. But as I fight to stay strong, I have come to understand the importance of sharing my story.
The world needs to hear stories of a hope fortified by pushing through the troubled “now” and choosing to remain strong in light of a better tomorrow.