As a child, I remember experiencing regular pain that would come on like stomach discomfort. Then, right afterward, my digestion would get really bad. These symptoms would usually be accompanied by a whole host of autoimmune issues, too. All of this would ultimately manifest as a week of feeling sick and uncomfortable.
When I was 12, I watched my mother get sober. In my family, there are a lot of individuals with substance use disorders, and it was a really impactful moment in my life to see someone navigate their mental health and become the person I always hoped they could be. Observing my mom’s journey was incredibly inspiring, and as a teenager, it propelled me on my own path exploring the mental health side of my physical symptoms.
Still, while I was discovering just about every mental health modality I could, my chronic pain symptoms continued to get worse and worse. Doctors gave me every test under the sun, but no one could provide answers. The lack of a diagnosis started to lead me down a dark spiral. I was so diligent about trying to alleviate my symptoms, and I was desperate for clarity about my experience.
At one point, I received a potential diagnosis of Crohn’s. I immersed myself in information about the disease, trying to learn everything I could, only to find out it was actually a misdiagnosis. I was crushed.
As the years went on, the pain progressed. It would come on like a stomachache, but then within 30 minutes, it would escalate to an overwhelming, all-consuming pain. I lived a 10-minute walk from the emergency room, and it got to the point where I would end up there three or four nights a week. I would show up writhing in pain, and they would just put me on a morphine drip for some relief. Fortunately, I had so much awareness around mental health and addiction—but I could understand how people with chronic pain became dependent on certain medications.
It was in these dark moments, whenever the pain would get really bad, I would begin to wonder if I wasn’t supposed to be here.