Five years ago I hadn’t even heard of chronic pain, let alone imagine I might have it.
My pain started in late 2006, with pain in my back and neck, every few days. By early 2007, the pain was constant.
I saw a chiropractor, an acupuncturist and my GP, and all had no idea why I was in pain. I also had various scans and tests over several years.
Although I didn’t let the pain stop me from living life, I found it incredibly emotionally and psychologically draining to not know what was wrong with me. It was also physically exhausting.
I would wake up in the middle of the night in pain and be overwhelmed with anxiety and fear about what this might mean for me. Would I be able to live a normal life? Would I be able to have and look after children?
I took lots of painkillers (mostly Panadeine), and I stopped exercising for fear of making the pain worse.
It was a sports medicine doctor who suggested a pain clinic at the Royal North Shore Hospital (RNSH). As the wait for the clinic was more than a year, I began seeing a pain specialist privately, as well as an osteopath.
For the first time in my life, I heard about chronic pain.
By the time I entered the ADAPT pain program at RNSH, in August 2011, I had accepted that I have chronic pain, but I still couldn’t manage to live happily with it.
ADAPT changed my life. I learnt how to feel the pain but not let it upset me. I learnt to have the confidence to tell my friends I can’t do certain things. I also learnt that exercise is good, and that medication is not the answer.
Today I still do things that could cause pain, but I’m selective. Since having pain, I’ve learnt to ski, I’ve backpacked through Europe, and I’ve bushwalked through Tasmania.
I hear the pain, but I say to it that I have other things to do today.