I used to be a typical Aussie bloke—pain is just something you put up with, and mental health and feelings are taboo—but pain is a double-edged sword that attacks both physically and mentally. It's at best annoying and at worst life-destroying.
I first injured my neck in 1993 while caring for a child with cerebral palsy, but my symptoms didn't show up until 1997 when I started getting lots of neck and arm pain.
I had the usual tests—x-rays, CTs, MRIs—and a pain specialist tried several treatments without success. In the end I just took morphine to manage the pain.
After four years on morphine, I was sick of always feeling doped up, so I stopped taking it. I was one of those lucky people who hadn't formed a dependency.
From 2001 to 2009 I used nothing stronger then Panadeine Forte. I had to keep working but I stopped everything else, including my social life.
Then my mental health deteriorated because of my lack of social activity and with that, my pain increased, although at the time I didn't make that connection.
I was put on antidepressants and sent to a psychologist. I also restarted the process of seeing surgeons because I was convinced that my neck could be fixed.
Instead, I was referred to a specialist who changed my prescriptions and referred me to the pain management program at St Vincent's Hospital in Brisbane. My employer kindly offered to pay for me to attend.
I attended the course in November 2009 and while there, was diagnosed with a condition known as thoracic outlet syndrome and am now receiving treatment.
The course took me from feeling that I'd be better off dead, to having a future. I still have pain every day but I no longer let it dominate me. I have my life back.
I've now accepted that I'm going to have chronic pain for the rest of my life. The only thing that matters is how I manage that pain.
The support of my wife, my friends, family, employer and colleagues has been invaluable.