To get us started, our Spine-health forums moderator, Ron DiLauro, shares his story of living with chronic pain, and how it can impact people's mental health.
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In his own words
I believe that everyone who has suffered from chronic pain understands all the physical impacts it has on your daily life. Many times you feel robbed, as if a piece of you were taken away from you and you may never get it back.
You start to wonder about your self worth. You may ask, “what real value do I have anymore?" Personally, I’ve struggled with thinking that I can’t be a complete spouse or a complete parent, nor can I really contribute to what it takes to help family’s survive today.
My chronic pain
I’ve been dealing with chronic pain since I was 25 years old. I had just started a family and I was thinking that everything was down hill from that point on. I had a new house, two young children, an active lifestyle. I was living the dream!
Then the first spinal surgery occurred was I was 28.
It didn’t stop there. As a result of my injury, I required lumbar surgery every 4 years.
Then I required surgery on my cervical spine (neck). My last cervical surgery was in 2000. After that I had herniated 4 discs in my thoracic spine (upper back), but the overall decision was not to do any surgery.
Much of that resulted in advanced degenerative arthritis.
I had both of my shoulders totally replaced as well as both of my hips totally replaced.
Most recently, I had reconstructive surgery done on my Achilles tendon.
Emotional impact of chronic pain
I’d like to talk more about the emotional impacts chronic pain can have. Those are the aspects of chronic pain that are not as clear and obvious to people around you. Many of us carry feelings that we keep buried inside of us.
Was I robbed? Did I miss out on a good part of life? After all, my pain started aggressively when I was 25 and now that I am 65 I know that I will have to have my knees replaced soon.
At times I was depressed about all of this. What bothered me was that I felt I could not really contribute. My wife had to take on the burden of being the "man" in the house, climbing roofs, painting the house, etc.
I was fortunate enough to be able to continue to work. My company was understanding of all the "down" time that I had and I never had to worry about being laid off.
As a father, I wanted to do what every father wants to do with their children. I was somewhat limited. I couldn’t ski with them, I couldn’t sleigh ride with them, and I could go on and on about so many things I couldn’t do with them.On the outside, I took almost all of this in stride. But inside, it tore me apart. After all, I wasn’t a complete person, I wasn’t doing what I should be doing…
Many nights, I would stay awake, having gloomy feelings, feeling sorry for myself and crying.
But when day came and I was with people, I switched gears. How?
Positive outlook and support
I have always maintained a positive outlook on my situation. I always remind myself things could be so much worse. The times I have been at my rehab center, I have been with young children who know they will never walk or do much of anything again for the remainder of their lives. Yet, they remain positive!
I was so fortunate to have a supportive family. My wife was my caretaker from early on. I am sure it’s not a job she asked for. I realize now, that the role of a caretaker is much harder than that of the patient. But, I always knew she was by my side. She gave up so many things during our marriage. She was an active person, she loved to ride horses, snow ski, etc. But she knew I couldn’t do those things, so she gave them up for me.
See Depression Guide
Part of being a moderator on Spine-health is reading so many different stories shared by our site visitors. Some are so heart breaking and sad. I often wonder how some people get through it all.
I do know that it is almost impossible to do it alone. I don’t think anyone is strong enough to cope with all the physical and emotional aspects of having chronic pain. Turn to your loved ones for help. They are the ones who can pick you up when you are down. They are the ones that can make you feel important, no matter what your disabilities are.
Unfortunately, not everyone has a support system. But that doesn’t mean everything is hopeless. There is always help. You may have to reach out to get it. There are counselors, support groups, churches, the Spine-health forums, our Facebook pages, and more organizations that can give you the type of support you need.
At times, life can deal you a tough blow. How you deal with it makes all the difference. It’s so easy to get depressed and travel down that dark path. Once that happens, the downward spiral builds and builds and is very difficult to stop. Just remember, you are important and you are here because you mean something. Don’t throw that away.
Life is great, and it can even be greater when you want it to be.