An Open Letter To My Chronic Pain

An Open Letter To My Chronic Pain

By: Diana Smith
  594 reads

Content Warning: This content may be triggering or upsetting to some readers.  

Dear Chronic Pain,

Our relationship began during the summer before Grade 12.

I was too ashamed to describe to my family doctor the discomfort you were causing me, so I went to a youth clinic. 

Upon inspection, they assured me you would go away with some medicinal cream. 

You didn't go away. In fact, you got worse. So much worse, that I finally had to confess to my family doctor what you were doing to me. 

When I told her, my doctor didn’t respond in the way I thought she would. Her response was callous. Cold. She belittled me. She made me feel crazy for experiencing you. I took that as a blueprint for how I should expect telling anyone to react when I tell them about you. 

Dear Chronic Pain,

I tried to live with you, I really did. But not having a name for you, with the constant cacophony of your endless suffering on my mind, caused a dark cloud to grow over me. 

Because of you, I ended romances and cut off relationships. What you were making me experience mortified me, and I couldn't bear to describe to anyone, not even my closest friends, what you were doing to me. 

Because of you, I created a shell. A hard husk around me. To protect myself. 

I convinced myself that I would never be loved, and never experience intimacy, or even daily comfort for that matter. I convinced myself that every day before I died you would be there, holding me back. 

I remember when I tried to open up about you to someone I cared about — “So it’s all in your head?” Their response will forever be etched in my memory.

Dear Chronic Pain,

You put me in a strange limbo of sorts. I wanted to be dead but didn’t want to die. I never considered killing myself, nor did I ever consider how I would do it. I just thought about what it would be like to be dead and to not be suffering, and that brought me a morbid sense of comfort.


Dear Chronic Pain,

Trying to fight you off was hard. The people that were supposed to help me battle you, refused to take sides. They were failing me, and I was losing. I had no weapons to defend myself, only my sheer will to survive. You were winning.

Eventually, my doctor tossed me a shield and sword, and for the first time, I felt hope. 

Finally, we had a diagnosis: vulvodynia.

Initially, the low dosages of medication didn’t seem to do much. But ever so painstakingly, my dosages increased, and, so did my confidence that we were finding a cure. 

Dear Chronic Pain,

I remember the first time I realized I went through a whole day without thinking about you. I was getting ready for bed when I became suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that you were no longer at the forefront of my mind. 

I remember telling my doctor this. She didn’t really seem to care, but I did. 

Dear Chronic Pain,

You and I were all right for a while. You detached yourself from me and crept into the shadows. I began to accept your dull omnipresence, as a long-distance relationship of sorts. I almost forgot you were there, to be honest. Life was a celebration again. 

Dear Chronic Pain,

I thought I knew you in one form. One kind of misery, one set fate, but I was wrong. Right when I thought I was able to move on, you shape-shifted into a new monster: interstitial cystitis.

Suddenly my life was chaos again. New tears, new anxieties, new specialists, new medications. I felt like a burden: to my partner, to my friends, and to my family. You told me once more that I was unlovable, and I believed you. 

Dear Chronic Pain,

How dare you? 

How dare you insert yourself back into my life? Why must my body fail me, again? 

You made me feel alone again. You made me lose all the ground that I won with the first battle. Suddenly my shield and sword were worthless, and I was left with nothing.

Dear Chronic Pain,

You came in waves. Some days, I felt liberated from your menacing grip. Other days, you crippled me, chaining me to my bed. Some episodes lasted hours, while others lasted weeks. I never knew when you would strike, and I felt that you revelled in your unpredictability. The prospect of attending school or going to work suddenly became a game of Russian roulette, where you would always be the winner, and the barrel was always pointed towards me.

Dear Chronic Pain,

When I met my new doctor, I knew you were in trouble. He listened to me, believed me, and we devised a plan to try and take you down. It felt like a new dawn in my life: an era without belittlement or judgment.  

I was terrified to admit to myself that I felt hope again. I was terrified that it would be stripped from me again and that you would find a new way to hurt me. So I kept my guard up but pushed forward. 

Dear Chronic Pain,

You attacked the most vulnerable parts of me. You took everything I felt I had. And yet, I persevered. 

Slowly our battle turned into a dance. I started to watch you and study your movements. I began to predict your next move, and strike before you could. I discovered what you loved, and what you hated. My predictions grew more accurate, and my senses sharpened. I became an expert, able to detect the slightest shift in my body. As much as I resisted, you and I became one. I realized lighting you on fire was also setting myself aflame. 

Dear Chronic Pain,

I am still trying to unlearn the trauma that you gave me. I still feel guilt. I still feel like a burden at times. I’m constantly reworking the makeup of my mind to dispel all the lies that you told me. 

You will always be in my life — that I have come to accept. You have no foreseeable cure. But with time, you have faded, and I have learned to work with you. It scares me that I may never know true comfort and that I may never be in this body without you. But now I know I am not alone, and now I know that I will still experience life’s joys with you there. 

Dear Chronic Pain,

Thanks to you, my relationships have grown stronger. 

Thanks to you, I have learned to take charge of my health, both mental and physical. I’ve learned how to take charge of my life. 

Thanks to you, I have learned what true, unwavering love and support are. 

And lastly, thanks to you, I have grown stronger than I ever thought was possible. 

DianaDiana is a recent SFU graduate, completing her BA majoring in Communication, Art, and Technology. She is excited to find what the “real world” has to offer, and hopes to fulfill her goal of finding a path that utilizes her passion for media marketing, as well as her love for the arts. You can catch Diana with a bubble tea in one hand, laptop in the other, at almost any local cafe. 

Beyond the Article

Posted on August 06, 2020