I was doing a particular bang up job of returning the ball, and was quite pleased with myself. Then, I went to get the ball and something wrenched in my neck. It was so painful that I nearly passed out and the world tilted.
Naturally, being 16, I shook it off, and went back to practicing. I never went to the doctor.
But then, a few days after this happened, the headaches started.
That was 24 years ago.
And the headaches have never stopped.
At first, they were just a nuisance. I mean, everyone gets headaches, right? And they didn't slow me up too much. I was a teenager, after all. But when I went to college, they started interfering more with my life. So I decided to go to a chiropractor.
He took x-rays. "You have scar tissue in your neck," he said.
And then I realized: I had a whiplash injury from that volleyball practice.
That first chiropractor visit would be the first of many, many, MANY doctors' visits over the years. For the next 20 years, I would visit three different chiropractors, two different acupuncturists, approximately four different medical doctors, two massage therapists, one neurologist, one MRI, countless x-rays, and one physical therapist.
The diagnosis is usually the same: chronic tension headaches.
I've tried different medications, different stretches, different pillows. I've tried drinking lots of water, exercising, doing this, doing that, and hearing advice from lots and lots and LOTS of people.
My most recent foray has been to a spine and pain specialist. A few weeks ago, I got my first occipital nerve block on the right side of my neck. It hurt. And nevermind that I almost fainted afterwards.
But it didn't work.
My doctor wanted to try doing the left side. It hurt - again. But not as bad, and this time, I didn't faint.
It's been an hour since I had the procedure done and my spirits are sinking...because my head still hurts.
It doesn't look like this is going to work, either.
Still, I remain confident that I will find a way to find relief from this pain. I feel confident that we are on the right path, and are at least ruling out what the problem isn't - i.e. the occipital nerve.
To be honest, I don't know what it feels like not to have a headache anymore. That's rather sad. But y'know what? I'm not the only one that deals with chronic, daily pain. A person can either give in to this burden or rise above it.
I choose the latter.
Having constant pain isn't ideal, no, and I certainly hope that I can eventually find relief. But I've learned how to relate to other people who are in pain, to understand their struggles, and to hopefully be able to help.
I write blog posts like this because I want people who struggle to know that they're not alone and to remind them of this:
You are more than your pain.
I try very hard not to define myself by my struggles. Instead, I define myself in other ways; I am a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a granddaughter, a friend; I am a writer, a lover, a dreamer, a historian, an old soul. My identity is not shrouded in my pain. I am so much more than that.
And so are you.