The consequences of ignoring pain

I began living and breathing gymnastics when I was about 11 years old (a late start for this sport) and competed for about 5 years. I’m proud of the fact that, after performing 8 different routines, I was once the state overall champion in my division, Class II. There’s a lot of things to love about the beautiful and powerful sport of gymnastics, but I don’t think the human body was made to take such punishment.

As an athlete, you are taught to ignore pain — not only does it get in the way of working out, it gets in the way of competing. The truth is, if you can’t learn to ignore pain, you can’t be a gymnast.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t suffer from head pain, which I thought was just a headache. I mean, everybody suffers from headaches — I learned to ignore them.  And because I learned my childhood lessons so well, I ignored the headaches for years…

I remember working as a secretary at Price Waterhouse in Newport Beach when the pain began spiraling out of control. I remember coming in to work every day and the first thing I did was head for the first aid cabinet and the acetaminophen/aspirin. I took some home with me too, so that every day, I popped my free OTC analgesics.  And then it got to the point where I couldn’t take the pain anymore…

From the beginning of the headaches up to this point, I had waited about 7 years before I sought help for the pain. Of course, seeking help was just the very first step on a long and expensive journey.

I know there are some people, doctors included, who think it’s a good idea to ignore pain. When you’re young, it’s a lot easier to do. But there comes a point in time when the pain takes over, and refuses to be ignored. And when you finally admit you have a problem, that you’re unable to manage the pain on your own, who do you turn to for help?

In this current climate of criminalizing drugs and pain patients, what can a doctor do for your pain that you can’t do for yourself? But first, you have to admit you need help with the pain… suffering in silence is still suffering…

And if there’s some point to suffering, I haven’t found it yet.

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