Sometimes living a life with chronic pain can feel like you’re living life as a double agent. On the outside I look like a normal, healthy, and content woman that is ready to tackle any obstacle thrown my way. On the inside, however, I struggle daily with being tired, irritated, unconfident, and in pain. When you develop a lifelong illness when you’re in your teens, you pick up many things quickly. You learn to hide what you’re thinking, but mostly, you learn to hide what you’re feeling.
One thing that I have always tried my best to do, is not let my disability become my label. In fact, it took me several years before I would even admit that I was disabled. I have always done everything possible to hide the truth from onlookers and from what I can tell, I have done a pretty good job. The problem though, is sometimes I do such a good job hiding what is happening, even the people that know me best and understand my condition aren’t able to tell how I’m really feeling. One prime example of this happens with my friend group (we call ourselves the fab five). The fab five consists of five of us sisters that met after pledging our sorority and we instantly all connected. We enjoy everything your average college aged women would enjoy: eating way too much queso,staying up late talking, laughing uncontrollably, drinking margaritas, and going out on the weekends. These women became my rocks during my last two years of college but there is one thing that is difficult; they didn’t meet me at one of the low points of my life (one of those times when my pain was at its highest). The thing is that I know these women would support me through anything. They would be there if I had another batch of surgeries, they would be there if I hadn’t slept for days, and they would be there if I needed to just yell and cry about how unfair it is sometimes that I must live with the illness for the rest of my life. The problem is though, I don’t want them to ever see that side of me. Now of course they know that I have CRPS and yes they know that sometimes it limits what I can do, but even on the worst pain days, I never let them see how much it hurts.
Then there’s the ways I hide my pain from my family. I have a great family that has been exceptionally supportive and has faught for me every step of the way through my treatments but sometimes, that’s what makes it hard to let them know I’m in pain. I have seen the toll it has taken on my parents, knowing that they have a daughter that is in pain and there is nothing they can do to make it better. I have watched my mom (a nurse) cry over the fact that there is nothing she could do or give me that would help my pain. I have watched my dad (an electrical engineer) struggle with the fact that there is no invention and no amount of work that he can produce that will make it all go away. Sometimes, when you’re in pain everyday and there’s nothing you can do to fix it, it’s easiest to just hide your pain from your loved ones so at least you’re doing something to reduce the psychological pain they are suffering.
It is through all of this, the hiding of my real feelings, that I am forced to become a double agent. Most people think of double agents as traitors, but there is one thing I have learned since my diagnosis: double agents are not traitors. They are protectors and lovers because they are doing everything in their power to keep the bad and the ugly away from those they care about, even if it is at their own cost.