About 11 years ago my daughter was a sophomore in high school. Like all children her age, she was horsing around with her friends and unsuspectingly suffered a lower back injury. It took a few months for the injury to make itself known but when it did, it changed her life forever. She was diagnosed with a lower spinal compression injury that was antagonized by sitting, standing, walking, and even laying down for any length of time. Eventually, we had no choice but to start homeschooling. It was difficult watching her in physical pain but also emotional pain as she was missing her friends and her last two years of high school.

Mackenzie, my daughter, was given an English assignment. She was asked to write a paper about what she was experiencing. She was 16 at the time. Never in a million years did I expect to read such an emotionally charged paper. I didn’t really understand it until the final paragraph. 

It’s been 10 years since she turned in that assignment and it was 10 years ago that I began my forever journey of chronic migraines. I quietly carried the pain, pushing through, pushing past, cramming the pain down, and continuing to work as an RN until 5 years ago when I had no choice but to retire early. Giving up not only a career but my way of life. I was crushed. Then one day I was cleaning out some paperwork and found Mackenzie’s English paper. It infuses my dark days with a dose of fight. A dose of hope as I challenge my own fear. It gives me a moment where I feel that I can take control over the pain and win even if only for a day. -R. Krebs

A Letter to Pain by Mackenzie C. Krebs 

I do everything to avoid seeing you. Being 16 makes it harder. If I were two or three, even five, it would all play out a little different. I could cry, stomp my feet, just not listen or pay attention and hide in the safety of the arms of my mother and you would be gone… maybe.

We have never been introduced yet I am way too familiar with you. I have watched you chase many people. People I love, people I don’t know or care about, I have seen you. You scare me, isn’t that enough for you? There are days that I feel I need to take out a restraining order against you. I cry in the darkness when I am alone, quietly, so that no one will hear me… especially you. It’s like you are in the walls waiting for me to get near enough so you can wrap your hands around my neck and choke the remaining life out of me. A horror movie in the making, one that has already been done but they didn’t cast you in the leading role, but it’s yours.

I thought that you worked the best in the night but it’s the daylight that you like best. You enjoy darting from building to building, in the shadows, blending with the walls and the furniture, your presence felt but you’re not seen. I look in the mirror and sometimes I swear that I see you looking at me, laughing.
What is it that you want from me? You tiptoe around, acting like you’re not here yet I know you are. Sometimes you act like my friend just so you can get closer, deeper, but I fight you off. You slither in when my eyes are shut and strike me hard when they open. You have no remorse. You don’t care about how you have changed my life. It’s all a big game except I have never wanted to play. You’re exhausting. I watch you rip apart the people I love the most. I won’t let you do that to me and I will do whatever it takes to protect them.

You have worn out your welcome? What am I saying? You were never welcome! I didn’t ask for you to come to my home, meet my family, get personal with me then try to kill me! That is your goal, isn’t it? There is so many ways to die and you know it. You know, all too well, that you can suck the life out of a body and leave only a shell. That’s death. My heart doesn’t have to stop beating, although you took your best shot at that, my eyes don’t need to roll to the back of my head, although the volume you use when you feel you need my attention makes my eyes ache, these things that show the drama of death don’t need to happen for me to feel like my life has ended.

You have robbed me of the time it takes to make solid friends as a sophomore in high school. You have forced me to learn more than I ever wanted to know about my body and my health in order to keep you out. I have to put putty at every opening that leads to my heart, my soul, and my very spirit. You don’t get these. They are mine and mine alone. I decide who shares them with me not you. Never you. You have stolen precious time from my family, my mother. When you can’t have me, you target her or my Oma. You have caused me to home school because of the turmoil and fear you have created. It is better for me to be at home to study and learn than it is to face you and fight with you. You have made me feel very tired. You make me jumpy when I should be calm, you make me angry when there is no reason. You have taken my pleasure from the simple things in life.

I could say that life isn’t fair but you have nothing to do with fairness. You are a pirate. You steel without regard; you steel for pleasure. No one knows you as I know you. You’re a snake, evil. You are what makes being in the dark frightening and lonely. Turns out I will always know you and you will know me but you will not own me. I will fight until I can no longer fight. I may cry but I will stop. I bay get knocked down but I will get back up. You do not own me, not anymore. I will get my freedom back one step at a time, one moment at a time, one day at a time. I will learn how to see you before you see me. I will send you away. You will not define me. You are one horror movie I will not pay to see.

My journey may not be easy but it won’t be traveled in your shadow. Look out, because I am coming. You have been labeled. You have a name…. pain.