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Finding My Cure

When I was little, I remember being laughed at for having a constant stuffy nose and sounding like a trumpet when I had to blow my nose - that’s how bad my allergies were. At recess, I would get strange headaches from the wind and I remember telling a dentist that my teeth felt loose when I woke up. Fast forward to age twenty-one, a chronic daily headache set in, which would not be correctly diagnosed for another twelve years. Sure, I have had plenty of trauma, perhaps more than most people, but such an issue (trauma and its effects) is hard to gauge. Especially the true use of the word trauma which not only includes death and sexual abuse but also prolonged stress from childhood lasting into adulthood.

Returning to my parents and living with them never felt like an option. My parents were divorced and living with new romantic partners. Growing up, my parents had a very lassez-faire style of parenting, and neither knew where I was most of the time or simply did not care. I am the youngest of a set of five children and my older siblings were not properly trained to care for me, so growing up in the various houses I inhabited mainly felt like a free-for-all and I made the observation that children are just as responsible as adults and the only one you can trust is yourself. When I say my parents did not care, I mainly mean that they had so many of their own problems from trying to make their marriage work for twenty-five years to then finally ending their marriage, which was against their Catholic faith. This shook my identity quite a bit as they went from acting like devout Catholics to strangers I did not know, all of which took place during my pre-teen and early teen years.

No, going back to my parents didn’t feel right in any way, shape, or form. Out of desperation and poor advice from a therapist, I attended an expensive rehabilitation center as an alternate option. This therapist was one I was pressured to see by an older sibling, so I thought I could trust it. However, the rehab center promised to provide private weekly therapy sessions and never did, and my mother was stuck with the bill even though it was my father who encouraged me to go and brought me there, typical parental stuff. All I wanted was for my chronic daily pain to go away and for a chance at life and independence. The awful and terrifying experience I had at the rehab scared me from considering getting drugs off of the street for pain relief, but I do not think that experience is what I needed to come to that realization. What I needed was to heal the pain and that so-called rehabilitation center was not going to get me there.

I already had a degree in Philosophy, Anthropology, and Spanish, but I graduated during the Great Recession, and I had no one in my life connected to the job world who could help me find work. I was overqualified and underqualified for almost every job out there, so I began to substitute teach and I found a huge demand for Spanish teachers, not only in Illinois but all over the country. I found that the money I was making helped me feel better, so I found a two-year online teaching licensure program that would allow me to do the bulk of my school work online - perfect for a substitute teacher, albeit expensive. I simply realized that freedom is worth everything to me and moving back in with my parents and their new families was just too daunting. I had to do it, I had to achieve independence somehow, chronic daily pain or not.

It was hard, but I did it. I had to earn my teaching licensure in Illinois, Arizona, and Colorado, which meant I had to pass two standardized tests per state. Illinois because that is where I was teaching at the time, Arizona because my licensure program was through Prescott College, and Colorado because that is where I was moving with my boyfriend at the time. Luckily, Colorado ended up taking some other test scores, but I was ready for them, anyway.

You may be thinking that my pain must not have been so bad to have done all that. Well, if my pain were not so bad, I think I would not have funneled myself into the system and become a teacher. I needed the system because I had no personal connections to help me out of the gutter, so yes, I needed the system. Plus, my academic career had been the best part of my life. Since I was neglected by my parents, I cherished my teachers more than most students and lived for their positive attention which was really easy for me to get, much easier than trying to get it from my parents.

Independence is what has helped my pain the most, so I fervently hoped that becoming gainfully employed would be the answer to my problems. Well, I moved several times and never found a place for me. Part of it was because I was a Spanish teacher, and Spanish departments are often less valued than the “core” classes. Luckily, my current partner understood the pain I was in and supported my decision to quit teaching and become a mental health counselor. After speaking with a disability lawyer who said headaches and migraines are essentially impossible to get disability for, I decided this was the only path for me. Helping others who have struggled as I have and just hope I can make a living at the same time.

It has been an incredibly difficult journey, but I am so happy to be able to start Sandy Days Counseling, a private practice offering long-term solutions to long-term chronic pain sufferers who, like myself, have tried everything without any real relief. Now, if you are like me, if you have said you have tried everything, then let’s talk! This is my hook, this is where I get to say, yes, I have had undiagnosed trigeminal neuralgia (TN) for over ten years, and no one has seen my pain because they just can't.

While you may not have TN or have never heard of it, so many chronic pain stories are the same and the secret lies in anger that needs to be discovered and held with deep compassion. This is what I want to help you learn to do. There are a thousand and one ways to numb out, but oftentimes those are maladaptive patterns to cope with a daily pain crisis. Trust me when I say, there is a better way.

What is the cure for chronic pain? For me it is talk therapy, Nichole Sachs’ journalspeak, NeurOptimal neurofeedback, and exercise. The best part about my cure is that it is absolutely medication free! Call today and together we can find your cure.

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