The first time I encountered pain that was enough to take my breath away was in my early twenties. It was shocking, really, as I had spent many years in the gym, competing in bodybuilding contests, running stairs, sprinting and swimming laps with energy that felt like it would never end. The pain in my knees and back put me in bed for days, and the depression was a darkness I don't wish on anyone.
For many years, my identity became that pain. "I have (fill in the blank) and can't do that." It was the "reason" I gave for not being able to go places, chase my dreams, live out my goals. It's easy to get to that place. The doctors say you have a condition, you read through the many symptoms, finally find out a reason for feeling like crap all the time and find some peace in your heart. That's when you can say, "That's me! I have that! Now I know why I have been feeling like this." And you slip into this identity struggle where now you're saying, "I AM my condition," and not, "I HAVE my condition."
When we identify ourselves with a condition and take on its identity rather than our own, a dark, dark place is waiting for us. We can feel trapped, isolated and even succumb to thinking death would be a better option than having to live out this thing any longer. I've been to all of those places. I remember a time when the inflammation, low-dose chemo treatments, pain patches, sleepless nights, walking with a cane (or a walker) were more than I could take. "Seriously, I can't live like this any longer. What the heck! This isn't even surviving, it's like being dead but still breathing," were my daily thoughts.
There was a time in my life that I even began to plan how I'd take myself "out" if God didn't release me from this horrific day-to-day existence. "Maybe I could just take the entire bottle of my medications and slip into oblivion," I would think to myself. "Sheesh, that probably wouldn't work. Knowing my luck I'd probably just end up barfing for days." I continued my internal war. " Or I could drive my car into a tree going really fast. That probably wouldn't work either." I drove a Yukon XL at the time and it had passed so many stupid crash tests I'd probably be fine, and in more pain after the fact.
Then I started to think even darker. "What if I jump off a bridge into oncoming traffic?" Nah. Knowing my life and story, God would probably just let me become the next paralyzed person who had no function from the neck down, but was still breathing and talking. I literally had these thoughts, in just one of the darkest times in my life, when there was no light at all.
I remember yelling at God, telling Him I was sick and tired of being sick and tired, and I was sick of being sick and in pain! The words He spoke to me changed my life forever.
"You're sick of surviving. It's time to learn to live."
Growing up with a life of trauma as a kid -- sexual molestation, a gang rape and other things no one should ever live through -- not only did I have excrutiating pain in my body, but my spirit lived in a shattered place for many many years as well. Experts say the two things are connected. In my own personal experience, I would say they are right. I'm happy to say that I went through a lot of counseling, therapy and work to get to where I am today. And while some of the diseases have been either overcome, or put into a life of remission never to be seen again, others are still a part of my dailiy battle. The chronic pain is still very much a part of my life.
The big difference now is I choose to live a life of joy, and not of surviving.
It's hard stepping out to overcome. Everyone has their vitamin, their remedy, their "thing" they need to try so that all of their pain will just go away. I'm convinced that most of these people have never lived excrutiating chronic pain that comes from discs that are buckling into your spinal cord, joints that are rubbing bone-on-bone with every step you take, or tumors on your spine and bones that don't allow cartilage to form. They mean well, I'm sure, but when you've tried every single diet, remedy and snake oil known to man, it gets wearying telling people your story. I'm grateful for amazing doctors, and specialists and my naturopathic doctor, who understands my conditions, uses alternative therapies, medications and processes that helped me get to where I am today. Integrative approaches to medicine have saved my life in many ways. Chronic pain also taught me everyone has an opinion, but YOUR opinion is the only one that really matters.
Most people who see me on my social-media profiles or videos would never guess that there is not a day that goes by that I don't have pain. While the chronic fatigue is no longer a daily struggle, the degeneration in my bones, connective tissue and muscles is still very present. But in my spirit, I'm singing and dancing to Happy with Pharrell and living a very different life, one of vibrancy and hope.
That's the key: living life. Choosing every day to overcome, not give in, fight back and take life on with everything we have. Chronic pain has taught me that while I might not be able to do things as fast as others, or are long as others, or in a way that other people do, I can make a difference and bring an impact that is life changing to one person, every single day. I can do nearly everything everyone else does, but in a very different way.
I've lived a wonderful life as a direct-response marketer, copywriter and even a social-media influencer (that means I influence a lot of people and change the way people think about specific topics). It's pretty incredible to think that the girl who used to cower on the floor of the bathroom begging God to die and let my children have a new Momma, now influences more than 2 million people every day to think differently, rise up powerfully and to change their perspective. Oh, I also teach others how to write killer Facebook Ads that convert, make more money in their small business and how to increase conversions. But the biggest thing I do everyday is show people you can bring your faith to work, and make a difference right where you spend most of your time every single day.
More than 100 million Americans suffer with chronic pain. Sadly, many will struggle and not have an opportunity to work or live out their dreams. But in the workplace, everyday, you could be sitting next to a powerful warrior who suffers silently and has chosen to be all that they can be. Chronic pain has taught me that even though someone might have wrists or knees that are inflammed and pulsating with pain, they could also have creativity and insights to strategic projects that are revolutionary.
Take for instance what I did with my $10 per day Facebook Ads system. No one had been teaching small business owners how to spend only $10 per day on Facebook Ads to reach highly targeted clients through the platform. All of the training programs out there, including those provided by Facebook itself, are designed for agencies, marketing firms and people with big ad spends. The useless methods that can't help a small business owner are packaged, shared and marketed every day. I stepped in and taught some basic direct-response marketing and copywriting strategies that small business owners could use everyday with strategies no one thought of (do very different things to get a better result when you're struggling) and affected more than 100,000 people. Chronic pain taught me how to do things differently, think about options, look for solutions that no one else is using. I had to come up with some of these creative solutions so that I could build the multi-million dollar company that I own.
Solutions like how to teach classes, consult clients, write ads, and still get enough rest so that my conditions don't kick me in the butt. Strategies that allowed me to still get enough sleep at night but be at the meetings and appointments that I had to make to advance my career. Habits that would allow me to write books, do videos, television and still, know when and how to pull back when I need to, to refresh, restore and be strong.
Chronic pain taught me that if we don't fight back, and come up with some new solutions, we'll become nothing more than a statistic. It's hard as hell to live with pain, but it's harder to just sit by and watch your life waste away. I went from wanting to die and thinking it was my only way out to working my way through hours and days and weeks and months of powerful counseling so I could be who I am, today. The real me. My real truth. A powerful businesswoman, wife, mother, and friend, who also has chronic pain. But the pain no longer defines me. I DEFINE ME. Options taught me how to get to that place.
Faith works at work. It took faith for me to fight back. I've had enough reasons that would justify quitting every single day. But I came up with solutions and options instead. Ironically, this has also made me extremely successful in my career, coming up with solutions and options when it looks like there aren't any. Faith at work. The will to live out what we believe. Chronic pain made me stronger. My faith gave me the power to walk it out.