My story of chronic pain began when I was 20 years old. A new full time job was very demanding on my body and I was studying at University. As the year progressed, I realised the pain made it hard for me to walk. I wanted the strongest painkillers to numb the pain, yet the pain did not subside. Physiotherapy, hot and cold packs didn’t work either. I knew there was something wrong. It was then I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).
After being diagnosed with RA my work and university studies became too much for me. The pain and stiffness that comes with arthritis was overwhelming. I was coming home from work and university in a lot of pain and then missed university and/or work. If I did go to Uni or work I was in a lot of pain and frequently had to go home. As the years went on my work decreased from full time (5 days a week) to only a short day a week due to the pain I experienced. I could no longer sit or stand comfortably. It didn’t matter how much I spent on shoes or podiatry.
Nothing helped my aching legs or back at the end of the day. For entire half hour meal breaks I needed to put my legs up on a chair to rest and stop the ache.
It was also at this point I had to re-evaluate my ability to continue at University due to the chronic pain and stiffness of the arthritis. I knew I needed to either reduce the work load for the semester or make other arrangement. Unfortunately the arthritis and chronic pain left me with no choice. I took an early exit in both my undergraduate and master’s degrees.
I have not been unable to work due to the chronic pain for the last 3 years as it now has become much worse and invaded bigger joints and no medications or amount of physiotherapy help reduce the pain.
Every day is a struggle of pain. I have days where the pain isn’t so bad, but there are days where the pain makes me bed ridden. On those days I can’t even do simple tasks because even they cause the greatest pain.
At the moment, my whole body hurts. This means that trying to complete any university work is hard because all my brain can tell me is PAIN.
Notwithstanding ALL of this, I've managed to complete my undergraduate degree with complications and I'm currently trying to finish a master's degree in social work. The 1000hrs placement required to complete this degree means I am not able to complete the requirements for a master's degree. However, I'm currently thinking of undertaking another course that doesn't have placement requirements so that I can work.
I've always said and thought ... if I can't complete one thing, then there are always other opportunities until the timing is right to go back and try complete them. Yes it takes you longer but i think it provides you with better understanding, more empathy and more determination to achieve your goals.