Chronic Pain

By Grace Carter | Poolesville

I see past what’s on the outside.

Looking at me, you would see a healthy 17-year-old, but for the past decade, I’ve suffered from chronic pain. I’ve felt left out for most of my life, and I admit, I still sometimes feel sad when I see people doing the things I can’t. I’ve seen so many doctors that I don’t have enough appendages to count the number of times I’ve been asked: “What’s your pain level on a scale of 1 to 10?” And every time I’m asked, I still don’t know how to answer.

Everything I’ve been diagnosed with is incurable. It might go away with time, it might not. But as much as I would love for there to be a cure, part of me wouldn’t want to give it up. It’s all I’ve known, and I see the world differently because of it. I know that I can’t judge others based on how they appear. You don’t see my experiences, so why should I make assumptions about yours? It is a vital part of how I have developed.

I would be lying if I said that I don’t have biases and predispositions, I do. That’s a flaw of being human; you can’t escape it. But I try to overcome them as much as I can. I try to overcome them because I know that others have those same predispositions about me, I use it as an opportunity for growth.

I was 12 years old, going into seventh grade when I started a new private school. I was in a class of 25 students, and one of three new kids. The middle school building was two stories with a relatively large staircase and an elevator down the hall. Soon, I was going up and down the elevator when the stairs proved too much for me to handle. I was already in a compromised position being new, but not using the stairs solidified my place in the social hierarchy.

I was called lazy. I was called a liar. It was never to my face, but not having anybody to talk to makes you very good at eavesdropping. I had other lies spread about me, most of which I still don’t know, nor do I care to learn. I had no friends, nobody to relate to because none of them took the time to actually talk to me.

Most of what we go through in life is invisible. Most of what makes us individuals is invisible. People make judgments based on what they can see, usually race, age, and ability. People make assumptions that they understand other’s experiences based on these labels; labels that are often inaccurate. Labels that, while they help to shape people into who they are, are not the quintessential elements of who a person is.

But because of my experience, how I have grown, how I have developed. I see past what’s on the outside. I don’t listen to my biases.

I don’t listen to my initial judgments; I know that they are often wrong. To have grown up knowing what it’s like to be judged, to have assumptions made about me, to be left behind. To have grown up knowing that it’s devastating when nobody understands. To have grown up knowing what it’s like to be reduced to my appearance. To have grown up knowing what it’s like to have the weight of judgment adding to the pain I feel. All of this has given me special insight, changed how I see things. I know I will never understand everybody. But what I know, more than anything, from all of this, is that I never want to make people feel alone.