How chronic pain led me to rediscover myself

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I often talk about the positives of chronic pain on my blog and how tragedy, frustration, and ‘why me’ can turn into something quite unexpected. This week’s post is exactly that: it is a guest post from Tara Abraham of Read on to learn more about Tara and how chronic pain led her to rediscover herself.

One day you will tell your story of how you’ve overcome what you are going through now, and it will become part of someone else’s survival guide.

Ehraz Ahmed

Everything was going perfectly. I studied hard, got the grades. I was a junior in high school; only one more year before graduating and starting college. I couldn’t wait to start college. But most of all, I was just an average and happy 16-year-old. But that changed so suddenly – and what happened changed the trajectory of my life forever.

One day after walking to Starbucks hauling my heavy backpack, I had a throbbing pain. Every jostle sent ripples of pain through my back and my sciatic nerve. I later learned that I had two herniated discs, but I had no idea what caused it.

Can you imagine that? Little 16-year-old me who didn’t do sports, didn’t get in a car accident or have a bad fall, yet I had herniated discs, something that can happen to adults way older than me. I mean, I thought being an adult would be cool but having an adult pain was certainly not what I had in my mind.

And so it began, one of the most challenging times in my life but so too the most important years of my life. Those experiences shaped me into the person I am today.

Who am I, you ask?

My name is Tara Abraham, and I am a recovering pessimist. For many of my 22 years on this earth, I was a glass half empty kind of gal. And as someone who was naturally a pessimist, having debilitating pain certainly did not help.

I barely managed to complete high school after missing so many classes. My grades slipped. I couldn’t leave high school like this. But still, I wanted to make my mark. And so I auditioned to give a speech for my high school graduation. I went against the student body President and so many other popular kids. And guess, what I got it.

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I spoke about how overcoming challenges can make us better versions of ourselves. I ended my speech with this: please repeat after me: “I have a purpose. My life matters. I am a gift to the world.” When I stood on that stage, I wasn’t just saying a speech; I was saying a proclamation to myself that I do have it in me to push through my struggles and come out stronger.

Finally, things were starting to look up for me. But that too was short-lived.

Coping with education

I did start college at UC Merced, but that was only for a short time. The pain and other setbacks led me to withdraw from the university formally.

It felt like my world came crashing down. Overdramatic, maybe. But you must understand I was only 17 years old. Up until then, I didn’t do much besides school, study, school study, you know the drill. And suddenly, one of the few constants in my life came crashing down.

I was so crushed that not even the king’s horses or kings men could put me back together again. Yes, I am referencing Humpty Dumpty. But like Humpty Dumpty, no one could fix me; not my parents, not my friends. But the one person who could do it was me. And oh my gosh, was it exhausting!

I learn to rediscover myself

I had an epiphany every day. We have a choice: to continue to feel sorry for ourselves and play the victim, or take control and do something about our situation. I chose the latter. Instead of saying why me, I said try me. By reframing my thinking, my world became brighter… there was light on the other side of the tunnel.

As for my pain, that is still there, but to a lesser extent after my two surgeries. I realized that pain could be our greatest burden, or it could be our greatest teacher. It all depends on choosing to view our pain through a victim mentality or a feeling of empowerment.

After a two year hiatus in my college education, I returned to college stronger than ever. I have my website where I bring insight on social injustices called I am also a public speaker with Toastmasters International. And I reached one of my goals of being a student at UC Davis, finally!

Many of what I am today would not have happened if I didn’t go through these struggles like an igneous rock that withstands intense heat and pressure before emerging as a diamond. I went through my fires and came out stronger shining bright like a diamond.

The right mindset

I share my story as a reminder that whatever challenges we may face in our lives, no matter how tough they seem to be, they do not limit us as to what we can achieve. They can make us stronger and shape us to be who we are today. We can all learn how to rediscover ourselves.

With the right mindset, each one of you has the power to overcome your struggles and inspire others with your stories.

As for the future, well, as Dory says in the movie Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”

The truth is, that is all we can do; despite setbacks that will come, we must prevail but also enjoy the ride, the ride of life.

Thank you Tara for sharing your story and your wonderful insight in to how to have coped with what life has thrown at you, and how you have been able to rediscover yourself.

Your thoughts

Do you have any questions for Tara?

How does her story make you feel?

What has helped you rediscover yourself whilst living with chronic pain?

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