Living With Chronic Pain

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Dealing with injury and chronic pain is not something we associate with young people and teens, but it’s more common than you think. YR Media’s Lucy Barnum has this Perspective.

For over half my life, I’ve suffered from chronic pain. And, yes, it hurts. But the isolation is even worse.

I sprained my ankle when I was seven. Although I was on crutches, I tried not to let my injury hold me back. I hobbled along on hikes. I played dodgeball at summer camp. After months, my foot was still swollen and blue. The doctor sent me for x-rays and I had several MRIs, but the scans turned up blank every time. Eventually, a pain specialist diagnosed me with complex regional pain syndrome — a type of chronic nerve pain.

At its worst, my foot hurts whenever anything touches it, even a sock, or a gust of wind. The specialist told me that the only way to heal was to use my foot and desensitize it to pressure.
After months of therapy, my leg did heal. I went back to the same active life I had before. My episode of chronic pain became a faded memory.

Then freshman year of high school, I sprained the same ankle, which again developed into chronic nerve pain.

The second diagnosis was hard to accept. The pain, the inconvenience, but most of all the isolation. I was sick of being stuck in a time-consuming routine of physical therapy and doctor appointments. That year, I had to pull out of many things I enjoyed: softball, theatre, shop class, and school dances. My energy was absorbed in trying to heal my foot.

Then, at one appointment, my pain therapist told me, “I see kids like you all the time.” She said most of the patients who suffer from complex regional pain syndrome are teenage girls, like me.

It completely changed my mindset.

For years, I felt trapped alone in a nightmare. Then I realized there were thousands of other teenagers struggling alongside me. I pictured them supporting me through every step of my recovery.

I’ve never met them. But just imagining them makes me feel less alone.

With a Perspective, I’m Lucy Barnum.

Lucy Barnum is 17 and lives in Berkeley. Her perspective was produced by Youth Radio’s new network of journalists and artists, now called YR Media.