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When Pain Defines You

hammerSince my back surgery 2 years ago, to the day, pain has defined who I am.  I have made a hobby and attempted career out of writing about it.  I have been unable to work.  I have suffered and bitched about it.  The worst thing is, before chronic pain, I was SO much more.  I was a wife, a happily working social worker who one week before the incident had received a pretty great promotion. I had a life, a job, a purpose.

Since my pain I have lost purpose.  I wish I found some new age, crunchy, bullshit way of life that would make me say “Pain no longer defines me!” but sadly that is not the case.  I am trying to find myself.  The first thing I did to find myself was start acting classes and it is the few hours per week I feel truly happy and truly present. When I act and am on stage I am ME.  But then after the drive home, I come home to my apartment and all the reminders of what I was and no longer am and the depression and pity sets in again.  Yes, I said pity.

People like to think they don’t pity themselves when they are in pain, but we all know that is not true.  I don’t stay days wallowing in the self pity of living a life of pain, discomfort and disappointment, but I have my share of pity, party of 1.  But what has that done for me?  To date it has kept me from pursuing work, but that is out of the knowledge that I know my limitations and I simply cannot do 40 hours.  I am trying to find a part-time job though because I need to have a career, a life.  It has cost me the relationship I had with my husband, now strained to the point of possibly breaking and it has given me a permanent look of a bitter, unhappy OLD woman.

When this happened, I lost myself.  When I look in the mirror I am unrecognizable from the woman I was 2 years ago.  I was on my game, I was looking towards a family, I had gotten a promotion, I had my friends, my family and my husband.  Now, everything is in limbo- my career, my marriage and my purpose.

So what do I do?  How do I not let pain define me even though it is what I deal with all the time? Every few hours I have to take meds and every pill reminds me “you need medication,” “you used to be a good wife,” you can’t do what you want.”  All I know is that has to change.  But I am terrified- of change, of living my life like this, of everything.  Pain has made me, a once brave, ballsy woman into a terrified, useless child.

Pain cannot define me…I am slowly trying to reclaim the woman I was and mentally reminding myself that I am more than my physical conditions.  I have written reminders around the house.  It all starts in the mind and eventually if I fake it long enough, I may just rewrite my definition.

Hammer and chisel image available from Shutterstock.

When Pain Defines You

Tracy Rydzy MSW, LSW

My name is Tracy and I am a licensed social worker. I was working as a Social Worker, when an emergency spinal surgery 2 years ago changed my life and my career. I live with chronic pain and, as a result, I have taken my social work and writing skills, and made them into this blog. This blog is a humorous, informative, no-holds barred honest look at life with chronic pain, depression and disability.”

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APA Reference
Rydzy MSW, T. (2013). When Pain Defines You. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 10, 2020, from


Last updated: 4 Jul 2013
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