Sometimes in life you have to get a little lost before you are truly able to find your way.

Oscar-winning Performance.

oscar11Otherwise known as…your life. When you live with chronic pain, life truly is your stage. You smile; you make small talk; you get through as much of what must be done each day as you can. You show up to work, perhaps. Many of us can’t anymore. We’ve lost that theater.

It’s hard at first. Particularly in the early weeks and months when you haven’t yet stopped waiting. Waiting for the pain to stop, or lessen. It’s the moment when you realize – or perhaps accept, more accurately, that this could be – most likely is – permanent. The pain isn’t going away. The condition – it’s a part of you. It has been your primary focus. The focus of your doctors, your friends, family, coworkers, schoolmates – everyone you know or see. But in that moment of acceptance, something changes and you begin weaving it into the background in ways you never thought possible. Doing things you previously imagined you might never do again. You take off your sun glasses for the sake of respect in conversation. You drive, despite the piercing pain of the headlights. You attend a party you know will take a devastating toll. You go to the grocery store. You take your kids to the park. You do the things that most people take for granted each and every day. And you do it in pain with a smile on your face because it’s how we have learned to survive.

fire redYears go by. You realize that there are more people in your life who have never known you without this pain than those who ever knew you pain free. Some still don’t know. It’s incredible. The reactions when people find out? Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m more astounded by how they could have missed it than by how I could have hidden it so well. I think back to all the times in conversation when I thought I would pass out from the pain – but apparently my performance never faltered. I have former clients from my consulting company who demanded me on all their projects. They never knew. Coworkers who were clueless until the day I left on disability. People in all manner of interaction who react in such amusing ways when they learn the truth that has literally be right in front of them. At least that’s how I’ve learned to look at it. Some with awe – both at my ability to hide the pain, and that to withstand it. Some with shock or sadness or my very least favorite (read: I HATE this….) – pity. “Oh you poor thing!” I get it. I can’t blame them. I think it’s meant more as an attempt at compassion, but pity is pity and I work too damn hard at this to be pitied. So do you.

oscar_fallen_hLet me ask you something though…if any Hollywood actor was told he/she would be on set for the rest of their lives, never allowed to break character…what do you think the reaction would be? Disbelief? Outrage? Laughter? That is the role we often feel we are cast in. Keep up appearances. Hide the pain. Wear the mask. But let’s be real. None of us can do it. We can’t hide it all the way all the time. And we need a safe place to remove the mask. The let down our guard. To be vulnerable. To be in pain openly. Cry if we need to, even though it makes it hurt more. Somehow, every now and then it helps too. Sometimes just being able to say that it hurts. Or that we’re tired of it hurting. Without judgement or pity or guilt or frustration. That’s a lot to ask. Of anyone. It’s hard for those who care for us most NOT to feel those things. Not to show those things. And they will come out too from time to time, so to be fair – I guess we can’t expect to never get that side of it.

different kind of maskBut do you have that safe place? Do you have those people in your life that you can be nakedly in pain in front of without judgement or pity? Do you have a way to step off the stage and just be – you – pain and all? If the answer is no – then something has got to change. Finding that safe place – that safe person or people – is worth a thousand “remedies.” The mental and emotional and physical fatigue that accompanies these daily performances is SO underestimated.

Give yourself the credit you are due. Take the breaks you need to take. Find the safe place. The comfort, support and tenderness you deserve. Take off the mask and cry. Curse your pain and all the effort it takes to hide it. You’ll be amazed at how renewed you will find yourself. How much more comfortable that mask is to put back on when you get out of bed, or take a shower or walk out the door or if you’re lucky enough – when you go to work. It sounds like such a small thing, to stop acting for a short time. But it has a power that those who don’t go through life wearing this mask will never comprehend. How lucky they are.

Here’s to the performances, the intermissions, and most of all – those who make taking off the mask possible!

This post goes out with a special thanks to my amazing family and friends – thank you and I love you all so much! I could not fight this battle without you!

Are you the kind of person who just meets people anywhere you go? The supermarket, dog park, pharmacy? Or are you the bar-going type? Online dater? Doesn’t matter does it? Because all those conversations start off pretty much the same way. Hey, how are you; what’s your name; what do you do? Ahh…and it was going so well. Oh I’m actually on disabil….see ya! We’ve all been there. We’ve all had those thoughts. The “who is ever going to want to be with me? Who would ever put up with this insanity? Why would anyone choose to be with someone in my condition?” thoughts. Many won’t. Some will, but for the wrong reasons. Because they have a need to fill and taking care of you does that. Trying to “fix” you does that. But here’s the thing…there are people out there who don’t care what you do. They don’t care that you aren’t “able,” that you can’t work, that you live with pain they cannot imagine. Hard to believe right? If you can’t quite get there…let’s go back to that dreaded question…”what do you do?”

Why does our profession count for so much? How did it come to define who or what we are? When we lost our ability to work, did we stop being who we were? Or what we’ve always been? Did the person we are suddenly cease to exist too? No dammit! Ok, so yes, it sometimes feels that way. But the REAL answer is NO! We are not our job. Let me repeat that. WE ARE NOT OUR JOB. I used to work as a public outreach specialist for an environmental consulting firm. I was good at my job. I didn’t always love it. It challenged me. I traveled. I helped people. And there were parts of it I couldn’t stand. But the job was never my identity. Yet somehow, when we are stripped of our ability to work, no matter what that work is, we DO feel stripped of such a big part of ourselves. Partly because it strips us of our independence – but that is different and we HAVE to make that distinction. Partly because some of us truly love our jobs and we miss them. But that doesn’t change WHO we are or WHY we loved that work.

What if no one was allowed to talk about their jobs when asked who and what they are? How might that change the dynamics of dating, making friends, all kinds of human interactions? How would you answer? How DO you answer? I’m tired of answering with “well, actually I’m on disability so I don’t actually do anything.” Well that’s total B.S. Anyone on disability knows that being on disability is a full time job. I manage my condition, deal with insurance issue after issue after issue; doctor’s appointments, pharmacies, billing issues, coding issues. It’s exhausting. So no, I don’t do nothing. But all that stuff that fills an absolutely inordinate amount of time – that’s not who or what I am either, any more than my former job was. But here’s the real gem – it doesn’t determine my value either – not to myself, not to anyone worth my time.

Sounds like a bunch of idealistic B.S., I know. Everyone judges right? Wrong. There are people out there who don’t run. Who look at me as a person, rather than a liability or a charity case. There are people who see strength where others see failure or, my favorite – someone “working the system.” Please. If any of those people had ever tried living within the system – they’d drop that opinion real quick. It sucks. I didn’t want this. I didn’t choose this. This is not who or what I am. And it’s not who or what you are either.

So here’s my challenge. Answer. Answer the questions we all dread. What do you do? Tell me about yourself? Who are you? What are you? Leave former careers out of it. Leave disability out of it, if you want. This isn’t about lying or deception. This is about getting to the part of you that isn’t your disability. No one is going to fall in love with your disability – they’re going to fall in love with YOU. So dig deep. I have a feeling you’ve forgotten much of what ought to be in those answers. Let people see you. The REAL you. Not just the labels or the past or the stereotypes. Write it down. Scream it out loud. Tell it to a stranger. Tell it to yourself. Remember it. Believe it. Do. Not. Let. It. Go. Again.

Here’s to truth, denying jobs as identities and to the REAL YOU!

This is Winning.

Back in 2012 one of my best friends and I decided that 2013 was going to be our year. The previous few had pretty much sucked. Not that there weren’t good times or things to be thankful for, but we’d both been through a lot and we were really looking forward to a fabulous 2013. You know what they say about the best laid plans… Needless to say, 2013 didn’t turn out to be THE year. For either of us. Personally, I dealt with 4 surgeries, a failed business, a failed suicide attempt and a very tumultuous relationship. I wasn’t sorry to see it go. 2014, unfortunately, didn’t prove to be a whole lot better. Well – there was no suicide attempt so I guess that’s a pretty marked improvement lol.

Looking back over the last several years – I realize that I haven’t really had a life of my own. I really haven’t had much of a life. I have so much to be grateful for – my amazing family and friends and their seemingly endless support and encouragement. But it’s time for a change. Time to really start living.

uhaulI sit here, the night before New Year’s Eve 2014, and I AM READY. I’m ready for a lot of changes. I leave tomorrow to move 3000 miles from the comfort and support of my family back to Sacramento, back to an amazing group of friends whom I have missed SO much in the 11 years since I left CA. I have plans. Big plans. Maybe not in the same way that healthy people have big plans, but plenty for me. That’s the thing though, isn’t it? It’s not about how our lives measure up to others. It’s not about how much money we make (if any) compared to anyone else; it’s not about how nice our home is or what kinds of vacations we take or our job status – if any. It’s about setting goals for ourselves. Things we can actually achieve – or have a shot at. Even if it’s a long one. It’s about challenging ourselves. Some people are determined to get that big promotion this year. And that’s great. I am determined to find SOMETHING that I can do part time. And that’s enough for me. In fact, no, it’s not just enough – it’s HUGE. If I could go back to work in any capacity at any level – it would do more for my state of mind, my quality of life and my health and happiness than someone else’s huge promotion. It seems like a small thing to most – but to me it would mean a world of difference.

I have lots of goals like that. No need to bore you with them all here. The point is that January 1 isn’t just a time for resolutions you have little to no intention of keeping. It’s about reflecting on where you’ve been, how your life is going and what YOU can do to improve it. And to hell with the comparisons to everyone else. So get out there – set your goals – and go after them with all you’ve got. I might not have control over my migraines, but I have control over more than I have allowed myself to believe in a very long time. And this year I intend to take back the reins of my life. One way or another – this year will be a better year.

Happy New Year everyone!

Here’s to new beginnings, new goals and new-found strength!

Migraine Support Group cover photo - courtesy of the U.S. Pain Foundation

Migraine Support Group cover photo – courtesy of the U.S. Pain Foundation

I recently joined a Facebook support group for migraine sufferers. It has been an experience that leaves me with such a variety of emotions. Sadness. Empathy. Frustration. Compassion. Fury. Hope. I read the posts and it is as though I am reading something that younger versions of me might have said. Versions of me in the early stages, with ill-equipped doctors doling out terrible advice and the wrong meds. Giving up on me. Over and over. Versions of me that wondered if anyone else on the planet could possibly be experiencing what I was going through. Non-stop pain. Pain that was crippling. Pain that made me wish I was dead, or at least unconscious until someone invented a cure. Isolation. Judgement. No one could SEE my migraine so many people dismissed it, underestimated it, assumed I was faking or being dramatic. Loss of wages for when I couldn’t get to or stay at work. Loss of income when I was repeatedly let go for absenteeism. Accusation of being a drug-seeker when I wound up in the emergency room. The inability of so many ER staff to distinguish between seeking drugs, and seeking comfort, progress, a few moments, at least, with less pain. Versions of me that could sense when yet another doctor was about to give up on me or simply say that my only option was pain management with narcotics. Versions of me ready to just give up all together.

More than 14 years of living with this condition has left me wiser, more cautious, patient, more discriminating about who I allow on my treatment team, and eager to get the word out that if you are dealing with migraines, or any other chronic condition – know this – YOU ARE NOT ALONE. The first time I actually believed that was when I was being treated in-patient at the Michigan Headpain and Neurological Institute. A team of doctors from various disciplines led by Dr. Joel Saper, world-renowned for his work in migraine treatment, fully dedicated to 22 patients. We did 3-day trials of intense IV protocols. Some helped. Some hurt. Some did nothing…or so it seemed. Some people had miraculous success. Others, like me, waited for weeks with no apparent improvement. We went to classes on the physiology of pain, stress reduction, coping mechanisms, art therapy, yoga. We saw psychologists. But out of all of that, one of the most amazing and life-altering parts of this entire process was the 21 other people who actually got what I was going through. REALLY got it. Not “I can only imagine” got it or “I went through something similar” got it, they actually, really, absolutely got it. That was as powerful as the medicine. It was miraculous. Life-altering. Those relationships are still some of the most important in my life.

Dr. Joel Saper, photo courtesy of MHNI

Dr. Joel Saper, photo courtesy of MHNI

My time at MHNI was also my first experience with a real headache clinic. The results were profound. If you combined all of the improvement from the previous 5 1/2 years, ridiculous number of medications and treatments and countless doctors, it was only a fraction of the relief I got from the protocol the MHNI doctors found for me.

So why am I still a chronic migraine sufferer? Pretty common question. The thing about migraine and all of the other headache disorders is that you are dealing with the most complex thing on the planet – the human brain. Brain chemistry changes CONSTANTLY. So to think that finding something that works for the moment is the same as finding a cure is just naive. What works now will hopefully work for a while. But it is unlikely that it will work indefinitely. For me, it was about two years before the efficacy of my drug protocol started to nose-dive. But when it did, it didn’t take long. It was excruciating. Both physically and emotionally. I just knew that I couldn’t go back to that level of pain every day again. And certainly not with the hours I was working. I was right. Something had to give. I was battling my HMO to allow me to go back to MHNI even though they were out of network while still trying to keep things going at home and at work. NOT sustainable. I started missing work. A lot of work. In fact, I used up all of my FMLA days. I had to take each day I missed without pay. FINALLY I got the go-ahead to go back to MHNI. I went on short-term disability, figured I’d be there for 3-4 weeks and would need another 3-4 to recover before coming back.

If only it were that simple. My second month as a patient at MHNI didn’t yield the incredible results the first one had. In fact, I was not better at all. Short-term turned to long-term disability. My financial situation deteriorated. My emotional state plummeted. I became essentially non-functional. If I got from my bed to the couch downstairs it was a big accomplishment. This went on for a couple of years. I became suicidal. I was treated at a trauma treatment center for three weeks. My emotional state improved while my physical state continued to deteriorate.

Then I moved. There were many factors that brought me from northern Virginia to central Florida, but the biggest thing (healthwise) that I got out of it was a new doctor who profoundly changed my outlook, my options, and delivered (to an extent) on promises of relief. I’ve been with him now for about two years. I’ve had several surgeries. I am better. I am not cured. I am not pain-free. But I am better. And more than that – I have hope. I often get the most amazed response to that statement. After more than 14 years of chronic pain, how can I actually be hopeful? Well here’s the thing…I had a surgery that did not exist when my condition began. And it has helped me. Not in the ways or to the extent that I was led to believe, but it did help. So why would I not assume that this incredibly complex science being explored by some of the most brilliant minds in the world would not continue to advance? It will. And I will continue to reap the benefits of that progress.

So to all of you out there at whatever stage of chronic migraine or cluster headache or whatever other disorder – hold on. Keep going. Find a good specialist and keep your expectations in check. Progress is possible and there is reason for hope. And for all of you out there who are “old hats” at this chronic pain thing – reach out. There are people who need you. None of us is alone. There are others – many others, who are going through the exact same thing as you. We deal with the same challenges, the same questions, the same stigma, the same need to not be alone in this battle.

So here’s to better science, less pain and many new connections!

 

 

Ginger Tea and Jewelry

A crack of thunder so loud it shook my building a little while ago and interrupted Chloe’s afternoon nap on my lap. She’s now hiding under the couch. I sort of wish I could hide under there too. Not from the thunder, just because it’s one of those days where my mood is very much like the downpour that darkened the day outside. Unlike the storm that passed quickly and gave way to the beautiful sunshine, my mood is not improving. Instead I’m battling with pharmacies and prescription discount programs and doctor’s offices.

I am tired. Exhausted really. Which would sound insane to the average person given that the most strenuous thing I have done today was to make ginger tea to settle my stomach. I’m coming off of one of my medications that has been wreaking havoc on my body for months. While I am glad to be getting off of it (and excited at the prospect of losing all the weight is has caused me to gain!) the process of ending it is quite challenging. It is disrupting my already troubled sleep, making me throw up, exacerbating my migraines (primarily due to the sleep disturbance). I have to make concessions. Worse – the people I love do as well. I could not make it to my mother’s house for MOTHER’S DAY. Irritating beyond belief. I finally live close enough to be with her in person on the day meant to celebrate her and in stead I was stuck home in bed. But in a few weeks I will feel better. Less sick, more energetic, hopefully in less pain and I will go spend much more quality time with her.

So I didn’t get to do what I had planned today. Instead I am barely staying awake, attempting not to further disrupt my sleep tonight by giving in to the temptation to nap this afternoon. I was up almost all of  last night throwing up. No matter how many times I brush my teeth I can’t get the smell of vomit out of my nostrils. But I worked on some jewelry. What should have taken minutes took much longer and it wasn’t much to show for the day, but I made something beautiful. And that’s something.

My big accomplishment for the day :)

My big accomplishment for the day 🙂

Sometimes we have to measure success in different increments. One day it means cleaning the house; another it means scraping up enough energy to shower and eat. Today it is getting through. And making that necklace was a bonus.

 

Ultimately Selfish

I’ve been debating if I should tackle this issue or not. But it keeps worming its way back into my brain so I’ll take that as a sign that I should. After this I really hope to move on to some lighter issues for a while! There was an article published in the Huffington Post called Stop Calling Suicide Victims ‘Selfish.’  While I recommend reading it in its entirety (it’s not very long), the gist of it is that we should not judge those who take their own lives because suicide is the result of severe mental illness. The author makes the point that we don’t judge victims of other fatal diseases. She does a good job, in my opinion, of pointing out that it is wrong, and in fact, impossible, for those who have never been suicidal to even begin to understand what it must be like, and therefore, they should not, and cannot (fairly) judge this action. One of my favorite quotes from the article: “I’ve felt sad before, yes. I’ve felt bad about myself before, yes. But I haven’t actively wanted to die, so why should I pretend to know what that’s like? I’ve had the flu before, too, yet I don’t know what cancer is like.” I appreciate that. But I disagree with her when she says that suicide is not selfish.

Here’s the thing… yes, more needs to be done to get help to people before they reach this point. The taboo that surrounds mental illness from anxiety and depression to schizophrenia all needs to be a thing of the past. But suicide is a tricky beast. it is a last resort. It is terrible and awful and clearly speaks to a kind of hopelessness and misery that, as the author of this article points out, cannot be even imagined by most people. But in the end, it is still a choice. It’s a terrible choice. And in that moment, I assure you it does not feel as though there is any alternative. But even I cannot deny, having been in that place, in that moment, I made a decision. I own it and all of its consequences. Aside from the obvious fact that it speaks to a kind of pain most people cannot fathom, what is perhaps worse, or at least as awful, is that it doesn’t end with the person taking their life. Its reach extends as far as their presence in life is felt – to every friend, family member, coworker. It tears people apart. It’s hard enough to lose someone you love to something inevitable. But to know that the person you love actually decided to make this happen…what could be worse?

So I understand the anger and the characterization of of suicide as being selfish. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but at the root of it all, if it is part of the overall sentiment, which includes compassion and at least an attempt for understanding, I think it’s a fair assessment. I’ve been on both sides of suicide. Someone I love taking their life, and nearly taking my own. While the words hurt, they are not wrong. I put the people I love through the worst kind of hell. And despite what I was feeling and what drove me to that point, I cannot deny that it was a selfish choice. I can’t deny that I was putting my own misery and hopelessness ahead of the pain and suffering I was about to cause. Those are facts. They suck, but they’re real. And they have real consequences.

When someone plans in as much detail as I did how they are going to die, they don’t think about what happens afterwards if they survive. You’ve worked hard to minimize impacts once you’re gone…making sure your loved ones aren’t the ones to find you, for example. But surviving and facing those who you have hurt is never a part of the plan. Thinking about how you will earn back trust or repair relationships isn’t a part of the plan. The plan is to stop the pain, the hopelessness, or whatever awful thing has taken over your consciousness. The plan is to simply stop being, at what ever cost. The road back, when you fail, as I did, is incredibly difficult. Facing the pain you’ve caused, trying to find a way to make amends for something that is almost unforgivable. And even when people forgive, trust is something that is, in many cases, beyond what your loved ones can achieve. These are consequences of a choice. I face them every day and I accept them. What I did was selfish. And I am blessed that so many in my life have forgiven me. I do not get frustrated when I have to offer extra reassurances that I’m OK on a bad day, or take measures to ensure that those most deeply affected are confident that I am safe.

So while I disagree with the author about suicide being selfish, I think the bigger, far more important message is that people are suffering in unimaginable ways. Some of them out loud and in the open. Some silently and alone. As a society, we have to stop judging. We need to be more accepting of mental and emotional illness and distress and collectively find ways to support those most in need. Open dialogue, collective awareness and sensitivity combined with more widely available (and effective) therapy could change…and save…so many lives.

support

 

Hold On Pain Ends

I learned the most wonderful new acronym recently: Hold On Pain Ends. It’s funny how simple it seems, but how difficult it can be to practice sometimes. I’ve written before about what it means to keep on hoping through desperate or painful or sad times. But this phrase carries a lot of special meaning for me. I recently stumbled across a picture of myself from nine years ago. It stopped me dead in my tracks. I almost didn’t recognize the face staring back at me. Young. Vibrant. Happy. Successful. I wondered how just nine years could age me so much. And here’s the real kicker – that photo was taken at about 1:30 a.m. after working nearly non-stop for three days on a big proposal at my consulting firm. I should have looked ragged and tired and worn. I couldn’t even physically work those hours today, much less look good doing it at 1:30 in the morning the third straight day.

So what was it about that time in my life? I was five years into this migraine ordeal. I was clearly working way too much. But I had held on. At times where there seemed absolutely no reason to believe that my pain would lessen, much less end, that I could find happiness given some of the struggles I was dealing with, reeling from the loss of some of my closest loved ones. I held on. I continued to HOPE. Against reason, against odds. And one day, 6 months prior to that picture being taken, I was put on a new drug protocol by a truly remarkable team of doctors at the Michigan Headpain and Neurological Institute in Ann Arbor, MI. And the pain became less. It strengthened me. It renewed me. When I say I look at that picture and I see success, it is not because I was making a ton of money or even that we won that contract; we lost it in fact. But I was more able than I had been in a very long time. I was able to work for days on end with almost no breaks for sleeping or eating. I was able to sit in that conference room, working through ridiculous amounts of paperwork, barking orders at people three times my senior for their lack of focus and stop to smile pretty for the camera for my new employee photo that just had to be taken at that exact moment because it was the first time I’d been in one place in the office long enough to for the girl from HR to track me down! Tt photo

All that is well and good, but putting things in perspective, there were five years there prior to that moment when one treatment after another DIDN’T work, right? And during that time I dealt with some things I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, both physically and emotionally. I had learned a hard lesson early on in this migraine thing. HOPE is essential. But so is managing your EXPECTATIONS. If I had continued, as I did in the beginning, to EXPECT each new treatment or medication or procedure, or whatever, to work, I would have lost hope. I have not a doubt in my mind. Learning early on that most things were NOT going to work allowed the treatments that have had positive impacts be more successful, their results more genuine and the overall effects on my pain, my life and ability to maintain hope exponentially greater than if I went into each one expecting it to be “the one.”

When that treatment regimen that I began in July 2005 started working, it hit me out of the blue. The alleviation of my symptoms felt like it fell right out of heaven, knocked me on the head and bounced half the pain right out of there! There was no false positive. No placebo affect. I had approached my treatment for so many years with the “hope for the best, expect the worst” frame of mind that when real, measurable improvement came, it sent me soaring. I couldn’t doubt it. And for a long time after that the quality of my life truly was immeasurably changed. It was that change, in fact, that allowed me to deal with the death of my fiance, by far the most difficult thing I’ve ever experienced. And that series of events, I know, happened in sequence just as it was meant to.

The marrying of those two essential functions – managing expectations and maintaining hope has saved me so many times. But I failed at one of them in an extraordinary way last year. After the last post, Suicide Won’t Fix It, I got a lot of feedback and a lot of tough questions. Some people were shocked. Some were sad, angry, confused. All of this, I expected. But the only explanation I can offer is this – I failed at managing my expectations. When I learned that I was a candidate for the neurostimulator implant surgery, I allowed my doctors to set my expectations at a completely unrealistic level. I envisioned no pain. I saw doors and avenues that have long been shut flinging wide open again! I saw absolutely limitless potential, every possibility available once again. I saw a new life. I saw a new me. After 12 1/2 years of very successfully managing my expectations, I made that one very grave mistake. And I rode the high of those expectations all the way to the moon. And when reality clashed with those expectations, I lost. I fell. HARD. It was the crushing blow that at one time I had been cautious enough to protect myself from, but from which I was at last was feeling the impact. When I came crashing down from that high, I crushed every ounce of hope I had managed to hold on to for nearly 13 years.

It’s one thing to live with chronic pain and to know that even with limitations, there are still some things that work; moments of feeling well, daily success stories. It is quite another to suddenly think you are on the brink of a new life, and to fall crashing back into that seemingly bottomless pit. So I urge you – whatever it is you deal with – migraines, fibro, depression, anxiety – manage your expectations and maintain your hope. It comes in many forms, but one way or another, in small ways or in big ones, if you do Hold On..the Pain does End.

hang in thereThere are some other interesting reasons why this acronym is so close to my heart. And this goes to show that things really do come full circle. When I was in middle school, I was obsessed with horses….mine in particular. Her name was Hope. I didn’t name her that; she came to me that way. And it was perfect. I had several posters in my room at the time. One was a herd of wild horses galloping down a beach. It was magnificent and there was one horse who reminded me so much of my Hope. And directly across from it on my other wall was a very famous poster with a picture of a tiny kitten hanging from a branch with the words “Hang In There.” I remember reading those words so many times over and over during difficult moments. And now, with this fabulous new acronym, those three wonderful things from my childhood – my horse and my two favorite posters are melded into one incredibly powerful phrase…Hold On Pain Ends. Some day I hope to be well enough to run a wildlife rehabilitation center. I have known for many years that if I am able to do it, I will name it New Hope Ranch. This lesson; this phrase; this entire lifetime of experience shows me that it is still the goal I must keep holding onto and keep striving to reach. court and hope

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