Coping with Chronic Pain in my 20’s

The Beginning

When I was a college basketball player, I struggled with numerous sports injuries. Too many to count, but for the sake of this article I will share. I experienced three stress fractures in my shins, sprained wrists and ankles, and then I developed a herniated disc and bone spurs in my back by the end of my career as well as bursitis that was so painful, I would let tears down my face during practice or games. All these injuries happened in a period of four years. Fast forward six years post ending my short-lived professional basketball career due to these injuries and not only have I herniated another disc two years ago, but to keep it light and love (lol), I am twenty-eight years old and I live with chronic sciatica and hip bursitis pain.

Photo Circa 2013

As an Athlete

At the time, as a collegiate athlete, I never really let it sink in that the injuries that were occurring would have long term effects. For some reason this idea that I would never grow older was something I lived with daily. I took the perspective that everyday could be my last, and if basketball was my path, I would make sure I fought for my professional title. It was ultimately to my detriment because its just not realistic. Health is something that requires conscious awareness to ones body, and I just didn’t have that understanding then.

I remember thinking during a tournament trip in Hawaii in my junior year that I should quit. Out of the blue actually. My intuition was telling me something that could have spared me years of pain, but I didn’t want to listen. Actually, I remember telling myself I could push through and on the way up to my hotel room, a woman in a wheel chair rolled in. She asked my teammate and I if we were basketball players. It’s funny, the timing of her interaction… She went on to say, “I used to play too, now look at me”. It was almost like the universe was shouting at me to listen to myself within this borderline morbid interaction.

2012 Conference Champs

I realized then, that If I wanted to, I could finish up my program at SDSU and quit after that year because I was 21 and looking back, I just remember I was always tired. That’s not normal. 21 is a year where young adults are finally legal to drink for crying out loud, and I, I was tired. It’s something I haven’t actively shared to basically anyone. It was a time in my life where I was fighting against my fate. And for many, many years I held in the pain of having to walk away from basketball because I had put thousands of hours into the sport, chasing my “best” and working my butt off. I wanted so bad for my family to watch me play on ESPN as a professional WNBA player so bad, that I blinded myself from the truth. That basketball was destroying my body.

And it seemed the more injuries I acquired, the more unlike myself I became. I became extremely depressed, started isolating myself, engulfed myself in an eating disorder that could have killed me and lived in a cycles of guilt, shame, pity and low self-worth. I couldn’t understand why others were able to play the sport I loved so effortlessly and some, ungratefully, but I, I had to suffer with every season.

Why I am writing about it now

I didn’t plan to write this article today, it just sort of spilled out of me. Probably because I am starting to search for different jobs and some of the questions the interviewee asks me, really triggers me. Questions like “why do you have so many short stints and gaps in your resume?”

Photo by SG

These questions are triggering because it’s something I haven’t looked at in a while and really seen. Seriously understanding the physical health of my body and how it has played a role in the past five years of my life. I can see it on paper, or my resume at least. I started to see that not only did I face multiple lay offs in a row from jobs I well, only kind of enjoyed, but I also settled in unemployment for about eight or nine months after because my body was in so much pain, I could barely walk. I can’t say that in the interview, because who wants to hire someone who has chronic pain? But, it’s not like I can’t keep a job, I just ran into a series of unfortunate events I like to call Karma, but, I am not here to talk about that, let me stick to the chronic pain.

Friends and Chronic Pain

So, these are things I don’t talk about or like to bring up, to anyone, especially people my age or well, as I said, anyone. It’s hard for people who know me to think of me living the way I was because I was always out working out, going to clubs, bars and having an active social life. I even had old friends tell me to my face how they used to look up to me because I was always working out, but now years later, they don’t anymore…

That was a real low blow for me…

But now, after about two years of living with sciatica and hip bursitis pain, it has become something I never fully accepted until today. I thought for a while, oh yeah, I am getting better. I lost almost thirty pounds, I changed my diet and I seem to be more mobile then ever…until today. I realized I have been taking nerve medication often and the numbness in my feet and legs has not fully gone away and on top of that every other time I work out I literally must stop for three days because I will have a flare up every time.