Eyecatcher For adolescents

17-year-old girl

I believe it has never been so difficult for me to talk or write about my pain. Surely you should feel, if you’ve lived with it for years, it would be easy to be able to explain this part of your life.

Let’s start with the present. I am presently 17 years old. This June (2013) I’ll be 18, which, to be honest, no one who knew me for years thought would happen. We really thought that my body would give up before this. But it hasn’t yet.

For four years I had pain in the stomach. Actually it started much earlier, but somehow I can never be sure how it really started. Everyone says something different. I actually have it in my head that I had an infection at 14 and then was excused from school. When I was supposed to go back to school, I got abdominal pain. First, only mornings for one or two hours. That was how it started. But it got worse every day. It wasn’t that I was afraid of going to school or anything like that. No, actually I liked school and had my circle of friends there. But as I was quickly able to determine, this became very small very fast. Then after a month I was in hospital. Suspicion of a tumor. Stayed there two weeks and then came out as if I didn’t have any abdominal pain. I shouldn’t have made such a fuss. Great, or what? But everyone who has pain has definitely heard this before.

And so it continued. Before Datteln I was in two hospitals, visited my family doctor (who I changed three times), a non-medical practitioner, and finally a psychotherapist. Talk about your pain from the soul, was the idea. All well and good. But it didn’t work. I took rather a lot of medication for the pain, since at some point or other my body didn’t react to the usual pain medication anymore. Wonderful when your body leaves you in the lurch. But I believe, everyone could sing such a song sometime. When you have lived with pain for so long, the memories disappear somehow as soon as you’re supposed to explain the story. As I already explained, my circle of friends kept getting smaller. None of these so-called friends thought I was worth worrying about. They didn’t believe me about my pain and shattered me, laughed at me, excluded me and yeah, well, the way adolescents can be. The doctors who were actually supposed to help me were just the same. There was just one doctor who didn’t say I was nuts. He believed that something was there that was triggering my pain, even though he didn’t know what it was. I have to thank that doctor and his wife, a non-medical practitioner. I believe, without those two everyone would have given up on me long ago, and I really would have died, not just because of the pain. My relatives reacted exactly the same way. The only ones who believed me were my family. My parents and my brother. They never gave up on me. But even they were helpless and couldn’t help me.

Let’s come now to the most important and interesting subject: Datteln. Datteln is different, I would say. Datteln, or at least the pain department there, is different. You don’t feel sick there, not as if you were worthless and no one wants you. For the first time you get the feeling that your pain isn’t your fault. At first I never understood why the ward was called “Lighthouse”, but now I know. The Lighthouse helps you to find a way back to normal life again. It’s a damn hard and strenuous way, one that you actually don’t want to go. But with each time that you have no pain, you will be more proud that you managed it. However, you have to want to fight for it. I actually had no fighting spirit at all anymore when I came to Datteln and was disappointed when it didn’t go away in the first few days. I had the feeling that it didn’t move forward at all. The pain was still there but you had people who had the same problems. Sometimes even some who had had to go through exactly the same thing as you. Even that gives you unbelievable courage that you aren’t alone and can manage it. So I exerted myself. Tried everything and did everything that they suggested. Datteln is still a nice memory, and I think fondly back to that time if I doubt again. I also learned there what triggers my pain and know better how to deal with it. For me emotional pressure is worse than pressure that comes from outside.

However, there is one thing to be said: The people in Datteln can be mean and make extreme demands on you. My test day back in school was a horror. But I stuck it out. Mainly with the techniques and my stubbornness, not wanting to fail. I didn’t want the therapy to be in vain, even though it was only three weeks. But I managed it. The Distraction ABC and the 5-4-3-2-1-technique helped me especially. The techniques and everything I learned in Datteln helped me the most. But there is one more thing that helped me more than anything else - the thought that there isn’t anything terrible in my body that no one is recognizing. But just the fact that my pain center is somewhat mixed up. It couldn’t or can’t deal with pain properly anymore. But that’s okay. Everyone is mixed up sometime. It calms you immensely when you know that otherwise everything is okay with you. You aren’t crazy, looking for attention or someone who just imagines everything. Precisely this thought helped me more than anything else. I could believe myself again that the pain was real.

And what has become of me now? I wish I could now write that there’s been a happy ending for me and my pain. That my life is completely in order again after a year and I’m the happiest person in the world. But...as so often in life, I can’t say that. It is exactly a year since I was in Datteln. I have achieved a lot. I live mostly without pain and get it under control when it bothers me again. I make some decisions again, can determine my life again. I stick out practicums, even when it’s stressful. I can allow myself to take breaks and sometimes to pay attention to myself. I have a future again, even though it’s just as uncertain as that of the “normal” teenager. I try out a lot of things, for I still have to find the right way. I now look for friends who understand me and my situation and don’t immediately shoot me down just because I still can’t do what they can. I can now say proudly that after over four years I have my pain under control. I don’t hide myself away because of the pain. I’m me. Even if I don’t yet know who that is. But now at least I can find that out without my pain getting in my way.

To come to the most important and interesting question: Yes, I now have my pain under control. Not always, but more and more often. I have a future again, even if the pain is still there.

The way to be free of pain is a hard way. It won’t be easy, and even if you fight it, you might often want to creep into the pain again, but think of how good a life without pain is.

I’m proud that I managed everything. I don’t just have my pain under control, but have also mastered a future and a past. Now enough of the kitsch!

That is my story, in brief. It is not everything, but maybe it’s the part that will help you. Courage gives or simply shows you how that is so.