It started in my early 20s with shingles, which was untreated and then developed into a nerve pain condition called Post Herpetic Neuralgia, or PHN, a painful condition associated initially with nerve damage.
It was an all-consuming pain, which felt like someone had placed my neck and shoulder in a vice and proceeded to tighten it.
I tried every type of therapy and had numerous tests. I never had a conversation about persistent pain and was never given any education about how to manage it. The PHN wasn’t even diagnosed until later.
Pain is a silent affliction and I largely battled it on my own. I experienced misunderstanding and disbelief from others, including my then partner.
I got more and more tired of fighting through the pain, and without the tools or understanding to know how to change things, I decided to pack my bags for a five-month job at a hiker’s cottage in a remote part of New Zealand.
The outcome was pretty spectacular and almost immediate – the pain went away. This was a big revelation for me and set me on a different path.
I decided to give up my career in event management and get involved in the health sector. I started with massage therapy and then did a medical science degree majoring in neuroscience. Pain now fascinates me.
With my new knowledge, I understand that at the time I had an accumulation of perceived dangers in my life; and like a warning system, it had expressed itself as ongoing pain. When I changed everything about my life, the danger disappeared, and so did the pain.
The pain comes back from time to time when I’m sick or fatigued or under stress, but now I acknowledge it as a warning that I need to make changes. I used to catastrophise and worry that the pain had returned permanently, but it doesn’t bother me that much these days.
I just look for what needs to be fixed in my life, and the calm restores me.