Chronic Pain in the Education System

They say that being a teenager is hard. And, I can attest to that, it’s been the hardest part of my very short life – and that seems consistent with those around me too. The pressure that is placed on the ones who want to achieve is excessive: grades, exams, uni applications, meeting deadlines, the lack of sleep, the excess of work to complete. The current education system places us under extreme conditions, pushes us to the breaking point, it stretches us beyond limits – and in some cases, breaks us. I see way too many of my talented and intelligent peers crumble under the expectations and pressure set to us to get a grade that is suitable to get into academic pathways such as law, or engineering, or medicine.

This is more than hard enough without constant debilitating chronic pain.

To get up in the morning and know that the day is going to be difficult is something that I feel is somewhat consistent throughout my peers, though I feel this way for a completely different reason.
I wonder if I can get out of bed and get my clothes on.
I wonder if I can eat breakfast without dropping it everywhere or feeling sick enough to regurgitate it back into the bowl.
I wonder if I can make the bus ride without having to take a stop and get a breather.
I wonder if I can sit in class and take all of the notes.
I wonder if I can pull myself away from the pain well enough to follow what the teacher is saying.
I wonder if I can sit the assessment to my full ability.
I wonder if I can make a day without having to remove myself from the classroom in an attempt to stop myself breaking.
I wonder if I can complete all of my school work that has been assigned to me for that night.
I wonder if I can make the night without the need of an ER doctor.
I wonder if I can get more than four hours sleep.

I wonder if I’ll make it.

The worst part about all of this, is that I know I can do it, and I know I can do it well – but the thing that is stopping me is my own body, the largest betrayal known to man.

You could walk past me, and you’d think I was a completely normal person, going here, and going there, though what you don’t see is the internal warfare. The constant battle between yes and no.

And the drugs specifically given to me to make me better, ofttimes do the exact opposite. Can you imagine an essay written by a brain clouded with heavy opioids? (Spoilers: it’s not pretty, as my literature teacher knows all too well). And the judgement that goes along with the drugs is especially evident. You get pretty good at doing a Taylor Swift and shaking it off, but it is still always there. They don’t know what you’re taking, which is probably for the better, but when you’ve got a rather extensive regime of drugs to take at all different times during the day, you’re subject to some speculation.

Aside from the drugs, the constant questioning of just about all of my actions really begins to take a large toll. There is a fine line between curious and invasive, and that seems to get overly clouded when in the realm of chronic pain.

The pressure that is placed on students is exemplified majorly by the presence of chronic pain, and, unfortunately, that is largely misunderstood, and seems to be passed over when assessing students in their adeptness to situations. I can work at the same level as the average (when I’m functioning), but I could be working at a far superior level without the burden of chronic pain, and that is what really gets to me.

How is it that some manage to be dealt the bad hand, and are expected to win the game?

3 thoughts on “Chronic Pain in the Education System”

  1. I freaking love this post, and was really in a bad place trying to cope with my pain today, but stumbled across it and I actually started laughing. No, not at you, obviously. But it made me recall several truly embarrassing instances in high school on my pain meds, and looking back now it just seems funny. Its tough to find a laugh these days so I’ll take what I can get.

    I relate to so much of what you said. I am in college now and the work load has only become more intense, the professors less understanding, etc etc. Your last paragraph REALLY hit home, its something I struggle with a lot. I am blessed enough to be decently smart. But what kills me is KNOWING how much more I could be! To not be disabled by the pain too much to open your eyes let alone do an assignment, to not be constantly distracted by it, to not have to walk away from your classmates because you can feel you are going to break down, my god– to SIT in class and not want to die, even though you know standing won’t be any better. And there is no disclaimer. No public announcement of “oh hey, btw teachers, I am not functioning at the level of a normal student because I am in so much pain everyday” or “I would have probably done well on this test if I could have slept for the last 6 years of my life”.

    As I write this, I wonder how many of my classmates are just like me and you. How many others aren’t the normal student either? Makes me wish we could have a disclaimer even more, just to show that we aren’t alone. Thanks for the post.

  2. Wow. I am a teenager dealing with pain everyday as well as still trying to get perfect A’s. I know exactly what you are dealing with.

    I do not have pain meds, so I do not know that side of your story. However, I am just not given anything for my pain and so instead am just left to deal with my pain on my own, which I don’t really know but I think it might be a bit worse. And its not like I’m not taking pain meds because they cause too many problems with my brain and school and everything, but simply because they cannot find anything that can take the pain away.

    If you want, I would absolutely love to get in contact with you and talk about trying to get through High School with chronic pain. I find its extremely helpful if you have someone to talk to whom you actually relate to.
    Let me know!

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