I’m Natasha, and helping others living with chronic pain has become just a natural part of my life. After an accident in my early 20s, I’ve suffered from lower back pain and herniated discs, neck and jaw pain, and lastly (and the most debilitating for me) migraines and tension headaches that, at their worst, were lasting more than 20 days a month. Living through this had me questioning most days why I was even here at all. I spent years seeing massage therapists, physiotherapists, and chiropractors, and taking medication that ended up destroying my stomach, worsening my anxiety, and doing next to nothing for my pain. For a decade I focused entirely on the physical side of my pain, and it wasn’t until these years of suffering caught up with me that things really hit a breaking point.
By nature, I am a happy, upbeat person with a free spirit. I try to maintain positivity in all areas of life even through tough times. An entrepreneur and partner running two businesses and multiple real estate endeavours, it was normal for me to have a demanding lifestyle with varying schedules and travel. The amount of energy I was exerting daily to be productive, focused, normal, and some days just to get up, was exhausting. Additionally, with the stress of impacting others’ lives and feeling like a burden, not being able to carry my own weight, and keeping this up for so long, I came to the last flicker of light left in my spirit. Depleted internally, emotionally, physically and spiritually, I went dark. I had never experienced depression before and although I have had a lot of pain, the climb out of that darkness was the scariest, lowest, most difficult thing I have done. The pain of a migraine is a lot like emotional and mental pain because no matter what you do, there is no distracting from it or forgetting it – there is no escape except to endure it, and that is as excruciating as it sounds.
I learned more in those 2 years than I had in the previous 20. I started slowly putting a team together to support me: a chronic pain therapist for my mind; a massage therapist for the physical pain; acupuncture treatments with a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner for the whole body (mind, body, soul); and my family doctor who got me appointments with pain specialists for injections to get my debilitating headaches under control. I participated in a 30-day yoga journey with Adriene on YouTube, and kept a food journal to eliminate triggers and get on track again – I was 108 pounds due to disordered eating that resurfaced during the depressive state. I slept and rested and took a little time off to heal and accepted support from loved ones, a very difficult task since I was normally the one offering. The rebuild has not been easy, but it has been rewarding and worth the work. I can say this has been the biggest self-development, self-improvement and self-compassionate journey of my life.
The good news is it doesn’t have to get this far. If you are at any point in that story, there is hope and you will come through it. Otherwise, you don’t have to wait for rock bottom to change the plan. You can change your own story and get back into the power of managing your own pain now. The reward is life and living, and it is so much better than constant suffering. I am realistic and have realistic expectations. I still have days with pain, setbacks and flare-ups, but now I know how to manage, where to turn, how to watch for triggers and when to take the time and rest.
I have my life back, I paddleboard, snowmobile in the backcountry, ride a motorcycle, and enjoy many other activities that I couldn’t do before. I trust my body now, it is no longer me against it. We are one and I listen to it and have no more dark corners hidden away that wait to pop up, unexpected. I can say I am managing the pain and that it is not taking up my entire life any longer, and I notice it most in my time and energy. I have time to live again and the actual energy to support that life.