Painting Pain

Hi, my name is Heather Bolinder and I am a chronic pain patient.

I am a native Cape Codder from Massachusetts and I was a very active person, involved in volunteering, founder of the Harwich Community Playground, a member of the Cape Cod Art Association and Harwich Artist Guild. I worked as a volunteer E.M.T in Colorado, as well as a private duty nurse’s aid and raised two beautiful children. I graduated from Mount Ida College with a degree in Fine Arts and went on to teach art at a local studio as well as a professional artist, which is where my pain story begins.

It was a beautiful day in late July of 2007 – I was sitting working in my garden when all of a sudden I had excruciating pain in my back. I was paralyzed, unable to stand; it was the most devastating pain I had ever experienced. The pain was shooting down my spine into my hips, pins and needles in my legs. I was nervous, scared, I did not know what to do. I slowly crawled into the house, called 911 and was taken to the hospital. My life was FOREVER changed in that one moment.

I arrived at the ER, they ran many tests, sent me to too many doctors, I spent the whole summer going from doctor to doctor. First, they did a MRI of my back, told me I had bulging discs at L4 and L5. Then I was sent to a neurologist, who did a brain scan and informed me I have a pituitary adenoma, meningioma and neurofibromatosis. From there I was sent to a Rheumatoid Arthritis doctor, who diagnoses me with fibromyalgia. I was told by many doctors I shouldn’t be in PAIN! I DO understand what PAIN feels like!!!

I went home to a life that was forever changed. Before the hospital I was pain free, active and when I was discharged from the hospital, I spent almost a year in and out of bed not being able to walk or move because of severe pain. I cannot sit, stand, or walk for long periods of time and in addition, I can’t lift anything without severe pain. I looked everywhere for help – pain clinics, physical therapy, acupuncture, chiropractors, massage searching for someone to cure me. The only thing that worked for me up until this point was medication, and I did not want to be on medications. But even with the medications, I am not pain free, which I so desperately want and deserve. I have to rely on hope and faith that one day I will be able to walk the beaches of Harwich pain free once again.

I had lost all hope; I was not able to return to my previous life, I had not found pain relief. I felt like I had nothing to look forward to, I could no longer paint and that has now changed. Painting was the one thing that allowed me to escape and gave me purpose in life. I felt that no one was going to be able to help, that is, until I talked to my family doctor.

At one of my office visits, he said to me, “Heather, why don’t you paint your pain”! He thought this would help me emotionally to express my pain, which as a chronic pain patient is difficult at times and would help to explain my pain to people who do not have pain nor understand chronic pain.

A light bulb went off in my head; I could not only escape my pain for a period of time, which every pain patient so much desires, I may be able to help people through the process. The concept of painting my pain kept rolling through my head, I could not think of anything else. When I awoke the next morning, I grabbed a canvas and started my first pain painting. As time went on and my pain persisted, I painted more and more of how and what I was feeling.

Click to see Heather’s Painting Pain art gallery

I felt really good that I was expressing my pain through my paintings, but I still felt I was missing something. I was searching for someone to understand how dark and lonely this journey was. One night I went on the computer to see if there was anyone out there going through this very difficult journey, when I came across this website called Medicalspeakinenglish.com and it has changed my life. I went in their chat room and met some wonderful warm and caring people that were also in chronic pain, and then I met the medical provider Chris Clough the founder of the site, who works with hundreds of pain patients. I finally found friends that totally understand – I love you guys!!

With my new found friends at medicalspeakinenglish.com, others started suggesting I paint their pain as well. Chris Clough and I came up with the idea to put my pain paintings on his website. I began to live my life again, a life that I had put on hold.

Medicalspeakinenglish.com was founded by one of the most understanding and caring providers I have ever met. I was skeptical of his website at first as it is a paid website, but I submitted my medical case to him. He just did not take what I said at face value; he asked me questions and clarified what I was saying almost like I was in his office.

He felt something else was going on and suggested blood tests that I should get. I was diagnosed with Lyme’s Disease this November. I want to thank Chris Clough for believing in me. My journey is not over, I still have chronic pain, but I now have hope that we may find some answers.

For me this has been an incredible journey and my heart goes out to all of you that are experiencing chronic pain. I lost hope at one point for many years, as most chronic pain patients do at one time or another, and I want to encourage you – PLEASE do not give up! I understand, a lot of doctors and providers, pharmacists, friends, and even family members do not understand what we are going through. How could they – Unless they have experienced the type of pain we are going through! My hope is that through, Paintingpain.com, they can understand what it is to be in our skin.

You are NOT alone – No one in chronic pain has to be alone and this is why I have decided to start this website and share my story with you.

Sincerely,

Chronic Pain Patient Heather Bolinder

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