Reflections from Pain BC volunteers: Jenny, Pain Support and Wellness Group facilitator and Coaching for Health volunteer

November 10, 2021

Jenny smilingWhen I was a student nurse 10 years ago, I attended a conference hosted by Pain BC. I also went as a family member of a person living with pain. It was one of the most life-changing experiences.

I’m a registered nurse, and my specialty is in hospice palliative care. Prior to nursing, I was a care aide in a hospice. I’ve worked intimately with people living with acute, chronic, complex, persistent, and cancer pain, as well as with their loved ones and family members.

In 2019, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, followed by fibromyalgia, and later chronic fatigue syndrome. I couldn’t be a bedside nurse anymore. I was living with too much discomfort, chronic fatigue, and brain fog. I felt I had been uprooted from my communities. I’d been uprooted from work, I couldn’t see my friends, I couldn’t even drive some days.

Living with any chronic condition is isolating. And there is no survivorship – living is survivorship. I didn’t know anyone of my peer group who had to live with pain. I wanted to be of service, connect with people, and gain skills in a field like coaching.

When I was marshalling my resources, I realized I could find what I needed at Pain BC, which I’ve had in my back pocket for years! I did the training for Coaching for Health and then expressed my curiosity about the Pain Support and Wellness Groups. I trained as a group facilitator and I loved it! I’ve been finding myself through my roles with Pain BC.

There’s nothing like finding a community. It really bolstered me. It gave me hope. It made me feel I have a place in this world. One thing I most appreciate about the groups is that you can come as you are – in pyjamas, at home, with cats running around. Sometimes our group is the only social interaction people have in a week because they can’t leave home for various reasons. It becomes a true support group, where we can share wins and losses, challenges and different way of seeing things.

Belonging is also wrapped up in the sharing of power. A lot of the teachable moments and discussion are group-generated, and the facilitators are also people living with pain. This dissolves the power imbalance you can often see in groups run by non-peers.

I can’t say enough awesome things about Pain BC as an organization, the resources and supports they offer to the community, as well as the people I’ve worked with. It’s been an amazing couple of years.

Now I use my nursing experience in my job as a somatic therapist with the Centre for Mindfulness-Based Somatic Therapy. I’m also a counsellor in training. I think my experience living with pain as well with people living in pain and other life-limiting illnesses is really needed.

Pain isn’t only an individual experience – it’s a family experience, a community experience. I think of Pain BC as a pebble in a pond where you see the ripples of impact. Pain BC is a relatively small organization with huge impact. How many more ripples, how many more ponds could we affect?

- Jenny, Pain Support and Wellness Group facilitator and Coaching for Health volunteer