I feel like this is the equivalent of talking to an empty room, but here we go.
My name is Jen. This is me:
Underneath that snood and gargantuan winter coat is a 27-year-old lawyer/writer/editor from the greater Boston area. She is happily married, owns a home, works for a small firm, and has been in two car accidents that severely damaged her spine — one accident in 2004, one in 2013. The second accident was an echo of the first, a lesser impact that somehow produced a bigger sound. I’ve been in chronic pain for a decade. I’ve been to:
- physical therapists
- pain management specialists
- energy healers
- steroid injections
- cortisone injections
- Botox injections (in my back)
- lidocaine injections
- nerve ablations
- the full range of narcotics
- gentle exercise
I finally had a cervical discectomy and fusion in my neck this past year. Now my pain fluctuates day by day, radiating from my spine out to my limbs.
I know that right now the room is empty, but there are so many people out there like me who I want to find. We are part of an aging population, a past in which people were damaged and killed by cars and the people wielding them. Just like how my name saw a surge of popularity during the ’70s and ’80s, one day I will be Mom’s Friend Named Jennifer while all the young children are named Dakota or Aiden or Katniss. Cars are already driving themselves, and someday human error might be relegated to faulty technology during the production process. We would have to find new ways to be injured, new ways to die. Personal injury lawyers might lose a sizable chunk of their clientele. They’d have to settle for slip-and-falls (or “faller downers,” as my friend Grete calls them), product liability, and the occasional cancer class action lawsuit.
I’m okay with that.
What I’m not okay with is how few resources are out there for people like me, even for simple things — like how to dress without wearing sweat pants and baggy shirts every day. After the second car accident, my doctors suggested both a back brace and the use of a TENS unit to help manage my pain. I managed to slightly electrocute myself on the latter, but that’s a story for another day.
Anyway… I have this TENS unit, which (as many adventurous people have discovered) can also be used for erotic purposes. I use it in the traditional sense.
TENS stands for (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation), which are predominately used for nerve related pain conditions (acute and chronic conditions). TENS machines work by sending stimulating pulses across the surface of the skin and along the nerve strands. –Tensunits.com
Doesn’t that sound nice? It’s a little generator that you strap onto your belt like a dad from the ’90s wearing a clip-on cell phone. The lead wires snake under your clothes, and you place the electrodes wherever there is pain. Simple enough.
Except everyone can see that you’re wearing a TENS unit.
I was pretty miserable. On top of having an enormous amount of pain, I was uncomfortable with how I looked. There is no smaller version and no graceful way to wear it as prescribed. I tried Googling an answer to see how other people had dealt with it. Surprisingly, I couldn’t find much at all regarding the TENS. One woman said she hadn’t worn dresses in 27 years because she couldn’t find a way to wear both the device and a dress. This was unacceptable to me. I like dresses. I wasn’t going to wear pajamas or medical clothes just to accommodate this piece of electrified plastic.
Eventually I found this master of disguise: ShootingTulips, AKA Ruthanna Kuhn, on Etsy.
I don’t know Ruthanna, but I wish I did. I was searching for any possible way to wear both a TENS unit and my normal clothes when I found her online shop. She sells lace gun holsters. Gun holsters. Made of lace. How fantastic is that? And guess what else they hold? Insulin pumps. People have gotten very creative with hiding insulin pumps — pockets sewn into bras, satchels attached to underwear, secret pockets inside of pants. I love human ingenuity.
An insulin pump is roughly the same size as a TENS unit. Trying not to get my hopes up, I ordered one… and it was magical. The TENS fit perfectly into the stretchy pocket, and the garter stayed up on my thigh without sliding down. As long as I wore flared dresses and skirts, it was undetectable.
When I’m having a terrible day physically, it helps when I’m dressed the way I want to be dressed. Looking good helps me feel good. Nobody wants to face the world wearing sweatpants.
Actually, that’s a lie. I love sweatpants. Just not while I’m being a lawyer (though that would be lovely).
Things like that, like the lace TENS unit holster, are why I started this blog. On the one hand, it’s for me to work through the considerable rage and depression I have regarding these accidents and how they have irrevocably changed me. On the other hand, it’s to provide a resource that hopefully will grow as more people connect to it. It’s for those of us navigating doctors’ offices and insurance companies. Like one of my professors at Ohio University said about chronic pain, it’s for those of us “wandering the starlit fields.”
Instead of just managing pain, I want to find a way back to myself. I want to tease apart what drives me forward, what pulls me back, and what I can do to live a fuller life even though I have this constant pain in my body. I want to become more than my limitations.
So now I say to this empty room: Hi. There will be more people here soon. There are so many of us, and we always find one another.