On Encouragement & Breaking Through Chronic Pain

IT’S UNBELIEVABLE what words of encouragement can do. They tell us we’re not alone in what we feel; there are others out there — damn near everybody — going through their own challenges whether in body, heart or soul.

Still, the struggles we endure often remain below the surface; because of this we feel alone.

For years I’ve felt like something’s seriously wrong with me. Suffering a herniated disc at 21 has led to spending my twenties in chronic back pain.

I’ve been unable to find answers, not even somebody who can understand what I feel.

I want to be clear that I don’t blame anybody for that.

I’m beyond grateful for the support of my friends and family on this journey, as I know they feel my pain differently when they see me hurting.

But it’s not the same as somebody who can truly understand the physical and psychological toll it takes.

Keeping my faith, my joy, my hope throughout it all has made me who I am.

I battle with how much to write about this. Sharing what it’s like to hurt is by no means my favorite topic (my inner voice says you’re bringing people down, nobody wants to hear about your pain!)

But the reality is so many of us are going through something similar; I’ve realized that the pain I deal with, that whatever we endure, is part of what makes being alive so beautiful.

My sharing is part of my healing. I believe elucidating what it’s like while in the mud is much more impactful than simply relaying the information from the other side.

I told myself throughout my twenties that there must be a route out of chronic pain.

Yet I found this difficult to wholeheartedly believe. That tension in my soul has scared the shit out of me, a fear exacerbated by repeatedly being told by professionals that I’m too young for this while providing no real clarity of what’s even happening.

Here’s the good news:

A couple of months ago a friend (you know who you are, so much love) guided me to Brendan Backstrom, a human being who’s mission it is to change the perception of lower back pain and what can be done about it.

I started working with Brendan about six weeks ago, and it’s changed the trajectory of my entire life.

Brendan is the first person I’ve found who has actually been through exactly what I’ve dealt with, the mystery and loop of chronic back pain post injury.

The dude’s a world-class athlete; yet for years, even he couldn’t find any route or real professional help out of pain after suffering a ruptured disc, as the aftermath of a back injury is complex.

After years of trial and error, Brendan built his own path out of back pain through unwavering curiosity and is now stronger than ever.

Now it’s his life’s work to help those like me. It’s not an overnight fix; it’s a process I’m signing up for with Brendan’s Back Ability Blueprint.

But for the first time after suffering this injury, I have evidence that I’ll one day play sports again, live life again, pain-free; it’s no longer just a prayer I hope to come true.

There’s an ever-growing crew of us in the program. While the weekly workouts are the key to this, it’s the group calls which have been eye-opening.

We share our victories and our struggles, and for the first time I feel like I have people to relate to. I’ve realized there are countless others dealing with this like me.

A few weeks ago I had a flair up in my back. The week after I got sick. I called into the group chat from bed, feeling quite disheartened.

But Brendan guided me into a positive mindset with his words of encouragement, telling me he had countless moments like I just had and it sucks, but I have to just keep going.

The lows are part of this.

What makes his encouragement so helpful is how he didn’t just say:

Don’t worry, it’s gonna be fine!

There isn’t much substance to that, and often, this sort of encouragement discounts what we’re feeling.

Rather, his words communicated:

I’ve been through what you’ve been through. We’re human, and it’s okay to be down. It’s part of the process called being alive. Just keep going, because things will get better.

It’s no walk in the park, this thing called life.

We need each other.

A week later I felt better, and in our group call, one member was talking about how he tweaked his back.

Brendan discussed the situation and I added how that was me two weeks prior, straining the same thing with the same move. I got better after a few days and used the pain as a clue to move forward with greater patience.

I could tell that the words from someone who was just there meant a lot to him.

We’re lucky to have Vinny in the group, said Brendan, to have someone willing to share what it’s like battling as well, not only on the other side looking back.

It’s hard, man. Sometimes all I want to do is vent.

Seriously. I’m done trying, and falling, and getting up again and again. I want to be a kid again.

But this is real shit; our struggles are the catalyst for the adventure of our life that we’ll one day look back on with profound appreciation if we choose to see them as more than a worthy opponent — but a gift.

I know with the entirety of my being that I’ll one day say:

I wouldn’t be who I am without that experience, those years of struggle; look what I’ve overcome.

I return to the notion by neurologist Sigmund Freud:

“One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.”

I don’t need to look back — I’m grateful now, as the truth in Freud’s words shines lucid like the moon, guiding me through the darkest nights.

I’m fucking beyond grateful for the pain and the fortitude it’s instilled in me. I’ve found my purpose in my pain, a bigger heart and deeper soul.

What a gift to be alive, to be able to continue, seek, try, and overcome. Not everybody is so fortunate even for the opportunity to go on trying. I’ll never forget that.

My life’s purpose is
To encourage others.
One day the life
We imagine has
Gotta come true.
I dream of playing sports
Like a kid again.
In the next season,
Whenever it comes,
I dream of being stronger than
I’ve ever been in body
And heart.
The pain’ll be a memory;
This season will have
Made me —
But until then…

Imma live life in the meantime.
Imma laugh big in the meantime.
Imma take my shots
And share my soul
And pen it all
In the meantime.
And then one day,
The future we’ve dreamt of
Will be
Just another day.
Because we were busy
Living life in the

We can’t do this thing alone; love y’all so much.

  • Brendan Backstrom
    Posted at 09:43h, 18 September Reply

    Bring me to tears bro! My goal in all of this was never to position as an expert, just to be real. In a world that teaches us to hide, I’ve come to realize what a literal superpower transparency is. Im flawed and have been lost. I can share that and not only still be worthy, but be a lifeline for someone two steps back. Grateful for those who did so for me, so I could continue it. Just as you are doing even better for others, than I ever could.

    The pen is definitely your sword, and you’re using it for good 💯💯

    • Vincent Van Patten
      Posted at 10:39h, 19 September Reply

      Appreciate you so much man🙏🏻 What a blessing to be part of this force for healing and good in the world. It ain’t supposed to be easy, this path; but it’s worth giving everything we have to help others as we help ourselves, hurting, struggling, seeking the light, too. 🫶

  • doering
    Posted at 02:30h, 07 August Reply

    Thank you for sharing this, Vinny! I’m just in awe that you have carried on with your back pain, and managed to do so much, be so joyful and uplifting and inspiring to others.

    I’m also so glad that you found Brendan and this group of fellow travelers. I agree that there is nothing so helpful as having a group of people to share with regularly … to be completely open with.

    Thank you again for your honesty combined with your dreams going forward. Sending love and wishing you the best going forward.

  • Constance Wills
    Posted at 09:26h, 05 August Reply

    I salute you for having to courage to write about your journey. I pray you continue to find more answers and ways to deal with your emotions, you are most definitely not alone. Have blessed evening!

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