Orange Is The New Black and Chronic Pain: Don’t Be a Prisoner of Your Illness! – by Ashley Boynes-Shuck


Recently, I began watching the Netflix series, Orange is the New Black, also known as #OITNB. (Yes, I know that I’m late to that party.) I began to relate with some of Piper Chapman’s feelings as she is in jail, though I was unclear why, since I’ve personally not spent any time in a women’s prison.

I then realized that some of what she deals with are the same things that people with chronic illness or chronic pain go through! When she was trapped in jail, as her husband went to a party and furthered his career, as her friend had her baby, and so on, I felt a sense of familiarity. Sometimes, I feel like my health problems have kept me prisoner. I’ve, at times, had to miss out on things, had to put dreams on hold, change my career aspirations, and sit on the sidelines as friends participate in athletic competitions, races, and things of that nature. People get to live their lives without sickness or pain, and I’m very happy for them, just like Piper was happy for her friends and loved ones outside of jail. But she was mournful, too — suffering from FOMO, or, the Fear of Missing Out.  And that’s another valid feeling that comes along with chronic illness.

This is why and how I related to Piper, Alex, Crazy Eyes, and the rest. We are, at times, stripped of our freedoms because of being ill or having physical disabilities or limitations. However, I also realized that some of these limitations are in our minds, only. So don’t let that vicious cycle of “chronic illness patient thinking” do you in. Don’t let your mind be taken prisoner when it is a completely innocent bystander in all of this. 

You’ve done your time, surely. I’m sure you spent time grieving your former life, your life “on the outside,” as it were. But, now you’re here. So, why not make the best of your situation as many of the women on OITNB do? Find a job that you enjoy, cultivate a circle of like-minded friends that you get along with, stand up and speak out for things that matter to you, get creative. Take delight in the small things whether that’s a visitor you’ve been longing to see, a meaningful phone call, or “Taco Tuesday.”

If you watch the show, you’ll understand my adaptation of the following quote:  “Stand strong & keep your head up. You are a GARDEN ROSE. That illness, is just a WEED.”

Fan of the show or not, we’ve all had times where we’ve felt our illness was holding us hostage or taking us prisoner. But we don’t have to let it. YOUR ATTITUDE is your Get Out of Jail Free Card. Use it!

Be Well,

Ashley Boynes-Shuck


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