Gardening guru Trina Studebaker lives with chronic pain and now manages it without the use of opioids and steroids. “I live a life of mindfulness and I’m living my dream. I have never been happier.”

It wasn’t always that way.

Studebaker is now the owner of the garden center From My Bed to Yours in Aloha, OR. But in 2006, she was teaching special needs kids when she was injured on the job, resulting in permanent nerve damage in her hip.

Over the next four years her life became a nightmare of surgeries, opioid addiction and finally attempted suicide. Out of the darkness she found a healing path that brought her to a life focused not on pain, but her dreams and passions.

We asked Studebaker about her experience.

gardeningPain Pathways: Can you tell us about your journey?

Studebaker: My path with chronic pain began when I suffered permanent nerve damage to my hip and groin from an injury at work. The only therapies doctors offered were opioids, steroid injections and surgery.

I’d had depression since I was a teenager, and when I became addicted to the opioids and still couldn’t manage the pain, the depression got worse.

In 2010 I had a breakdown, attempted suicide and ended up in the psych ward. After a week in the hospital, which included horticulture therapy, I went to outpatient treatment to learn to manage the depression. I’d had it my whole life, but with the chronic pain, it was more than I could handle.

PP: What finally changed?

Studebaker: I began Dialectical Behavior Therapy, which introduced me to the path of mindfulness. I also had a team to help me detox from the opioids. It was three of the most hellish months you can imagine.

Just as I was about to graduate from the program, I was in a car accident and had three surgeries over three years to repair my neck. I had even more pain to manage.

PP: But because of the therapy you were able to do it without the use of opioids?

Studebaker: Yes. I’ve always loved gardening, and horticulture therapy taught me that it’s truly my passion. When I’m in the garden, it’s so easy to practice mindfulness. It keeps me in the moment, which feeds my soul. When I feed my soul, I am at peace and my nervous system stays calm. I end up with less pain because of it.

PP: With chronic pain comes a shift in energy levels – good days and bad days. How do you manage your energy now, as opposed to before your treatment?

Studebaker: I HATE low energy days. I have to talk myself through those and remind myself that it’s not going to be forever. I remind myself that my body is my partner and that I will take care of it. I will listen to it and give it what it needs.

For so many years I hated my body and felt that it had betrayed me. It wasn’t until I made friends with it and realized that it was worth loving that I could begin to address having chronic pain. After a lot of practice I am better at taking care of my body – and in return it takes care of me.

I have also planned my business retail space to be open according to what my body can do. It’s on our property so I don’t have to worry about a lot of overhead. I am open two days a week, Fridays and Saturdays from 10-4. I do my best to have Thursday be a day of rest. Sunday is a day of rest, as well. For my business days, I try to make sure that we have leftovers to eat.

I do garden consults as well and I plan those according to when my days of rest are. Life does happen though and sometimes my plan goes out the window. The great thing is that I know it’s only temporary and it’s not the end of the world.

PP: Following your passion isn’t always simple or easy. How have you stayed on your path?

Studebaker: There have been obstacles and challenges. I’ve had to learn things that I didn’t think I could learn. I’ve had to ask for more help than ever before. But all of these things are part of the process.

gardening

Studebaker teaches gardening classes for people looking to keep active in their love for gardening in spite of chronic pain.

Following my passion and living my dream has made my life so full and content. There have been obstacles and challenges along the way to opening my own business. I’ve had to learn things that I didn’t think I could learn. I’ve had to ask for more help than ever before. But all of these things are part of the process.

I am proud of what I’ve learned and accomplished. It’s a feeling that nobody can take away from me. I had nothing to lose. I’d almost lost my health completely.

Now, I am building the life that I want. I am the creator. I believe anyone can do that. I’d have to say, embrace your dreams and passions. Begin to build your life around that and give yourself plenty of time.

Remember there are no shoulds. There just aren’t. Once you begin to believe in yourself and your passions, the world seems to begin to open up to you. Opportunities. Connections. It’s so exciting to see it happen and once you start on that path, there is no turning back.

Moving forward is so rewarding. Each step forward is a victory. What some would consider a step back is only part of the process. If you change your perspective about that, you are really only moving forward.

Studebaker believes that every victory gives you momentum to keep going, and encourages pain sufferers to know that they are worth pursuing their passions. So which passion will you pursue starting today? Let us know in the comments below.

(Featured image courtesy of Benita Van Winkle, photographer and friend of our magazine.)