Health coach, author, advocate, support group leader and aspiring radio show host are just a few of the words that describe Amber Rose Dullea, who has master’s degrees in Arts and Divinity. But were it not for a fateful life event, Dullea would not be on the meaningful career path that she is today.
In December 2002, Dullea was involved in a car accident that would forever change her life. Shaken to her very core both physically and mentally, she suffered from chronic pain and memory impairment, and she was eventually diagnosed with post-traumatic fibromyalgia.
The experience was harrowing.
“On the one hand, the car accident completely took away my ability to continue my current work as a massage therapist and educator. I went from being pretty darn healthy to someone who had to be extremely health conscious,” said Dullea. “On the other hand, the experience was an eye-opener, making me realize just how important health is in our everyday lives.”
Six years later and after going through multiple rounds of chiropractic visits, acupuncture, physical therapy, massage, antidepressants and sleeping aids, Dullea thought she would never be able to work again – eventually applying for Social Security disability coverage.
After being denied, Dullea reached out to Vocational Rehabilitation Services, found the support she needed and began her first transformative experience in life coaching – working with college students to help them achieve academic success.
Taking almost eight years to finally be able to manage her chronic pain, Dullea now channels her life-changing experiences in her work as a health coach, providing support for others living with chronic pain as well as raising awareness and addressing negative stereotypes.
“There’s a stigma surrounding chronic pain – that we’re weak, we’re complainers, that it’s all in our heads,” said Dullea. “But for the estimated one-third of the American population living with chronic pain, it’s not only a reality, it’s a lifelong stigma.”
Reflecting on her own chronic pain management journey, which resulted in visiting doctor after doctor without experiencing any real positive changes, Dullea knew she had to do something to make a difference: “That’s why I do what I do. I believe very deeply that everybody is different and that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to pain management.”
Though experiencing tremendous personal growth as a result of her car accident, Dullea readily admits that her life change wasn’t easy.
“Change is hard, and so is accepting it,” said Dullea. “Part of what I do as a coach is to support people as they navigate the pain management process, making sure that I’m as understanding and compassionate as possible as people move along their life journey – helping individuals make a real difference toward improving the quality of their life.”
Recently moving from Portland to Lincoln County, Oregon, Dullea’s advocacy efforts continue to be a life focus. Though she’s only been in Lincoln County for six months, Dullea is already hard at work, organizing a local event in Lincoln County for Pain Awareness Month this September and looking to start up a health talk radio show.
And with every action that Dullea takes, she is directly combatting the invisibility that often exists for those living with chronic pain. Recently she was asked to serve on a task force for chronic pain conditions on the Oregon Health Evidence-based Review Commission.
“For a lot of us, we are invisible,” she said. “Not all chronic conditions are invisible, but a lot of them are. I believe that by sharing our stories, we connect with people one-on-one and help foster a deeper understanding – building empathy and compassion because more people will know somebody with chronic pain. Opening up and talking about our conditions may not be something that everybody can do comfortably, but for those of us who can, we really do have the power to break down barriers, address stigmas and raise awareness.”
Like Dullea, we encourage you to find your passion and use your voice to advocate for yourself and others in whatever way is most comfortable for you. Joining the Chronic Disease Coalition is a good place to start.