NATIONAL CHRONIC PAIN SUPPORT GROUPS
This Month’s Theme:
Self-love focuses on valuing and accepting yourself as you are. Self-soothing behaviors help you feel safe and allow you to comfort yourself. We will discuss skills we can learn to be kind to ourselves.
New 988 Mental Health Number – Nationwide, 988 is the number to dial or text to access free mental health crisis services. It’s available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 988lifeline.org for more information. Additionally, you can call 911. Remember, if you are in crisis, please view our PDF, What To Do In A Crisis, for more help.
ABOUT PAIN CONNECTION SUPPORT GROUPS
Why join Pain Connection national meeting?
Chronic pain can make it difficult to leave the house, even when you need support and community. That’s why we offer weekly support groups held via Zoom videoconference. These groups are available to anyone with chronic pain!
The meetings involve guided discussion led by individuals who have received specialized support group training from Gwenn Herman, LCSW, DCSW. Group leaders all have personal experience with living with pain.
Chronic pain support group meetings typically relate to a monthly theme or topic; you can read more about this month’s theme above.
Registration is required via the links above. Once you complete registration, you’ll receive an email confirmation with details about how to join.
Meet the national group leaders
Mary Beth Lewis
Mary Beth received her master’s degree in Human Resource Management from Purdue University. She worked in training and communications for seven years. In 2002, she developed complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) after an ankle surgery. For six years, she volunteered as tutor for an English for Speakers of Other Languages. In 2017, Mary Beth received support group leader training through Pain Connection and led a support group in Maryland for a year before moving to Texas. Now serving as the Pain Connection Live group coordinator, she supports the Pain Connection website and leads one call per month. In 2020, she moved to Ohio where she currently resides with her husband. They have two sons in college and a goofy little dog at home.
With a B.S. in Education, Bobbi has worked in education, electronics/high tech, and health and human services. She and her husband lived and worked in Europe, backpacking there and in the Far East before settling in New Hampshire. While caring for aging parents and raising their son, Bobbi facilitated a free support group for caregivers for 12 years and received a Spirit of NH Award for volunteering with homeless families. Bobbi has pain from rheumatoid arthritis, spondylolisthesis, herniated discs and digestive issues. Her pain doctor encouraged her to attend support group leader training with Pain Connection in 2017. Currently, Bobbi facilitates a NH support group, assists Pain Connection with virtual support groups, and volunteers with VNA Hospice. She helped form the NH Pain Collaborative and attends Don’t Punish Pain rallies. She recently received a U.S. Pain Advocacy Award.
Sara Gehrig is from northern Wisconsin and has two teenage sons.
Sara has dedicated much of her adult life to personal training, yoga, and nutrition. At one point, she had her own yoga studio where she taught classes on top of working with individuals dealing with pain and healing from medical events.
In addition to chronic spinal stenosis, Sara also lives with failed back syndrome, chronic neuropathic pain, pelvic floor dysfunction, chronic sacroiliac joint dysfunction, and depression.
She is an active volunteer for the U.S. Pain Foundation and runs three support groups: the Daily Chronic Pain support group, the LGBTQ+ community group, and a Wisconsin-based group.
Michele Rice and Noelle Lopez
Michele Rice and Noelle Lopez are trained U.S. Pain Foundation support group leaders. They co-facilitate the first national meeting of every month in addition to the California state support group.
Michele Rice currently serves as the Patient Engagement Lead at US Pain Foundation. She is from Northern CA and has lived with intractable chronic pain since 2000. A graduate from Cal State East Bay (formerly Cal State Hayward), she was an elementary school teacher and a pharmacy technician until a slip and fall at work led to the development of complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), a debilitating neurological disorder. She also lives with several comorbid conditions, including fibromyalgia and migraine, among others.
Michele first became active in the pain community as a speaker on the graduate panel for a functional restoration program in Los Gatos, CA. and as a support group leader for those living with CRPS. After being featured in the 2015 issue of the INvisible Project, an online and print magazine highlighting the experiences of people living with pain, she attended the US Pain Foundation’s Advocacy Summit. There she began to develop new hopes and dreams as she felt she had found her new purpose in life- to advocate for others living with chronic pain. She became a passionate volunteer with the organization and was awarded Ambassador of the Year in 2017. She has written for the INvisible Project as well as several blogs for US Pain and for Migraine Awareness Month. She has also spoken at city council meetings all over the Bay Area, and most recently participated in the 2023 Headache on the Hill.
After attending an in-person and a virtual support group leader training with Pain Connection, she now co-leads the California group twice a month and the first national group of the month with Noelle Lopez.
Noelle is from the San Francisco Bay Area and lives with her spouse and Great Dane. After fracturing her ankle and undergoing six corrective surgeries, Noelle was diagnosed with RSD/CRPS in 2004 and has lived with chronic pain since she was a young adult. She recently earned her B.A. in Psychology with plans to attend graduate school.
After years of living with chronic pain, Noelle turned to community work to help others and create meaning in her life. She has been a volunteer with the U.S. Pain Foundation since 2016, completed support group leadership training in 2019, and advocacy training in 2020. As a support group leader, she is passionate about creating a supportive space where people with pain can feel seen and heard and learn how to cope and maximize their quality of life. Additionally, she works as a crisis counselor.
Noelle currently co-leads the California state support groups and the first national meeting of every month with Michele Rice.
Ryan Drozd has been coping with chronic upper, lower, mid back, and neck pain for a decade. He is a Certified Nutrition Coach through the National Academy of Sports Medicine as well as an LMT and RYT-200.
In 2019, Ryan attended a support group leader training with Pain Connection. Currently, Ryan facilitates a national support group meeting on the third Thursday of every month.
Ryan is honored to share his personal experiences with others seeking options outside of mainstream medicine. His interest and knowledge in alternative modalities stems from living with undiagnosed chronic pain for years. He loves socializing, reading, writing, playing cards or board games, and spending time in nature.
Rebecca Fleming has had Chiari Malformation for 16 years. During this time, she has explored a large number of treatments and therapies to better understand and manage her chronic pain. In 2017, she began volunteering in horse therapy and learned the healing that comes from helping others. Her goal is to help others by sharing information and ideas on pain management and therapies. She decided to become a chronic pain support group leader because of her desire to help others find a path forward in their pain management and improve the quality of their lives.