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Magazine editor Tim Olsen poses with his grandfather and son after a Utah State men's basketball game.
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By Timothy R. Olsen ’09, M.B.A. ’18

It’s been 21 years since I graduated high school (shout out Sky View Bobcats!), and during my senior year I discovered I had a herniated disc in my lower back at my L5S1 vertebrae. There was no single moment I know of where the injury happened, but as I geared up for my senior year of track, persistent pain through my sciatic nerve and down my right leg led me to get an MRI and ultimately discover the injury. 

Following the diagnosis, I embarked on a rehab journey that included a lot of physical therapy and multiple epidural injections into my spine. Unfortunately, I couldn’t compete in track that spring as I recovered — a disappointment since we were returning the majority of our 4×100 meter relay team that had taken seventh in state the year prior. However, I was able to more or less return to normal activity without major pain or issues. 

After high school, I planned on serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and spent nearly all of the nine weeks of language training required for that mission in Provo at the Missionary Training Center, but the herniated disc flared up and instead of traveling to Germany with the group I’d been training with, I returned home to take care of my back. 

I had more epidural injections, visited with specialists, and eventually had surgery — a microdiscectomy — in January of 2004. Weeks of therapy followed, and as I recovered, I began my undergraduate studies at Utah State. Fast forward to today, and it literally took me writing this to realize I’ve now been dealing with my injured back longer than I enjoyed a healthy one.

I tell you all this, because as we have been building this “Mental Health” issue of the magazine, it really hit me how much of my time and energy behind the scenes, is spent just “dealing” with my back pain every day. I’ve always thought of my back as strictly a physical ailment rather than something I also have to deal with mentally, but working on this project has really hammered home for me personally how incorrect that is. 

Whether you’re dealing with chronic pain, anxiety, depression, the loss of a loved one, or something else, you are not alone.

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