City & state: Saco, ME

Age: 55

Pain warrior role: U.S. Pain advocate since 2014

What type of health conditions you live with: Chronic back pain, narcolepsy, migraines

Favorite tip for others with chronic pain: Each person living with a chronic condition has a hidden talent; find it, and you can build your self-worth back and become part of your community again. Our new families are the people that support us on good days and bad.

Fun fact about you: I try to stay positive with life, even though I live with chronic conditions. With narcolepsy I have to stay busy, so I make things out of wood. My number one is the colored canes. This is therapeutic and it keeps me awake all day.  I give them to people that need them. The old saying is “pay it forward. I feel that is what will happen by doing this.

Ernest (Ernie) Merritt is an avid advocate both at both the state and national level, testifying on a step therapy bill in the state of Maine and attending 2019’s Headache on the Hill in Washington, D.C. Ernie facilitates a widely attended chronic pain support group in Maine and has a true passion for providing others with the help and support they need during their pain journey. He is a constant source of positivity, generosity, and kindness despite his pain. Ernie reflects, “struggling with depression after I began my chronic illness journey myself, it made me think I need to do something positive to make changes. This is why I joined others that have a voice–to empower, advocate, and make sure others have the same opportunities.