A Letter to Those Suicidal Because of Chronic Pain

A Letter to Those Suicidal Because of Chronic Pain

In my work as a CRPS/RSD, Chronic Illness & Pain Peer Support Counselor/Advocate, I speak to people all the time who are on the brink of suicide or have lost hope because their pain is too overwhelming. It breaks my heart. But I must admit I understand. Why? BECAUSE I’VE BEEN THERE. I’ve been in their shoes and I know many of you have been too or are right now.
This letter is to you…

There was a period of time in my medical journey for years – years ago – that I didn’t want to be here anymore, for no other reason than I wanted the insanity-inducing, life-changing, soul-crushing pain to stop – at any and all costs, including death. I was 85-90% homebound/bedbound, couldn’t drive, and many times had to get around with assistive devices the rare times I did get out (yet I looked and sounded relatively “normal” considering I suffer(ed) with invisible chronic illnesses/pain). All this after a successful and lucrative career in business was stripped away from me in a split second by a routine medical procedure gone wrong. The grief and loss was palpable.

Melissa Wardlaw

What was the point of living in this intense level of suffering? I was not living, heck I was barely existing. I had lost much of my independence. I was bitter, angry and difficult to deal with – I pushed my loved ones away because I didn’t want to feel like a burden. I thought I would be better off dead because no one would have to hear me complain anymore. I was lonely and isolated. My best friends became people on TV. I couldn’t sleep for days at a time. I let myself go. I gorged myself in food and gained weight. I was jealous of people for merely being able to live life or being able to do simple tasks. I was in a never-ending pity party of one. I enjoyed NOTHING – all because the pain wouldn’t let me.

The pain controlled me and dictated every move I made. I felt desperate, exhausted and worthless. I spent tens of thousands of dollars (out of pocket) on invasive and experimental treatments, modalities, healings and medications that only made me worse. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result, right? Well I definitely felt like I was going insane with the pain! My ONLY goal at that point was FIXING the horrendous pain and symptoms and getting back to my old life again – there was NO other option and in my mind if that didn’t happen, I had to end my life. It was a deal I kept making with myself – if it doesn’t go away by xyz day or after xyz treatment, I will end it. I only saw black and white – fix it or end it. And I had a plan. I was serious – uncontrolled chronic pain is no joke for those of us suffering with it.
BUT…I never wanted to die – I simply wanted the pain to end – and neither does anyone else in this position. We have simply lost all hope – hope that we will ever be able to function without being tortured by our own bodies 24/7. If so, then how? How is it possible to live with this unbearable pain?
Well, I’m here to tell you it’s not all black and white – there is GREY. You CAN get better! I know because I did. It took me a while – but appx seven years ago I finally found some answers and solutions. You see, by having the only goal of fixing it, I was trying to CURE INCURABLE chronic illnesses, which was counterintuitive. I was finally able to find some treatments, medications and coping mechanisms that enabled me to LIVE and have HOPE again! I’m not saying the pain/symptoms are gone – far from it. I still deal with them 24/7, and they are still severe. I have even developed additional medical issues. What I am saying however is that my medical condition is much better managed, and most important, I have ACCEPTED it. I have accepted that I have incurable chronic illnesses and pain that I will have to live with the rest of my life. Because of this, I must use a variety of tools to help manage them. And I’m doing just that, successfully. And YOU can too.
If you are feeling like you want to give up because of chronic illnesses or pain, below are some brief tips that might help:
1) Don’t give the pain your power – If we say things to ourselves enough we start to believe them. When we think about or focus on the pain/symptoms 24/7, we inevitably make them worse. Chronic pain will take and take if we let it! It’s like a toddler throwing a tantrum. If we give it attention, it will want more. If we acknowledge it but then put it in a “time-out,” we have a better chance of yielding the desired result. Instead of focusing on what you can’t control at the moment (the pain), try focusing on what you CAN control. What can you do to move forward in your wellness? What can you do to distract yourself from the pain?
2) Redirect and set goals – When we are stuck in a cycle of soul-crushing pain and thoughts of suicide, we are in a downward spiral of hopelessness. At that point it’s time to refocus our efforts. If you’ve been trying medication after medication, or surgery after surgery, try another strategy. Maybe it’s time to see a new specialist. Perhaps you need to force yourself to get out of the house at least once a month, even if for something other than a medical appointment. Have you considered your general health? The point is you have to do something different. You cannot give up on yourself. YOU CANNOT LET THE PAIN WIN.
3) Expand your support system – Unless they suffer with chronic illnesses and pain, our family and friends can’t really understand what we’re going through. Therefore, it can help tremendously to join a support group! There are thousands of Facebook groups for chronic pain, and even for specific chronic illness diagnoses. I always recommend joining at least one large group and one small local group if possible. Being able to connect with and meet others who are going through similar medical struggles can help to validate us, offer resources and compassion when we need some extra support. In addition, reaching out to a counselor is one of the best things you can do! ASKING FOR HELP IS OK.
4) Take it day by day – Someone once said that we can do anything for 15 minutes. Well whoever said it probably didn’t have chronic illnesses and pain LOL. But seriously, what this means to me is, if you’re thinking about or considering a drastic measure, do something else for 15 minutes. Make a phone call, watch a funny movie, go get the mail. The point is, you can get through and past it. When we’re in a dark place because of chronic illnesses and pain, sometimes we have to survive day by day, hour by hour, even minute by minute. You never know what tomorrow will bring – and that can save your life. REMEMBER, YOU DON’T WANT TO DIE – you just want the pain to end. These are two different things.
In conclusion, I no longer want to end my life because of severe chronic intractable pain. Do I want the pain to end? OF COURSE! But I also have realized that I am stronger than the pain. It doesn’t control or define me anymore and it cannot steal LIFE away from me no matter how hard it still tries. After all, I am LIVING proof.
If you are feeling suicidal because of chronic illnesses or pain this holiday (or any) season, please remember there is ALWAYS hope and help. Reach out and call someone. If you need support immediately, please call the

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Authored by: Melissa Wardlaw

Melissa Wardlaw was diagnosed with CRPS/RSD as a result of a spinal cord injury (non-paralyzing) suffered during a routine medical procedure. She also suffers from fibromyalgia, lumbar and cervical degenerative disc disease, migraines and additional chronic medical issues. Formerly a Business Executive/Consultant with an MBA in Entrepreneurship, she is also a Certified Career Coach and Certified Professional Resume Writer, and now spends her time career coaching and offering peer counseling/advocacy (pro bono) to those dealing with similar medical struggles. As a fierce advocate, she also runs both in-person and online support/empowerment groups for CRPS/RSD and chronic illnesses/pain in the Metro Atlanta area. A “fur mom” to two cats, Melissa is an avid volunteer and supports multiple organizations committed to rescuing animals and helping those with chronic illnesses/pain. She can be reached at crpsatl@gmail.com.

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Mahhn

“You CAN get better” No – you got better, many of us will never get better. we get worse. There is no cure or treatment for my situation, and to lie to people is wrong.
One thing you said is correct for sure “I will live with the pain the rest of my life” and that is all life is anymore, Pain. From the moment I’m awake until I am unconscious. I can’t keep friends because I’m always angry from the pain, even when I really try to act nice, the pain does not let go and its all a facade trying to pretend to be normal. There is no hope, there should be suicide assistance for people like me, so we can go in peace, not in disgrace.

I am in need of an advocate. Even looking at my xrays they say I am in a bad condition but I cannot get any help at all. I am very ready to end this.

Anika

Look at TheSpero Clinic in Fayetteville Arkansas. Only treatment center of their kind. There is hope and doctors who care.

reality check

you say expend your support system… which sounds great in theory- but next to impossible in reality. Now that I can no longer work, drive, get out and do much, nobody wants to come around. it is too hard for them. my own husband told me i have too much wrong with me, and that he is hoping he dies soon because this is so hard on him. family and friends of more than 10 years just leave – and move on with their lives.
I appreciate the kind words and that you are hoping to inspire people, thank you for that- but the reality is I can absolutely understand how Robin Williams and so many others take their own lives when they realize things aren’t ever going to get better.

THELMA SUDICK

I suffered a spinal cord injury while going to med school in Portland region. I fell down some stairs and was taken to the emergency room. where an INTERN performed a lumbar puncture. Well, he started to, then sticking the needle through the spinal cord, and instantly rendered me paralyzed from L-2 down! I felt a sharp pain, then boom! Nothing below my waist. For weeks I was told that I WAS NOT REALLY PARALYZED! THAT IT WAS “ALL IN MY HEAD”!
SO I contacted a psych at my college. He came by and looked at n=my file, me and then started yelling~! He made the whole hospital staff tell me the truth, that I was damaged when the intern( who was not really supposed to do the procedure without an MD there)did not do the procedure correctly.
when the feelings started coming back into my legs, I ran out of that hospital fast! But I did not know what had actually happened or what was going to happen from then on. I suffered an incomplete paralyzation. Meaning I still have some damage that never did come back. I have been hospitalized so many times for what was then diagnosed as spinal meningitis. But was complication from the cord injury. That was in 1980. In 1994 I slipped some wet grass and instantly l the pain was so unbearable that while screaming I passed out! Thank God. Because from that day until now I have had a process going in in the arachnoid membrane. My pia and dura are sticking together badly. The arachnoid has some kind of ossification going on now. I have had to do self caths many, many times. I am in so much pain . I am in a very bad situation. I don’t know what or how I will survive this time. My pain doctor of 22 years , who put me on a high enough dose of mscontin, to relieve my pain enough for me to live life as normal as I can. Two months ago my doctor suffered a stroke. The girls called me in and told me I was on TOO HIGH A DOSE OF MORPHINE. they cut me down from 130mgto15mg er. then told me the office was closing! I can not find a doctor now. HELP!

Ann Sable

Thank you for your efforts Melissa. But as for me and my fellow pain sufferers, this sort of ‘talk/story’ doesn’t help us one bit. We are seen as useless to our government and beyond, therefore, as like Thomas Wayne Kidd said…depopulation. Couldn’t care less if we fell off the earth. Many below have told what they go through, and I as well, do the same. We are being tortured beyond belief. And no, there isn’t anyone on here making it sound like they are worse off than you nor are they attacking you in any way. But, I can say this, it is absolutely the truth about true-honest debilitating pain and being able to lug such heavy items and keep going and going. There’s no such thing that happens in that fashion unless you’re bionical or whatnot. We, the CCPS, just can’t see that, can’t do that nor even imagine such things as that. Take care and glad that the above works for you.

Lynne H Smith

My new internist prescribed an electric blanket for my severe arthritis, back and fibromyalgia pain that keeps me awake at night. She took me off of Tramadol for fear I could potentially become “addicted.” What a travesty!

Melissa W

I appreciate any and all feedback on my articles. But to assume what my treatments, medications or coping mechanisms are, or what I do with my volunteering (btw it does NOT involve anything physical and most of it is done from home), or to downplay how severe my pain is – is speculation and judgment – something we all deal with in the chronic pain community that we fight against. We as chronic pain patients are in this battle together, and I tell my story and give brief tips that have helped (and do help) me when I was in this situation. This article is not a novel and I certainly cannot go into all the details. I’m sorry if some of you didn’t like it, but I have heard from many via email who have thanked me and told me it helped them and those are the ones for whom I write.

Your criticism with opioids is not with me – please place it in the appropriate place. I agree with the criticism and have put my money where my mouth is by advocating to people who can make a difference. Fighting someone who is on the same side in the same community will get us nowhere. Thanks for listening and happy holidays!

JEN

Lesson from animal rights activists on how to GET “media” attention! Google Kate Upton and Goose Down, not only did they get media attention but in the process educated the people on what they wear and sleep on and then if they have any compassion for “life and suffering” just how horribly these birds can suffer.
They did not plead with the model or the company…they were heard.

JMarquez

Hmmm – this is exactly the position I don’t want to end up in. I have nerve pain since an injury six months ago. The only thing that keeps me going is the hope I’ll get better. I’ll never accept it – if I don’t get better – I’m out. I’d rather die on my feet than crawl through life.

JEN

CPPS I urge to reread Red Lawherns post and the video made for Mike Moon before taking this author seriously. They are advocating for you… not themselves. They are your HOPE!!!
….and then you read the authors bio! An AVID volunteer committed to helping animals in need. I also rescued, rehabilitated and financially supported animals and it takes A LOT OF STAMINA before I became disabled with 3 of the conditions this person claims to have and WITHOUT opiate therapy I could NOT carry a 14 pd. dog down 4 steps to the bathroom and many days his care is all I can manage. If we all were getting the amount of medication this person is getting….. we would NOT be on this site. The CDC, DEA & DOCTORS who believe pain is made up….WOULD LOVE TO SEE THIS AUTHORS POST as it would most certainly confirm their beliefs. This author is NOT doing all she claims in severe pain.

David2

Pharma haters routinely conflate or confuse explanations for excuses. “My child overdosed after they got a prescription”. – is an EXPLANATION, not an EXCUSE, nor is it absolution for Severe Pain Sufferers cut-off.

JEN

Hope is a wonderful thing but comparing anyone is not, this is not a contest. How many of us have heard this from spineless doctors.
Sorry…but this sounds more like a spoiled brat then a human being in severe pain. When you are in REAL PAIN ….you dont think about being envious of others or what you have lost. When your pain is so bad that you CANNOT feed your cats or manage your own most basic needs, you wont be whining to a friend or looking for a funny movie.
I resent anyone who`s personal experience offers even a thread of guilt to another under these circumstances. Of course we ALL hope …we all can hang on but this is not the message that should be coming from an advocate. How about …hang on I am advocating for this torture to end now ….not maybe a year from now.
Oh it can get much worse my dear.

Randy

Positive thinking can only go so far…..

Barbara Thurman

Just because pain medication wasn’t answer for you, doesn’t mean doesn’t help others. Each person is different what works for one might not be for another. Article like this just hurts many pain patients. Causing anxiety possible Suicidal Thoughts. Many have done many types of Therapies through the years and medication is the answer for small quality of life.

I cannot just pretend that my pain is not there, that does not work for me. The pain doctor I fired abused me mentally and physically. He left me with no medication at all and then when I filed a grievance on him to get my medication back he lied in my records and tried to make me look like a drug seeker and even used my missed appointment as an excuse for letting me go without pain medication for 8 days before he took them. I could not get there because we had a two day blizzard non stop . I lived three and a half hours away.I was not given another appointment for a month during which time my medication ran out. After I filed the grievance on him patient relations kept telling me for three weeks that they did not know anything. They had been working behind my back to try to protect the doctor. The doctors nurse threatened me saying nobody fires us Debra. He had already been fired. I have had no pain treatment for 10 months now. I think he put me on a list to receive no treatment from anybody. I was never sent a letter telling me what was done. I am going to try to find a lawyer to sue him for violation of my rights. One thing is character assassination. I can prove he tortured me also. What helped my pain was the oxycodone and that was taken from me after years of abusing me because I was on it.I am sorry but pretending I have no pain does not work.

Lynne Hall

Belva I agree. I have developed bed sores. Facebook groups have been a joke.
Those of us who lay in bed thristy but know it will be to painful to reach the glass on the night stand know true pain.
Listening to our PM doctors give oxycodone to the patient in the next room while reducing yours.
I personally have a friend who sees the same Dr. and was disabled in 2008, while I was disabled at age 11, in 1973 live in my bed and can barely make it to the bathroom. But she’s a millionaire, I am not. I am alone.
Why is our President not getting involved?
Where are we heading?
My life was stable before the CDC Guidelines.
Make each member live with one of us undertreated for 30 days.
The addicts are still getting high and as one said.
An addict will say anything they think you want to hear just to get to that next high.
Legacy patients should be treated better. Or is this a real purge of the useless eaters receiving their earned Medicare benefits.
If so has anyone noticed the cost of your medical on your statement.
Mine never over $8000, as of Sept was over $30,000. Have I become an addict and not a patient.
All because I can no longer see my Dr of 25 years and now am reduced to PAs and scripts already written by a Dr. That is not even in the office.
FOLLOW THE MONEY.

Steven

BOLLOCKS

Leslie Keyes

..I must use a variety of tools to help manage them. And I’m doing just that, successfully. And YOU can too.”

***

It’s human nature to project our experiences onto others. While certainly potentially effective management tools exist–and with sincere and due respect to the author–not everyone “can too.” If that were the case all chronic pain would cease to exist, forever disappearing into the anals of illusion.

Some of us haven’t the economic or the social means to seek physical management modalities or lessen isolatory realities that disproportionately affect those who live with chronic pain or illness.

As a case in point, on SSD, I haven’t the money for the copays to do a thing about a hip that needs replacing or the severe spinal stenosis in three areas. Having moved from my home city two years ago to a lower rent area of the state, I lost my already meager social support; I haven’t the funds, either, to hire a caregiver post-surgery.

To make matters worse, I was arbitrarily cut off from Tramadol by my primary after two years of having hours in the day where I had pain abatement. The local pain clinic requires hundreds of dollars in updated imaging studies and then has an unattainable roster of questionable, risky “treatments” for which copays would run in the thousands. To illustrate how laughable that is, I currently have $1.18 in my bank account to live on for three weeks.

The simplicity, affordability and efficacy of Tramadol at $8/month is such a monumental loss. Yes, my primary is duly fired.

While hope is the belief that suffering can be endured and the conviction that there is value in enduring, I know no miracles await [me] because of my economic status and unalterable isolation: both all but seal a fate of hopelessness and despair.

Not everyone “can too.”

Belva Macy

what a load of hogwash

William Runge

I thank you for your sincere desire to provide me and thousands of others with hope. I sincerely mean that; but what am I to do to find resolution and comfort re: my pain, when the one thing that gives me resolution is treated like a forbidden fruit? Of course I am speaking of opioid pain relievers. I have had control over my pain, I was able to do things I enjoyed, I felt somewhat normal, and I WAS living. Now the Dr. says no, no matter what rational or documented evidence I give him that demonstrates the efficacy of opioids, he refuses my tearful, begging and pleading, treating me like a lowly, stupid junkie….I use to work as a medical professional until pain took it away; now I’m just someone who refuses to accept the BS of a know nothing governmental agency. Please, tell me, how do I find acceptance?

Niese Cramphorn

I am at that point. I have let my kids know and written them letters for after I am gone. My husband is the only one I have not written to but I know he will be fine when I am gone. The pain I suffer is in my head is from a bad product approved by the FDA and know to be bad. I continue to lose bone in my face and nerves have been cut 16 times and are not growing back any longer. This year I have lost my dentist, orthodontist and finally my oral surgeon. I had been with the same oral surgeon for 39+ years. He is the one that even put the bad product in but had no choice except to use it. I am in a very conservative state where the politicians think they know more than the doctors and the doctors they use to set state mandates for pain control are GPs. I have been forced to reduce medication by half and the one that helped the most has been taken away altogether. Doctors of any kind will not touch me. When my pain specialist retires in the next year or two I have no idea what I will do. The oral surgeon could not even give me a referral. Depressed, you bet, want to end my life, you bet, angry, frustrated and lost, yes you bet I am. I have no idea to put one foot in front of the other at this point. I am in such pain I hurt to do much. There is no hope or site for making any of it better and it continues to get worse. I have to have the joint replaced about every 10 years. I currently am currently 6 years into that 10. What do I do when I reach that 10? Again, I ask what to end my life? You bet your bottom dollar I do.

Mike Swift9n

. Thank you Melissa!
   Quickly, let me just say, i suffer from migraines and residual pain from the titanium screws and braces in my lumbar. with spinal stenosis one week ago, in my cervical and lumbar areas. Last week I was told my pain-killers will now be tapered by at least 50 %. Rather than fight “white-Knuckle ” I told myself that ‘at least I have something’ to help alleviate, and promised myself to take it ONE day at a time to COPE with the onset of not just the pain, but any overwhelming negatives like depression. It is very hard some days when the cryptic dark shadow of hopeless despair overwhelms me with the most severe depression i have ever battled.
That being said, this is not all about me, but rather my testimony to share with millions of you out there- many much worse off than myself. Melissa, you could not have said it better. your advice is full of strength, empathy and hope. Incessant pain is a monster that robs us of all strength. If we set a short goal-just to get through ‘today’ and reassure ourselves that we are brave, special and deserving of compassion, then our fear and dread of facing this Goliath is just, as the Biblical Narrative says, “a stone’s throw away” from motivation, hope and perhaps even some day- Victory.
 

Oscar Villafuerte

Thank you Melissa.

Thomas Wayne Kidd

I thank you for your efforts but this doesn’t help my situation what ever. I was doing well until the heartless and uncaring people who should know better began to cause as much suffering to me and my fellow pain sufferers. Support is not available to me and millions more out there. My so-called care givers go out of their way to provoke me and many others so they can rant and threaten to kick us out. They actually don’t give a damn if we die. I have understood from the beginning that all of this is nothing less than population control for those who are in power in our government. People who are not in daily chronic pain don’t care, and especially most family members. I am ready to just wait for death if it comes to that. And I understand that death is preferable to constant pain day in and day out. Our elected officials could care less what happens to us we just don’t count. Money and power drives this torture of the innocent and it’s only getting worse. I am sorry but this how I am feeling now. My wife is in daily chronic pain like me and millions of others. She has just got her Medicare but it’s useless because she cannot even find a doctor to treat her pain. I will just hush now. Thank you and I am glad you got better.

Rosalind Rivera

Very well said. I am there, right NOW!!!

Skeeter

Melissa Wardlaw, thank you for your encouraging words. I to have CRPS/RSD it’s now going on 17 years and I have had many ups and downs and thoughts of ending it all. It’s been a struggle but I have made it this far.
I know exactly what you mean about not letting your pain control you, because if you let it, it will drive you insane and put some very unhealthy thoughts in your mind, like wanting to take a hammer to the extrematy that is hurting but look’s normal, to justify the pain. I have had this thought many times, like I’ll give you a reason to hurt!

Now when the pain gets out of control I don’t give into it as much. I find a task that takes some concentration to complete, to direct my mind away from the pain and it really does work. I recommend finding a hobby, something that challenges your mind but not your physical body I use model building but just about anything that takes concentration will work.

There are days that nothing will ease the pain, and that’s when the ugly thoughts creep in. But if you acknowledge that the pain will ease up to your normal level then you are one step ahead of it. CRPS/RSD is a horrible thing, physically you look fine but inside your body is in complete shambles. I’m sure it’s the same with other chronic pain diseases. My girlfriend/partner has COPD, fibromyalgia, chronic back pain, arthritis and a few other problems.
I have become her caregiver, so I don’t have time for bad days, maybe bad hours then I force myself to get up and keep moving regardless of the pain.
She is depending on me and I can’t let her down. Life can be very challenging at the best of times, just keep moving forward.

Lisa

Very good article Melissa.
I too suffer from many of the same issues that you are and have had damage done by a medical procedure adding to the long list of existing pain producing conditions. I have never considered ending my life but did fight with the depression brought on by the constant pain and loss that came with becoming disabled. Through the years of procedures, therapy
( outpatient and home), medication and pure determination, I have found a way to have better days. A new normal you might say. I have found what works best for me to help reduce my pain ie; moist heat, traction, slow stretching, walking, along with my medication, injections and regular visits and collaborating with my doctor & specialist .
Never give up, there’s always something out there that may help, you just need to get in there and find out what works best for your body. Always remember your in control not the pain, pain is a condition, a side effect. Yes it is not an easy condition/side effect to deal with but it can be lessened once you find the right tools that work for you and the right supportive doctors and therapies to get you through. Most importantly attitude and acceptance. You must accept where you are before you can move forward, then no one can stop you but you.
Be strong, go forward and continue to enjoy all you can when you can, don’t worry about the rest.
Yes pain can get you down, wear you out, make you feel hopeless but there is hope and help. You are not alone, there are so many people who are living in daily pain all over the world. Just don’t give up take control over it, don’t give your power over to the pain, we are so much more than it.

BethAnn Shoenfeld

Thank You, Melissa