Interview: Coping With Chronic Pain

Interview: Coping With Chronic Pain

Danea Horn is an author who wrote a book called Chronic Resilience: 10 Sanity-Saving Strategies for Women Coping With the Stress of Illness. She speaks often about chronic pain and chronic illness in a way that is aimed to both sympathize and inspire. She spoke recently at the Women in Pain Conference in Los Angeles. Ms. Horn lives in Sacramento, California and recently was interviewed by the National Pain Report.

National Pain Report: We’ve seen several stories recently on chronic pain and resilience that have been surprisingly controversial. Some of our readers find the inspirational. Some find them insulting–thinking that it reinforces the ugly stereotype that people think pain is “all in your head”. What does that reaction tell you?

Phillip Finally Read Chronic Resilience

Author, Danea Horn

Danea Horn: There needs to be better communication between patients and the research community about the experience of living with pain. Intentions on both sides are pure: patients want to feel better and researchers want find strategies to help them. The results of the research are valid: resilience does improve patient outcomes, but creating resilience is not about changing thoughts. Pain is real and biological. Being in pain is like running a $%*(# marathon. Negative thinking, frustration and anger are all natural reactions to being in pain. No one should be made to feel guilty for being pissed that they are in pain – it just causes more unnecessary stress.

The huge emphasis we place on controlling our thoughts toward the positive is a big pet peeve of mine. Positive thoughts are great, but it is almost impossible to control our thoughts consistently, especially when you’re running the pain marathon. I’m not sure where ‘positive thinking’ got lumped together with resilience, but I think we need to separate them again.

Resilience is a willingness to consistently take action in your situation. To get to that place, you need to decide that you are going to take ownership of your health. You didn’t cause your pain, but you are going to manage it as best that you can. Being in pain feels 100% out of control – and humans hate not having control in their lives.

National Pain Report:  Many pain professionals think that the government emphasis on opioids and their addictive qualities has blurred the line between appropriate use to manage the pain and inappropriate use leading to addiction and is actually hurting pain sufferers. What do you think?

Danea Horn: This is a tricky double edged sword. Professionals don’t want to see their patients in pain – and patients don’t want to be in pain, but the prescription solution has increased the incidence of opioid dependence. I do think that out of concern for people that struggle with opioid dependence, pain sufferers who appropriately use the medication have had their care made more difficult. No one who isn’t an addict wants to be made to feel like one because they get a prescription pain medication, a situation many patients find themselves in.

The solution is complex and involves better recognition of addictive (and non-addictive) behaviors, improved care for people who struggle with opioid addiction, more pain management options and closer doctor-patient relationships where communication and concerns are openly addressed so that pain can be better managed.

I would love to see the default reaction to a patient who uses an opioid medication change from the ‘addict’ or even ‘potential addict’ label, which drips with suspicion, to seeing the patient as a human being who has very real pain. Shifting this viewpoint would improve partnerships between patients and doctors toward the common goal of improving pain management while minimizing risk of dependence.

National Pain Report: You are a gifted speaker and your book received good response. What are your own plans? Is there another book coming from you? What else will you be doing in the public sphere?

Danea Horn: Writing Chronic Resilience was very personal experience. I put everything I had into that book: stories, tears, reflections, embarrassments & insights. Before the next book, I feel like I need some more life experience. I’m currently working on a post-graduate degree in economics with an emphasis on health. I have a lot of curiosity around the health systems & policies that guide our national care. I have a feeling my next project will be related to how we can improve patient care from a broader economic perspective.

Editor’s Note: More of our interview with Ms. Horn will be published later this month.

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Authored by: Danea Horn

There are 4 comments for this article
  1. Chris at 3:36 pm

    I am new here, however I have read my words; seen my thoughts; recognized my frustration and definition of Constant Pain. All from what others have shared, about their lots.
    So to see how, we can think our path is unique; how our pain; our constant pain only a few might understand we think, yet I am discovering those in constant pain, have a common thread. I may take pills, yet my nature is not defined by them.
    Because, many want money, others seek a buzz, we are Left w/ the bill. They change how our meds. work, we get lumped in w/ these groups, still have little if any things in common. I do not sell or get a buzz. Just have to deal w/ the actions of others.
    Chris

  2. Kristine at 10:28 am

    …and my unreliable memory is reliable in me forgetting to check the box to receive follow-up posts, so I am doing that now.

  3. Kristine at 10:26 am

    Thank you, Kurt. Well said.

    I am a writer and now a self-proclaimed researcher on the subject of chronic, life-long pain. I have lived with it for 30 years. I take opioids.

    While I had stopped working some time ago, I feel it is part of my civil duty to write and research because this whole “thing” is such a XX…ing mess. I work from my bed. I’d rather be having fun.

    Kristine

  4. Kurt W.G. Matthies at 12:17 pm

    Danea, welcome to NPR and thank you for you story.

    Young adults living with daily intractable pain are the most medically under served. Their doctors dismiss their complaints with stupid, thoughtless comments like:
    “You’re too young to feel so much pain” — as if they’re asking for a martini.

    Unfortunately Dr. Dolt, pain has no age limit. My pain began as a college undergrad, (and it wasn’t caused by my gender, race or socioeconomic status.)

    People who live with the stigma of pain come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and ages.

    We deserve the dignity of being treated based on our complaints, history, physical signs and symptoms, with compassion along with clinical judgement.

    Profiling for potential abuse in young people presenting with complaints of pain, has no purpose in treatment, Dr. Dolt.

    It is time for physicians to open their eyes, their minds, and their hearts in treating such a patient.

    Thank you, Danea and good luck with your book. Resilience in young adults is a required characteristic in achieving successful pain treatment in these days of fear, ignorance, and misinformation in the medical evidence. So is knowledge.

    People living with daily pain need effective treatment, and often, that requires opioid analgesics.

    Stand up and be counted.

    @kwgmatthies