By Liza Zoellick.
It’s 10 o’clock on a Friday night and you have already taken your pain meds, hoping and praying that they kick in, but it’s already been two hours so any hope of a pain free night is quickly receding. This isn’t the first night you’ve tried to sleep while in pain and the days aren’t much better. You struggle to get through the day in pain and then take up the battle at night trying to fight through it. If the pain were not enough you find yourself having entire conversations and arguments with your doctor, in your head. You become a brilliant attorney who can counter every argument posed and, in the end, you stand, the victor with a bottle of pain medication in your hand. Any of this sound familiar to you?
I think we have all been here at some point in our effort to manage pain. We realize that our pain medication is not working the way it should and we get caught in this endless loop of how to word it to our doctor without sounding like we’re jonesin’ for another hit. The reality of this pseudo-crisis has made the lives of pain patients everywhere extremely challenging. At a time when our sole focus should be learning new and possibly more effective ways to keep us functioning at our best, the majority of us are worried that:
1.) Our pain medication may be drastically reduced
2.) That our pain medication may be terminated altogether or
3.) That our pain management doctor or even staff in hospitals, will see us not as patients in pain, but people attempting to manipulate the system for drugs.
This is a terrible, terrible burden to be suffering.
Imagine: A freak accident. You couldn’t help it, you weren’t doing anything to invite it, but it happened. You break your leg. The pain is excruciating and your family brings you to the emergency room. You are whisked in and doctors are looking at you and you get x-rays done and you suffer the agony of people prodding you and then setting the bone. But in all this chaos you are very keenly aware that no one has administered pain medication. You begin to ask doctors, nurses, anyone who will listen. “I need pain meds. Please.” They turn and look at you, then look between one another as if trying to determine something. You realize that what they are trying to determine is truth. They think you are lying about the pain. You become angry and the pain seems to intensify with the surge of anger. You start yelling at them. Your language quickly devolves from civil to profane. Worse, is that your expletives have not motivated them to do anything and they turn away from you while the pain saturates your being and you feel as though you will suffocate from it.
Does this sound like some scene from a horror movie? Unfortunately, for many of us who struggle with chronic pain/illness, this is very much a reality. My vignette is not even about a chronic pain patient but think about this a moment. We would not hesitate to give someone who broke a limb or suffered a gunshot wound, pain medication. Though I understand the climate surrounding long term, opioid use, I am also someone who struggles day to day with pain. I am someone who has looked into the face of a doctor and seen distrust in their eyes. I am someone who has also has been on the receiving end of verbal distrust from a doctor and made to feel not only like a liar, but ashamed that I have to ask for pain medicine. Instead of feeling like a patient and receiving compassion from a doctor I am made to feel like a villain.
It alarms me that those sworn to a field of compassion and healing have twisted information that will shape the lives of pain patients now and in the future. I worry about my future access to pain meds. I worry about those dearest to me, such as my daughter who has recently been diagnosed with my same issues, how she will deal with her pain in the future. There is a sea of faces of those who struggled with pain/illness who lost their battle, unable to deal with the day-to-day pain and who succumbed to the horror of it. We live one pain pill at a time. This in no way means we are abusing pain meds. It means that in order to live, the lives we have been given, to the fullest and in a certain degree of comfort, we take these pills. Without it…
I don’t want to get to that point. I have many, many days ahead of me. I have a future and I have goals. The only option that I have before me right now is opioids. Opioids are not a cure and I am not pain free on opioids but, I have a better chance at seeing my goals realized with the pain medications. I know that for some it is really impossible to get around the idea that the benefits of these drugs outweigh the negative, but they do. They do for me and because I want the chance to live the best life I can I feel I should be allowed to give myself the brightest future possible.
Liza is a chronic pain warrior from Houston who has been chronicling her journey through chronic pain and illness on her blog: http://lovekarmafood.com. She is a contributor to the National Pain Report.