Chronically Struggling: Do I Go to The ER?

By Liza Zoellick.

This past weekend was better than it has been in my southern part of the world. We made it through the fierce, cold-snap that seemed to grip much of the country and though rainy and grey, the temperature was far more pleasant than it has been. I really, really wanted to enjoy the weekend and while I had no imperative plans, it was just the idea of maybe getting out and doing something outside of the house. Even as an admitted recluse, truly enjoying most things home-centric, I enjoy getting out once in awhile. But not this weekend. No, it was not to be.

Perhaps I had made the mistake of doing too much. I’ve been on quite the roll tidying things up, straightening from the holidays and getting back to normal. I knew I over did it, but I did not expect the migraine to roll in late, Thursday night and never leave. Even now, as I type this on a Tuesday, my head still aches. But this past weekend, along with the general horror of a migraine, every part of me hurt. I felt the flare coming on almost simultaneous to the migraine and really knew that it was going to be hell. I brought my arsenal out for when flare’s hit: the heating pad (which really I use all the time now), ice packs and soda, because sometimes that helps with a migraine as it has caffeine, and my music therapy play list that I turn on when it gets really bad, to focus on lyrics and music to keep my mind off pain. This is how I spent my weekend.

Liza Zoellick

Why am I sharing this? Because like most of you can relate to the struggle of flares and migraine, or maybe getting sick on top of being chronically ill which, always seems to make it doubly worse, I am certain if not all, that some of you have struggled with making a decision to go to the ER. This weekend as I laid in bed feeling my utter worst and crying through most of it, I had the (dis)pleasure of debating the pros and cons of going to the ER. Let me explain a little of how this went for me:

To go or not to go to the ER, that is the question. Unlike Hamlet, however, there was no eloquent augment and there was no deeper understanding of my psyche. All there was, was frustration and annoyance because time after time I failed to convince myself to go to the ER.

The first argument: I feel absolutely horrible. This isn’t the horrible that I think I can trudge through or listen to enough music where I can distract myself, or even Netflix myself into a coma. No, I hurt. My brain feels like it going to explode. I need to go to the ER.

The counter argument: The insurance plan I am lucky enough to have, because I know many who have chronic illness who do not have health insurance, requires me to meet the deductible at the beginning of the year. That amounts to $400, plus the ER visit which is $150. To clarify something here, I typically have this argument even when it’s just the $150, but that is difficult enough to justify going to the ER. I freak out paying $60 for sneakers because we are a one income family and I thrift and coupon our way to savings to be able to get what we need and what our kids need. So yeah, it is not easy for me to hop in the car and go to the ER. Let’s just cut to the chase and say that as soon as the amount entered my brain, I shut down all possible ER options. I tried a hot bath, tea and meditation. Still, there is always a second argument.

The second argument: I can’t do this. I need to go. My body is on fire, muscles screaming, my joints feel like they should be bleeding. This is no joke, I am in alarm mode and I need to go the ER. I am typically a very good girl. I think I might go once a year to the ER. (After I’ve met the deductible. heh)

The counter argument: Alright, go to the ER. And then you have to say why you are there. Just a migraine? No, not just a migraine, but fibromyalgia flare and RA flare and they are going to look at you, smirk and conclude you are druggy. Why? Because it’s happened before. Yes, boys and girls…this is the naked truth to chronic pain/illness. Where you go to the ER to be pain shamed and made to feel like instead of being at the ER you are on the street corner trying to get some crack cocaine. Suffice it to say, another argument shot down.

In conclusion, all I can say is that the struggle is real. I understand how hard it is for all my spoonies out there. I get how very little support we get, and how much of a struggle it is to make the decision to go to the ER can be. I understand what it is like to talk ourselves out of it, to weigh the arguments and talk ourselves out of it. Most of all, I understand how it is to be shamed in the ER or at a doctor, where they think you are only there to get pain meds. It’s honestly laughable, because I am very certain that if there were a magic pill to cure us without it being a narcotic, that every last one of us would jump at the chance. It’s not about the drugs. It’s about feeling normal again.

Liza Zoellick lives in Houston and is a frequent contributor to the National Pain Report. She is a delegate of the International Pain Foundation. You can follow her writing and follow her on Twitter @fibrohippiechic

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