Pain is very complex. It has an impact on the physical, psychological, spiritual and social aspects of one’s life. I think that we (chronic pain sufferers) all start out with optimism that we will find a diagnosis and a treatment to either solve or manage our medical illness/pain. What becomes difficult however, is when there is no clear diagnosis for the pain etiology. Often we are met with confusing and conflicting medical information from different physicians. While some physicians are compassionate and understanding in searching for answers for their patients, others are not. We begin to feel disillusioned and disenchanted with our health care. It is difficult and frustrating to be expected to just accept our pain & manage it to the best of our ability or to be told to “live with it”. We are a resilient group of people who at our core, know that there must be an answer as to why we suffer. We are taught to be independent and self-reliant..if there is a problem, we’re just supposed to fix it. I think that when we are met with a physician who either can’t find the answer or won’t search for the answer to our pain and symptomology, we feel invalidated. Let’s face it, people with chronic pain want clear explanations about their diagnosis and treatment; supportive reassurance and medical advice about how to manage our pain. When we don’t receive it, we start searching for alternatives such as changing doctors; seeking other health care professionals; exploring Complementary and Alternative Medicines and conducting our own online research. There are probably very few of us who have not had the experience of having our doctor’s eyes glaze over when we begin to present our pain complaints or a new symptom(s). It truly feels as if you might be talking to a blank wall (which is really your doctor’s blank stare) because you’ve already talked to him/her about your pain at every visit for the last few years (think broken record). Depending upon what kind of physician we each have, I think that the above mentioned response, conditions us to “hold back” on all of our symptoms and only mention the most problematic and pressing ones in that moment. Let’s not forget to add in the feelings we get to experience when we have to ask for pain medication. Most doctors will be in agreement in providing a prescription for pain medication to their patients..as long as the pain does not last any longer than one or two refills. But when it comes to chronic pain…it’s a different animal. Doctors, by their training, become concerned and skeptical of chronic pain sufferers who consistently request pain meds. And rightly so (to a degree) we get that..but how do we earnestly and adequately convey to them, that we are not the pain-drug seeking addicts that we may start to resemble? We patients start to feel guilty and almost like a criminal just because we are desperate to manage our pain. It starts to feel as if the physician (s) does not trust or believe us…and that begins to make us feel isolated and then depressed. Oh, someone please stop this awful pain merry-go-round and let me off. Yes, pain is a complex phenomena with no easy solutions.
I suppose that the answer lies somewhere in being able to function within our limitations, while at the same time, finding some kind of balance between doctors and interventions.
Until next time, may the Pain Meds be with you!