mental health

Real? Not Real?

Pain medications
Photo from Pixabay on Pexels

Allow me to open with a controversial statement: Pain is a nebulous concept. Why? Because if you go through life and only feel pain on rare occasions, it has one meaning for you. Those stupid charts in doctor’s offices with the grimacing faces? They actually have meaning for you. You can rate your pain on a scale of 1-10 without a problem. People take your yelps and moans seriously. You get to live in a special world – and you don’t even realize it.

Then there’s those of us with chronic pain.

We don’t experience moments WITHOUT pain. Daily existence places us in the middle to the high end of that stupid scale. Getting out of bed? Yeah, that’s a 6. Showering? On a good day, we might get away with a 5; bad days chalk us up to an 8 and require a rest afterward. When we cry out or moan or wince, we get the side-eye. Doctors and nurses sigh when they see us. When we tell them our pain eclipses that damn chart, they roll their eyes and stamp “hypochondriac” on our chart. We’re left writhing on our beds, dismissed as fakers or drug addicts. If we dare to tell them the medications aren’t working, they frown and tell us we need a rehab program.

Thus, “pain” has no true concept – not one that applies across the board. Even in this age of “advanced” medicine, it’s one of the things that no one agrees on and people fail to treat appropriately. And if you fight through chronic pain, it starts to worm its way into your mental health. After all, how many times can you hear someone dismiss your concerns before you start to believe them? Before your mind twists around and you accept that you’re wrong? Or crazy?

Pain does terrible things to the mind.

Some of my deepest depressions have followed horrific flares. Or not even flares – just intense episodes of pain that doctors decided weren’t important. It’s altered my mindset completely. I now avoid trips to the doctor until I’m in dire straights. Following a laparoscopic procedure last year, I developed a seroma at one of the incision sites. I didn’t allow my husband to take me to the ER until I could barely stand up straight and coughing almost made me black out. (And, to be fair, I protested even then. He just hauled me out to the car and refused to listen) I ended up needing surgery to drain it and earned an open wound healing for the next TWO MONTHS.

But I convinced myself it was all in my head – like doctors always tell me. There was nothing wrong, and it was my fibro flare, nothing more. I didn’t want to go the ER and end up embarrassed – AGAIN. It’s miserable describing an intense pain, only to have a doctor dismiss you as a hypochondriac. And trying to insist that you KNOW something’s wrong only makes it worse. Better to skip the visit entirely and pretend it’ll go away eventually. At least, that’s what my mind tells me.

It’s why I’ve avoided telling a doctor about the worsening pain in my lower back – for the past two years. My nephrologist yawned and told me the cyst would go away, that there was no way it could cause me pain. (And, yes, the doctor knows I have fibromyalgia, and, thus, feel pain differently than normal people) But I don’t want to feel that small and idiotic again. So I suck it up and tell myself (daily) that the pain will go away.

It’s how these “medical professionals” have conditioned me.

I read about these fantastic advances in medicine all the time. Broken barriers, miracles, cures. But pain? No one seems interested in advancing the care given there. Oh, they were quick to embargo pain MEDICATION – slandering anyone taking such medications as a drug addict. They didn’t stop to think of chronic pain sufferers when they did so. Then again, they never think of us. We’re lumped into a category of hypochondriacs, drug addicts, and liars.

And then they act shocked when chronic pain patients commit suicide. It’s a twisted cycle that breaks down the mind a little more each day. It makes you wonder if one of these brilliant scientific minds needs to experience it themselves before we’ll see a breakthrough in how we’re treated.

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