It seems like you can’t turn on the television, radio, or computer without hearing about the “opioid epidemic!!” in America these days. We’re constantly bombarded by all the reports of “new drugs” or the “surge in chronic pain patients”.
And now the report of Prince’s death being due to “an accidental overdose of fentanyl“. Call it denial, say I have a dog in the race, explain it however you’d like….but I’m not sure I buy into the idea that Prince, known for being a Jehovah’s Witness, a vegan, clean living, and he of the quiet demeanor, overdosed on pain meds.
As a chronic pain patient, I can tell you from experience that it sucks. All of it. The pain, the humiliation, the assault on your dignity, the jumping through hoops and following an ever set of changing rules….all of it. But what are our choices?
My story? I have an inoperable brain tumor, an artificial hip due to a birth defect, chronic migraines, Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism, Cervical Spondylosis, and Fibromyalgia. So yes, I take pain meds. Because I also have a house, a husband, 3 cats, and 3 kids including my 13 year old that I homeschool. I’m trying to have a life too. And as any pain sufferer/pain survivor can tell you, life and pain do not always coexist well.
I try to be a grown up. Some days I can. I run the house, raise the kid, live my life. Some days not so much. I hate that my kids have a mom that isn’t able to do everything. I hate how much it costs them, and I hate that my 13 year old has never had a life that didn’t include her mom in the hospital, doctors appointment, meds, prescriptions, and tests.
It’s made her an incredibly brave and compassionate person. She’s not afraid of hospitals or needles, and she’s actually considering becoming a doctor. That’s the awesome part. The shitty part is that she has to know any of that.
However….comma….Prince’s death, my life, and ranting aside, I see that we are constantly being told how awful the pain med epidemic is and how terrible the addiction is. But what is *not* being said is that having chronic pain does not make you an addict. That studies are being done that show only about 12% of those that abuse pain meds get them from their doctors. That, as a whole, chronic pain sufferers are strong, and compliant, and everyday people that are just trying to live their lives.
The whole point of this is just that when did pain equal addiction? And why is it so hard to be compassionate? When did it become easier to blame and dismiss us rather than listen and help us?
I’m a strong person, but everyone has a breaking point. And my ugly little secret is that I’m afraid if I were to have my access to pain management cut off I can’t say suicide wouldn’t cross my mind. And I’m not the only one.
We are not addicts. We are not criminals. And if you’re reading this, you are not alone.