“Pain medication is the horrible stuff that only addicts need. If you depend on pain medication to function you are an addict. If you can’t control your pain through yoga, meditation, hypnosis, eating only kale, going on a juice fast, or standing on your head, then you are doing something wrong and you are an addict.” This is the message so many people get about pain medication. If you follow the news you know the DEA is determined to keep pain medication out of all addicts hands. That mean YOU if you take it for pain, because you should be able to function without it and addiction is bad and it is all your fault that you depend on it!
I spent the first 1 1/2 years with chronic illness taking no pain medication. With all the messages of addiction being thrown at me, I was convinced that only a coward or an addict with take medication for long term pain. I had taken narcotics before (after my c-sections) and I knew that they didn’t particularly do anything special for me and that I clearly hadn’t gotten addicted to them during the 3 weeks I took them postpartum. But somehow I thought taking pain medication long term was different, that it was a sign of failure, a failure to be strong enough to not give in to so called “addictions.”
Eventually I had to give in when I could no longer sleep because of the pain. I was barely able to hobble around the house and I was so tired that the pain kept getting worse and worse. It was a vicious cycle of Painsomnia: pain=no sleep=more pain= even less sleep=even more pain. So I gave in and started taking some pain medication when I needed it. Still whenever I took some i’d hear you don’t need this, strong people don’t need help or pain medication. If you were really strong, you wouldn’t take anything. What’s wrong with you, you’re going to get addicted, is that what you want? And yet in desperation, I took it anyway and felt guilty about it.
Then one day I realized that I had felt fairly energetic that day and gotten a lot done. I had been able to take my kids to the pool, babysit the baby of a friend, mop my kitchen floor, make a homemade dinner, and do laundry all in one day. I wondered how I had the energy to do all that. Then it dawned on me, I had taken my pain medication that day at its prescribed levels, instead of taking it only when I felt like I was going to die from the pain. I thought, wow, can I really function like an almost normal person when I take pain medication? Turns out I can. No, it doesn’t take away all my pain, or even half of it, but by taking my pain down from an 9/10 to a 6/10 it makes a significant impact on how well I can function.
Sometimes those downer thoughts still enter my brain when I take pain medication. You are better than this, you are risking getting addicted, why aren’t you stronger? But one day it occurred to me, you don’t get a prize for refusing pain medication when you need it. I am not somebody looking for my next fix. I need pain medication in order to not have to be bedridden, to be able to take care of my kids, to live a more normal life than what would otherwise be possible. Nobody is going to give me a prize when I deprive myself of medication in order to be strong.