I wake up in the morning and immediately feel the crushing pain that has a hold over my entire body. The pain radiates from my shoulders to my toes, but I have to get out of bed so I can get my kids to school. I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I don’t even consider taking pain medication because the pain isn’t bad enough yet. No, I’m going to try to see if I can be strong enough. I get out of bed and spend the next 30 minutes rushing to get my kids to school on time. I try to not take my pain levels out on them so I smile and wave as they walk towards the bus.
After my kids leave I get dressed to go on my walk. Every doctor I’ve ever seen has told me that exercise would help my pain levels. I know better. I know that exercise makes my pain level quadruple, but I do it anyway because that’s the only way I can get doctors to take me seriously. I know it’s going to hurt, but I decide to push through the pain.
I get home from exercise and drag myself into the shower. My pain level has shot up even higher, but I try to get myself showered and ready for the day. My hands are so swollen and painful that I have trouble straightening my hair so I decide that I’ll just have to wear it curly. It’s 9:30 am and I don’t know how i’ll get through the day at my current pain level.
I sit down at the computer to work, but I can’t concentrate. I’m supposed to be writing, but all I can think about is how much my body hurts. I manage to cobble something together in a couple hours, but it’s not my best. After sitting in a chair for so long my body is in agony. I don’t even consider taking pain medication, my pain still isn’t bad enough.
I rest on my heating pad for a few minutes. It helps a little bit so I decide to do some gentle yoga to see if it calms down my aching muscles. I’m five minutes in when I get a phone call from my son’s school, he’s had an asthma attack and I need to come get him. I try to get up off the floor, but it takes me several tries because the pain keeps hitting me in waves.
I drive to the school and get my son from the nurse. Then I get in line at the school office to check my child out. My legs are aching as the person in front of me in line spends 5 minutes detailing some overly complicated problem. By the time we finally make it out of there I’m not sure if my body is going to hold up the rest of the day.
I spend the rest of the afternoon trying to work and simultaneously entertain my son. I keep having to get up and down so I can help him with various things. Every time he asks for something I want to cry because moving causes so much pain. I still don’t consider taking pain medication.
A few hours later I pick up my daughter from school and take her to dance class. I have to sit in an uncomfortable chair for two hours and I am in agony. Somehow I manage to keep it together. I don’t know how.
I go home and start to make dinner for my family. My pain level is so high I know that I need to cook something easy. I’m able to cook dinner and do the dishes in less than 30 minutes, but it’s still too much. By now I’m screaming inside my head, screaming “PLEASE JUST LET IT STOP FOR A FEW SECONDS.” But I keep on going and so does the pain. I help my kids with their homework, I talk to them about their day, I get them ready for bed, all the while in agony.
My day is finally over and I can rest, but my pain level has shot up so high I can’t get to sleep. I use all my pain creams, I strap on my quell device, I take a hot bath to see if it can relax my muscles, but no relief comes. At 1:00 am I’m still wracked with pain and I know I’ll never get to sleep in that condition. My day tomorrow is another busy one and I don’t know how I’m going to survive it with no sleep. I reluctantly get out of bed and take one Hydrocodone. It takes about 30 minutes for it to kick in, but it eventually moves my pain level from an 8 to a 5. It doesn’t make the pain go away, but it’s enough to allow me a night’s sleep. Who knows how I’ll manage tomorrow. I don’t have enough pain medication to take one every time my pain gets out of control, so sometimes I just have to suffer and go without sleep for several nights in a row. Each time I go without sleep my pain level rises higher.
I feel like I’ve let myself down. I must not have tried hard enough to address my pain in other ways, I must not have a very high pain tolerance, I could have handled SOMETHING differently, but because I apparently didn’t do enough I’m told I am an opioid addict. I’m an “opioid addict” that just wants to be physically able to care for my children, who just wants to live a semi- normal life, and who only takes pain medicine in emergencies. I feel branded, labeled, pigeonholed, ignored, and desperate. In my mind I know:
- When doctors on television bemoan the lazy addicted masses who take opioids for chronic pain thereby causing the opioid epidemic, they are talking about me.
- When famous actors give speeches about the over prescription of opioids, they’re talking about me.
- When the CDC recommends that people with chronic pain just need to try Tylenol, they are talking about me.
- When the DEA decides to reduce the number of opioids manufactured because too many people are using them for pain, they are talking about me.
- When doctors refuse to give out prescriptions for pain medicine because only addicts need them, they’re talking about me.
This is me they are talking about, the “opioid addict” whose medication needs to be taken away so they can save me from myself and my “addiction.” Thank goodness for politicians and actors that know more about my body than both me and my doctor. With their influence I know I can overcome my so called addiction and my chronic pain will just disappear.