The healing continues. I am 86 days into it, but as Dr. Superwoman likes to remind me; I am very early in the recovery process. It doesn’t feel like it. I feel as if I have been plagued by this disease forever. But as I look back to pictures took a year ago, the bumpiest part of the journey had yet to even start. I still had hair for goodness sakes!I feel like I have been bald forever. I feel like I have been in a wheelchair forever. I feel like I have been in Boston forever. I feel like I have been in pain, well forever.
I am not a fan of pain medications. They cover the problem, not help solve it. They are addictive. They can make you feel weird. I have had to discontinue them before and it is an uncomfortable process. For me, it wasn’t painful, but made me more anxious, nauseated, fatigued just yucky. They are a double edged sword.
It complicates things in that I am a health care provider. And what’s been driven into my mind is that you don’t want to be a prescriber of regular pain medications. You will earn a bad rep, maybe investigated by licensing boards and stalked by seekers if you do prescribe. In the urgent care setting (where I primarily worked), it is even more difficult because facilities like that are often sought out by “drug seekers.” It feels like everyone coming through your doors in need of pain medication is an addict. I didn’t want to be perceived as one of THOSE addicts. Every time I took pain medication, I played 20 questions with myself. “Do I really need it? Can’t you wait a little longer? If you just lay down for a little while, maybe it will go away. Are you sure you want to be viewed as one of THOSE people?” I have a missing hip that results in one leg being shorter than the other and 3 broken vertebrae. I expect that my condition is going to be painful. So my daily struggle with pain, was something that I was just trying to accept. I couldn’t walk as much, it caused too much pain. I couldn’t sit as much, it caused too much pain. I awoke nightly with pain just shifting my position. My musculoskeletal system is a wreck. I should expect this. And I did not want to be one of THOSE people.
I was also afraid that I wasn’t going to be able to ask Dr. Superwoman for a script. Had she ever portrayed that she didn’t believe that I was in pain? No, because I am. But the providers I had worked with (and me too) had rarely given pain scripts…. I assumed that most providers were all like me (sorry to any of those people who were in pain). And once again let me say, we feel encouraged not to give a pain script. My decision making process is my own, I take responsibility for what I prescribe, but honestly it can be such a hassle and like I said, you have to rule out the true from the false. In short, I didn’t want to inconvenience Dr. Superwoman either.
Then, the mood got worse. The pain got worse. I felt proud of myself for not taking pain medication and defeated if I did. Dr. Superwoman asked me, “do you want to try a long acting pain medication?” And I after a long conversation, I realized, I did. I take immunosuppressants twice a day without thinking about it. I take blood pressure medication; that does not mean I am morally inferior. She said to me, “I want you to take this twice a day. Don’t skip it, don’t think about it. Just do it. Pain medication is prescribed ‘as needed.’ You need it, take it. You are not a bad person for doing so.”
That night I took it. For the first time, in a long time, I slept soundly. When I went to raise my legs in the morning, I didn’t have to take a deep breath to sit up. I didn’t grimace when I moved to my wheelchair. And for the first time, in a long time, I didn’t cry that day because I was in pain.
I still struggle with the cultural stigma that I have crossed into, but it is getting easier. I love that I can go out with my family and not be in tears by the end of the day; defeated because I need my pain medication.
I encourage my colleagues not to think that everyone who takes pain medication is a seeker or an addict. I do not think that I am, but would I get treated fairly if I crossed your threshold? I have learned far too much on this journey. I hope though that someday, not too far away, I will be able to put this experience to good use.