The Side Of The Opioid Crisis You Wont Hear About…….

Opioids Crisis. Opioid Crisis. Opioid Crisis. Sadly, it’s not like The Wizard of Oz and just because I clicked my heels and repeated it three times does not mean it has gone away. But much like Dorothy we aren’t in Kansas anymore. It seems everyday it gets worse and people are going further off the deep-end about the issue. There are doctors dropping patients with no warning, refusing to prescribe meds due to “new laws” that don’t exist. And patients are suffering. The media is only showing the public one side of the crisis. They don’t show you about the people who need them to function. Not because of addiction but to advanced disease process. They also don’t often talk about those who have taken their own life due to lack of medication. Something has to be done. Someone needs to draw attention to the people who are really suffering.

Before I jump into the issues at hand I feel like I need to put this here. A disclaimer of sorts. I would like to set this straight now so no one can misconstrue my writing later. Is there an opioid crisis? YES. Is it being made to look worse than it is? Possibly, it’s hard to know. Are innocent people who use pain medications just to be a productive person being hurt in the process YES, Three hundred times YES! Am I saying that opioids haven’t led some to other drugs, NO. And I’m not saying that there are drs out there who need to have their license revoked for their illegal and VERY DANGEROUS prescribing practices because there are. What I am saying is that there is a LARGE POPULATION of America’s who are being FAILED by the current United States Medical System. People who never asked to be in the situations that they find themselves in. Those that didn’t “do” anything to cause the pain they live with on a daily basis and would give anything to get rid of that pain, meds and go back to their normal life.

According to Healthline News in November of 2017 it was reported that there were nearly 100,000 AMERICANS who live with some kind of chronic pain who are not able to get the relief they need. This same article also states that more than 30 percent of Americans live with some kind of CHRONIC or SEVERE pain. To put that into perspective for you more people live with chronic pain than with cancer, heart disease and diabetes combined. Just to spell it out a little further nearly 1.5 million Americans have lupus, approximately 10 million Americans live with Fibromyalgia, approximately 1.3 million Americans have Rheumatoid Arthritis, 7 million American women have Endometriosis, nearly 200,000 people have Crohn’s, and it is estimated that nearly 2-3 million Americans have chronic migraines.

You may be wondering why I chose to share those stats? I wanted to show you that that approximately 23 million Americans have conditions that cause some kind of chronic pain! Pain that they did nothing to cause. All of these conditions happen on their own without any help from the person they happen to. What I’m trying to show you is that it’s not like these 23 million people went out and tore their ACL or had an emergency or scheduled operation and got addicted to pain killers post op. These people have conditions that won’t likely ever fully go away. And that cause pain frequently. Are some of that large group of people addicted to opioids? I’m sure. But I just want people to understand that it’s not just the people who go in and have an emergency surgery that need pain pills to deal with their pain. There are people like me who have very few days where something doesn’t hurt. Even with changing my diet, and trying heat, heat & pain patches, ice, acupuncture, etc and pain meds are just necessary sometimes.

I don’t want any pity. That’s not what this is about. I want people to realize that there is a MASSIVE population in the United States who live with daily chronic pain due to nothing they did. They didn’t ask to get Lupus, or Fibromyalgia or Migraines. And I can tell you I didn’t ask to get all of the above plus more.

No one with a chronic illness that causes significant chronic pain should be made to feel guilty because we need pain meds here and there to continue our fight. We shouldn’t be looked down upon or shamed by anyone, ESPECIALLY MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS, because we are at the point in our conditions where pain pills are necessary. We should feel ashamed to tell people when asked that we use pain medication as needed because we have to. We shouldn’t have to ration our meds or be made to quit cold turkey because some doctor decides he no longer wants to prescribe narcotics after 5 years of treatment. We sure as hell shouldn’t be made to feel like suicide is our only answer when no doctor will listen when we tell them just how bad the pain is and refuses to listen.

None of that should be happening. But guess what?? It is. And you will NEVER see it on the news. You won’t find a story about the 70 something grandma who was forced to stop their pain meds cold turkey because their doctor decides to follow a “new law,” that doesn’t exists. Or the father of three who felt like he had no other way out than to end his life once his pain medication was taken away with no warning. You won’t see the story about the young newly widowed wife and mom who now has to explain to her three young children that their father is no longer here on Earth because the medical system FAILED HIM. You won’t see the story about the mother of 3 young boys who love baseball more than anything who hasn’t seen a game all year because the pain is unbearable. You simply won’t see it.

Do you see a trend? All the news will ever tell you about are those who are addicted. Those who started with narcotics and use it as a gateway to heroin. They will tell you about all the negative things that happen because of opioids. But they won’t tell you the negative things that are happening because those who actually need the medication and are no longer able to get them.

The media will definitely NEVER show you the people who’s lives who have been changed for the better due to pain medications. The people who were in beds for weeks or months who are now out of bed more. Or the people who hadn’t been able to leave their house simply because of the pain, who now due to pain medication are able to at least get out of the house occasionally. Moms or Dads who have never seen their child sing in the church choir or play soccer that are able to solely because of a very low dose pain killer. Those are things that will NEVER get the media’s attention.

With all things can come addiction. People can potentially become addicted to anything. Some of those addictions are much worse than other but they are addictions none the less. People can be addicted to things anywhere from sweets and soda, to alcohol and sex. And don’t think I am naive to the fact that opioids are addictive and addiction does happen because it does and I have seen it first hand. It CAN happen for some quickly after just a few short days. Or some can take the meds for years and never become addicted. EVERY PERSON IS DIFFERENT. I just want to get some of things out that the new media will never share. Like I have said before Opioids can Be dangerous but they can also be life changing.

With Love,

Amber

Chronic Pain: What They Want You To Know

🔹The NIH reports that 25.3 Million American adults suffer from daily pain.

🔹The NIH reports that 25.4 Million American Adults category 3 Pain (on a 1-4 scale).

🔹The NIH reports 14.4 Million American Adults category 4 Pain (on a 1-4 scale).

Chronic Pain is defined as an ongoing or recurrent pain, lasting beyond the usual course of an acute injury or illness or more than 3-6 months and which adversely affects the individual’s well being.

🔹American adults with category 3-4 pain were more likely to

  • Have worse health status
  • Use more health care
  • Suffer from more disability

If the above statistics weren’t enough maybe the ones below will open you eyes.

It is said by the NIH that nearly 100 MILLION Americans suffer from chronic pain, & 1.5+ BILLION people worldwide suffer from chronic pain. Also 1 in 10 Americans report that they experienced pain daily for three months or more.

I know someone reading this is going to be thinking “Why, do I want to read another story about another “addict”?” Well, to that person I ask that you keep reading! Not all who live with chronic pain are addicted to narcotics and jonesing for the next high. There are SO very many of us who are NOT very far from being addicted and spend a great deal of time trying to spread the word about the use of legal pain medications. No matter how we chose to deal with the pain, we still have to live with chronic pain each and every day. Day in and day out with pain THAT….NEVER…..GOES……AWAY….. Chronic pain is about so much more than pain meds. Honestly, it is about finding the best way for each of us to live life with chronic pain. Trying to find a way to just survive each and everyday. Trying to just get through each hour, each day, each week, each month.

Here’s a couple questions that get asked a lot! Do some choose to use legal pain medications to treat their pain, or do some choose to stay away from pain medications? The answer is easy! Yes, to both. Some use strictly pain medications, while others use a mix of holistic options and pain medications, and others chose solely they holistic methods. It’s a personal choice that only you can make for yourself. Are some getting medications illegally?? Yes! But you can’t judge all 100 million of us who deal with chronic pain in The US for the one (or more) bad apple you’ve come in contact with. You have to think about this. Would you want to live a life always in pain? Always hurting? Having to take the pain into account when planning anything, even just a trip to the grocery store because you never know when the meds might wear off or when the pain might become so unbearable that you can’t finish whatever task or outing you’re on.

I wish people would remember that I am still me. I am not lazy. I when folks(family, friends, strangers) think I am a burden. I feel guilty every time I say no to someone due to my health. Take the time to understand before you judge-Conversation doesn’t always have to be health related. Lastly, it is not a competition who hurts more or is sick in some way. Complete strangers want to one up me at the doctors office – not impressed. ~ Tammy, Canada

People in general don’t understand pain. Pain is something you feel when you stub your toe, twist your ankle, jam your finger or even for a few short days after surgery. But in general when they think pain, they think acute pain. Until you’ve live chronic pain it’s not something you can wrap you mind around fully. You just can’t understand that it’s not something that just goes away in a few minutes or a couple hours or even a couple days. It may never go away. Ever. It may be something that we have to wake up to every day for the rest of our life.

We’re not looking for sympathy, but a little empathy would be very appreciated! ~ Amanda, Ohio

All we want from our families, friends and the public as a whole is a little empathy. We just want people around us to show that they care. That they have an interest in learning about what we are going through on a daily basis. It means the WORLD to us when people ask questions about what we are going through and what they can do to help. And it means even more when they ask how our pain is. I can’t even explain to you how much it means when someone asks that 5 word question. “How is your pain today!?”

“Even when I look normal, I am still in pain. On my worst days for chronic pain, I wore the most makeup. I put on my mask to fake being well, not fake being sick. I can’t take pain pills due to my stomach problems, so I just have to do less and rest when I am in pain. I can work hard for a few days. But then I pay for it with my sore joints and have mandatory rest for a few days” Megan ~ Georgia

There are a lot of days I spend in pain, but you would never know it. I wake up and put my “cape” on and go about my day. I have a husband and three little people who depend on me to be there for them. Honestly if it were not for them I would wallow in my misery. Not every day is good, but there is something good in every day. Kyndle ~ Missouri

Megan & Kyndle hit the nail on the head when they both speak about their daily pain levels. As well as when they speak about how they deal with it. Like many, instead of saying anything they put on their CIW (chronic illness warrior) cape and fake it till they make it. There was a study done in 2012 on the Lupus Community by the American News Report. During this study it became clear that there is a true gap in communication between those with Lupus (and most likely all chronic Illnesses) and their families. Their study found that 87% of lupus patients downplayed their symptoms and Need in order to not upset their family members. In many cases they don’t want to share how they feeling so they don’t have to deal with looks of pity from others. Or hear the “Oh you poor thing!” That’s not genuine. But mostly people don’t want to worry and stress their families. If they don’t tell them how bad it really is then their family won’t be able to worry as much. It’s awful that a person can’t be honest about how they are feeling and where their pain level-is at for fear of upsetting their friends and family. We (those with chronic diseases) should never have to or choose to hide our pain from anyone. But especially from those we are closest to us.

Keep in mind that of all the chronically ill patients that take pain medications only 5% become addicts. When hearing about the opioid crisis, sadly they have combined illegal and legal substances together. Most of the deaths that are occurring are those due to illegal substances. Chronic patients are being denied medications because of this serious problem. ~Amy, Michigan

The CDC just recently to release more accurate numbers than those that had been reported. In the 2018 Annual Surveillance Report of Drug Related Risks & Outcomes by The Centers for Disease Control they state that “14,487 out of a total of 325.7 MILLION people in US died from LEGAL PRESCRIPTION opioids.” That’s .000004% of the population. This is much less than the numbers we have been hearing as lately where the CDC has combined death by legal prescription meds & death by illegal illicit drugs. Is the updated number too many? Yes, honestly even one is too many. But it is not quite the problem that is it being made to seem it is. People have been using pain relieving products for YEARS, more than we can even begin to conceive I’m sure. Are the products available now a thousand (or more) times stronger than the stuff our Great-Grandparents used. No doubt! With evolution and change of society comes evolution and change in medicine. I think for most of us that is the way we would like it to be. Can you imagine dealing with all the conditions and injuries we have to deal with or potentially deal with now but only having access to the pain relieving methods that they used in 1800’s?? No, it’s not effective. Are there people who abuse narcotics? Absolutely! With just about anything you can find abuse of it in some way. With the evolution of cars comes the abuse of speed. With the evolution of technology comes cyber crimes. I digress, there always has been and always will be abuse of medication in some meaning of the word. I just wish everyone wouldn’t assume that just because you have the medication prescribed to you that you are an addict.

I never knew pain, until Lupus knocked me down and I never knew strength until I got back up” ~Christall, Missouri

Chronic Pain SURVIVORS are just that!! Survivors, because we survive each and every day to live another day to tell our tale. Myself and many other United States Pain Foundation, WEGO, Chronic Disease Coalition Advocates, and many many more Advocates work so hard each and every month to share stories of chronic pain survivors and to show that not all those who take pain medications are doing so illegally or are addicted to them. Many of us take pain medications to get through the day but many have also made the choice to use other available methods. Really we just do what we have to do to get by! We want to spread the word this month especially as September is Pain Awareness Month that there are all KINDS of chronic pain conditions. Many that you and I might never even consider. So please if you get nothing else from today I hope you get this. If you meet someone somewhere and learn that they deal with daily chronic pain don’t assume the worst. Don’t just jump to the fact that they are an addict simply because they choose to use medication to treat their gain. Or that they are going to over dose because in most cases that’s not the case. We are all just trying to survive another day with our chronic pain.

With Love,

Amber

A Day In The Life…..Chronic Pain

Co-written by Amy Nora

Chronic Pain… is just that. It’s chronic, meaning it’s something we live with ALL the time. It is not the same as stubbing a toe or knocking your knee on the corner of the table.  There is no cursing or exclamation of words and a few minutes later life is perfectly normal and you are moving on.  Nor is it like breaking a bone, wearing a cast and being done with the pain and annoyance 6 months later. Chronic pain forces you to live differently.  Life becomes methodical, more deliberate in the actions we take, and how we live our lives.  This includes the simple things like getting out of bed, going out with friends, cleaning, or trying to cook a meal.  You live you life in pain; therefore, you come to accept various levels of pain as normal.  This does not mean that you would constantly rate your pain a 10/10, you may rate your pain as a 2/10.  However, you had to stand and make a sandwich so now that has spiked to a 7/10.  This is a fight fought daily by millions of Americans with degenerative diseases or chronic medical conditions.

I wanted to give you all a look into a day in life of living with chronic pain. But I decided to go about it a little differently. My friend and frequent contributor Amy Nora and I will both be sharing our views of what like living with chronic pain is like. As living with chronic pain can look very different for different people.

Amber’s Story

I feel that there is so much negativity in news about pain and pain medication these days with all the issues with the changes in the rules and regulations with narcotic prescriptions. There are people killing themselves because they can no longer receive their meds. Others are being fired from their Pain Management Doctors because they don’t take their pain meds frequently enough. We have all heard the stories. But I don’t want to focus on THAT today. I want to bring light to what a real day of someone with chronic pain is like. I want to talk about what a day with multiple conditions that cause chronic pain can be like. I think many people have a stigma in their mind that people with chronic pain take their pain meds and may have some pain everyday, but most of their day is spent doing what they want with no big issues. Just so we are all on the same page here’s a point of reference: besides taking pain medication I also use a combination of heat, hot showers, massage, muscle rub and yoga to treat my pain. I do suffer from multiple chronic illnesses that cause chronic pain, I live daily with Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Debilitating Migraines, Endometriosis, Interstitial Cystitis as well as undiagnosed chronic back, hip and sciatic pain.

For most people when the alarm goes off or they wake up, they probably start going through the day ahead in their mind. As far as what they have planned, what’s scheduled, what they are making for dinner etc. For me and those with chronic pain the first thing I do when I wake up is lay in bed for about 15 minutes let my body wake up so I can assess my pain. I have to lay there for a little while to let my body connect to my brain so I can really take account of how I am feeling.  I generally start at my head and work down. This morning for example, I started with my head, and the pain was like a 2/10. Continued down to my throat, neck and glands because I have been fighting a cold/sinus infection, that was like a 2/10. Then down to my shoulders, elbows and hands. Left elbow was a 4/10, still not sure what that was about, but it has been happening a lot lately. My hands, about a 4/10 as well. So I start doing some stretches to see if they are just stiff or if they are going to hurt all day. They seem to be stiff and the pain seems to ease with stretching, so that is a relief. Down to my belly, cramps are like a 6/10 as endometriosis causes MEGA cramps when its time for your cycle. My bladder is probably an 8/10, because I didn’t wake up all night and it feels like it is ready to explode. My low back is a 6/10 as is my left hip, and for the first time this week I didn’t wake up with any sciatic pain or pain in my left calf. Which has been very painful everyday this week. Overall, I would say my pain would be about a 6/10 this morning. So now that I have assessed the pain that I woke up with, now I have to decide what I want to do about. Do I go ahead and take something before getting out of bed, or do I wait and see how things go as the morning progresses? That is sadly the question I address each and every morning after I wake up.

Generally, my rule of thumb in the morning is that if my overall pain is over a 5/10, I go ahead and take something for the pain. I have learned that if I don’t the day is NOT going to get better. And I will most likely not be able to get the things on my to-do list done. Or at least not until later in the day. So this morning that is exactly what I did, I took something for pain got out of bed and did my morning stretches that allow me to be able to move in the morning.  Without those stretches, thanks to the fibromyalgia I would not be able to move first thing in the morning.  I won’t bore you with the exact play by play of my day. But at each step of the way I have to decide if I can complete this task or if I should wait and attempt it later. This morning after getting dressed and having breakfast, my first task on my to-do list was cleaning my bathroom, I knew I didn’t feel like it but it can only be put off for so long. For most able-bodied people they could probably go in and get it done all in one fail swoop. For me however, it takes several steps. Due to my pain and fatigue, any multi-step project will almost always require several breaks. Just to clean my small bathroom this morning I had to stop and rest FOUR TIMES!!!! And it took me over FORTY FIVE MINUTES. Even with the breaks, I still had to lay down with my heating pad on my back and abdomen for about 30 minutes before I could go on to my next task.

I continued on with my day the same way as above. I vacuumed and then had to rest and use the heating pad. Then I did some laundry and had to rest. After eating lunch the pain has escalated again to about a 7/10 so I had to quit what I was doing and lay down. Completing simple tasks is no longer simple. It has to be well thought out and planned. That is generally how it goes for most people with chronic pain/chronic conditions. I can no longer just complete a task without resting or taking several breaks. Things that used to be simple and easy are no longer so easy. Everything that is done has to be well thought out.

I miss my time out with friends and family. But a night out or even time at home with friends or family for dinner and a movie requires major planning. Over the years I have learned that if I want to spend a day out of the house no matter what I am doing I better prepare. I need to make sure I rest all day the day before, and maybe two days before. And I know that I will most likely be in bed and doing nothing for several days after. For what seems like a normal day out of the house shopping or an evening out to dinner and a movie to an able bodied person is much different to someone with chronic pain. For example, last week, my little sister played in her last competitive softball tournament. And I just simply wasn’t going to miss it. Sadly, I knew I was going to pay for it because I didn’t feel good going in and it was 95 that day. (People with lupus simply do not do well in the sun.) So I planned ahead and took it easy the day before, and stayed in bed till the last possible minute the morning of, got dressed, and got in the car for the 45 minute trip. I was already hurting (at about an 7/10) by the time we got out of the car, and at that point we still had about 15 minutes to go before the 75 minute game would start. I had taken my pain medication before I had left the house but it wasn’t doing much to relieve the pain. I made it through the game, a quick lunch after the game with the family and the 45 min drive home. After my shower, a COLD shower, I crashed. And I certainly paid for it the next couple of days. Everything you can imagine hurt, my back and hip from sitting, my head from the heat. And just about every joint you can name. I really was hardly able to get out of bed the next day because the pain was so severe. That being said I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. I got to see my sister play one last time. I would have done it 100 times over just to be there especially knowing how happy it made her that I was there to see her play.

If my pain is tolerable and I actually get out of the house like I talked about above when I attended my sisters game. Usually as soon as I get out of the house I am counting down the time until I can get back home to my bed and my heating pad. Generally I can’t focus on whatever I am doing because my pain is such a point of focus. I do enjoy getting out of the house but I can’t help but think about how much I am going to pay for leaving the house. So sometimes we have to pay for the good things in life. It shouldn’t be that way but it just is. We shouldn’t have to deal with all we do, but we do and we learn how to deal with the hand we were given.

Amy’s Story

I had my first experience being treated as a drug seeker this week, which I will tell you about in just a second. But I first want to give you a little backstory. Only a few months ago my family moved to a new state leaving behind the doctors who had treated me for many years. Knowing there has been so many issues with pain and pain medication, on my first visit I brought all of my medical records with me. In the state I moved from, the doctor treating the source of your pain would be the one that prescribed your pain meds.   I discovered that my new Rheumatologist does not write pain meds.  I take a rather mild medication; however, he preferred that my PCP write for anything related to pain.  I use a combination of physical therapies, yoga, tai chi, breathing exercises, rest, heat, massage, and tears to handle and tolerate pain.  Meds were a last resort for me.  In fact, this was a decision that was not taken lightly, and very seriously discussed with my previous doctor.  When I went to my new PCP to get the medication, I was promptly given a long lecture on how doctors are monitored and restricted, and how they are not allowed to write too many of these prescriptions.  They did not look at the scanned records that are in their system, they did not call my rheumatologist.  I was lectured.  I was informed that I had to go to a second doctor to get pain medication, because that practice encouraged doctor shopping.  Something the medical system here should know and discourage; however, this was their policy so I was being forced into this practice not by my choice but by their policy.  A prescription was finally sent to the pharmacy which I picked up the next day; only I discovered the prescription was for THREE DAYS of the medication.  I do not take the max prescribed, I do the best I can because there are no therapies left on the market for us to try.  We are at the end of the proverbial rope.  Asking for help once in awhile should not result in being treated like someone with a contagion that will cause deadly harm.  I feel like physicians are pushing patients into medical marijuana (legal in my state) and can see why patients feel forced to seek illegal options.  When you deal with chronic pain, you learn quickly what things will exacerbate it, what things you do that will make you pay a little bit of a higher price, and things you can do to help here or there.  I have Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sjogren’s Syndrome, debilitating Migraines, Epilepsy, and Fibro.

If I am lucky, I wake up and think that my eyes might open properly the first time.  My dog is a service dog and has been trained to help gently wake me.  Part of this is because of pain, but also if I am jarred awake it is a promise of a day with a horrible migraine.  I begin taking stock of what is alive or asleep or wishing it were dead on my body.  One thing with RA is morning stiffness, so often you don’t allow you initial impression of the day define you.  I roll out of bed and hope I don’t actually fall.  The first 15 minutes of the day moving is generally agony; an 8/10 because your muscles and joints have no idea if they even want to move.  This does not include all of the other fun stuff like cognitive dysfunction (you can’t think clearly) or your eyes don’t actually focus (thank you Sjogren’s).  After 15 minutes, sometimes 30 minutes, you have an idea of where you are going to hurt the worst for the day and what you will be dealing with.  Normally, I know that my knees, hips, and lower back will always be a 5/10 and that is just what it is.  If I having a migraine, I automatically medicate for that, and if the rest of my joints are above of 6/10 I will take medication to help with that.  This is when two things hit me simultaneously.  My need for coffee or tea and also what will I be able to do today?  Is it a stuck in bed day?  Maybe I can do a couple things, but I will have to depend on my cane?  Oh, it is a good day.  I can walk around and get two or three things done and just rest in between and after.

I had one day recently when I got really ambitious.  I wanted to get sheets, blankets, and clothes washed and dried in the same day.  That morning my pain started at around a 5.5/10.  My energy was pretty decent, I had a plan of action in place and life was good.  You become a bit of a master planner with chronic pain and any chronic illness.  I have learned that I can have the best plan, and it will go straight down the toilet.  I started with the regular clothes.  Just the act of getting them moved from the washer to the dryer, using my laundry aid, escalated pain to an 8 and delayed me getting to my next load for an hour because my legs and back gave out and I was unable to tolerate the simplest actions required to put a load of laundry in.  Sadly, this was with pain medication on board.  My goal was three loads of laundry for the day.  To an able bodied person, that may seem like nothing, for me to complete that in one day would have made me feel like I had just climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.  When you have a chronic illness that no longer is how life happens.

For me, time with friends is one of the most beautiful and precious things.  It also is the one thing you lose that people don’t understand about you.  When first diagnosed I thought that I could just power through, now I have learned the price I pay.  Last week I went to the movies with my sister and niece.  I wanted to see Mamma Mia 2, they did too quite frankly.  It was girls night.  I had to rest 2 days prior.  The night I went I almost collapsed going into the theatre, and I did collapse coming out.  I started the night fatigued and about a 5/10; before we left I had a slight moment where I wanted to sit down and sleep for a month but I was not missing.  By the time I got home I was about a 9/10.  I have been flaring, which in our world means additional pain, swollen and stiff joints, and fatigue since.   I would not trade that fun night though.  There is a price you pay for all of your time.  I know with this post, I am not asking for sympathy.  But before you make a judgement, pause and maybe try and step into another’s shoes for just a moment.

Even our families and closest friends don’t always understand. Chronic pain is hard for anyone to understand because it can’t be seen. When you look at us we don’t look any different from the next women. Unless you you see us limping, walking with a cane or rubbing a sore spot you wouldn’t know we were hurting. They try to understand, and at first they do really well. But even the closest of friends or family start to get frustrated after repeated cancellations. They think back to the time they sprained their ankle or tweaked their knee, and the pain was gone in a couple weeks and they don’t understand why “a little pain makes life so hard!”

What Amy and I shared above is simply a small glimpse into the life of someone who has chronic pain. Someone who has to carefully plan each and every task they do on a daily basis. No on will never be able to explain to what it feels like to feel like your body is no longer your own. Your head and heart want to do one thing but your body says NO. No one will ever be able to explain to you how hard it is when you have to turn down your best friend for the 9th time, simply because the pain is to unbearable. No one can ever explain what it feels like to be told by the people who you are closest to to “Just take some Tylenol, and a nap, and you will be fine!” No one will ever be able to tell you what it feels like EVERY SINGLE TIME you go to a doctors office and they see that you take pain medication, and you can see their thoughts about you change for the worse. No one will ever be able to tell you how it feels to have someone tell you to “Just exercise and lose some weight, and you will feel better!” All that being said, until you have lived and walked in our shoes please try to keep your judgments about us until you meet us, and really get to know us. Yes, my pain impacts almost all of my daily life, but it DOES NOT make me who I am.

With Love,

Amber & Amy

The Day I was Treated Like A Drug Seeker

* This is about my personal experience not a topic to be debated about the use of narcotics.

I went to my local ER last week because I had been dealing with a migraine for almost two weeks. Sadly, is not uncommon for me to end up in the ER for a migraine. In fact that usually happens at least a handful of times every year. Unfortunately I generally end up being admitted for said migraine at least a couple times a year. So I know how things work in this ER and Hospital. Especially since I actually worked as an RN in this hospital for 9 years. But this time was different.  I had the worst experience I have ever had in that hospital. I have NEVER been treated as poorly by as many medical professionals in such a short time span as I did that visit. And that’s saying something because over the last five years I have been there MANY times and have been cared for by MANY nurses, physicians and other providers. Due to the fact that I am no stranger to the hospital, and the fact that I have MULTIPLE invisible illnesses I am not unfamiliar with being looked at like I am drug seeker.  But this visit took that to a WHOLE NEW LEVEL.

I had barely made it into the room in the Emergency Room when this male who I assumed was a nurse came in and without telling me who he was or anything his first words were “I see you take X & Y at home for pain did you try either of those?” Okay, fair question. I calmly explained that they can cause rebound headaches so I don’t always try them for headaches. He proceeded to tell me that I wasn’t going to be receiving any narcotics while I was in the ER that day.  He then went on to ask me what has worked on my migraines in the past. My mom answered that question as I was not totally able to think straight after that long with a migraine. She told him that a low dose of Ketamine has worked for me really well for me in the last. Continuing on to tell him the last time I received it the nurse had never heard of it being used for migraines either so the Doctor took him aside and showed him literature on the studies that have been done. Those studies show that Ketamine at a low dose works well for migraines. And before she finished her sentence the nurse shot that down and said there was “NO WAY” I would be getting that today because its a sedative and not for migraines.. At this point I didn’t know what to even think. Honestly, I was ready to leave and say forget it.  But that wasn’t the last run in with that nurse I would have before I was admitted.

I had a port placed three years ago due to the fact that I don’t have good veins anyway and then I took years of high dose steroids which killed the veins I did have.  So I always request that my port be accessed. He REFUSED. He said I had great veins and placed a peripheral.  I wasn’t in any condition to argue. Because he was so asinine I ended up with five sticks which should have been one.  But I did enjoy when the ER doctor put him in his place and let him know that he would in fact be giving me Ketamine for my migraine. HA!!!

I was really hoping that the Ketamine would work like it had in the past and I would be able to go home. But it didn’t……. So they called a hospitalist to come in and see me so I could be admitted to the hospital.  As he walks in the room he introduces himself and announces “I DO NOT GIVE NARCOTICS FOR HEADACHES, JUST SO YOU KNOW! Again, that word had not come out of my mouth since I arrived. He like the nurse was making an assumption of why I was there based on what he saw on the chart, without actually seeing or talking to the person behind the medical record. I really hadn’t even thought about asking for any narcotics because I know that it can actually make a headache worse. He asks me a few questions and says he won’t be admitting me its a neurology issues, and leaves. The nurse I loved so much comes back a few minutes later to tell me that they were taking me upstairs. When I asked who the admitting doctor was they told me it was Dr. Pleasant Pants that I had just seen. I was less than thrilled.

Once I was taken upstairs and settled into my room, a neurology doctor who I didn’t know showed up to see me. And AGAIN for the THIRD time in less than three hours, this doctor identifies herself and before I can say anything she says “I DO NOT GIVE NARCOTICS FOR MIGRAINES, JUST SO YOU KNOW.”  Yet again I had never asked for an narcotics or even actually thought about asking for one.  Like the two before her she was also making an assumption about why I was there and what I wanted before even seeing me. By this point in the day I had nothing to say I was so blown away that I just looked at her. I didn’t have anything to say I just agreed with her plan of care and went on with it. At that point I would have tried anything to get the headache to go away. And anything I would have said in that moment to this doctor would not have been nice or helped my case in any way.

Sadly, during my entire four day stay in the hospital there was only one nurse that would actually give me my home pain meds. In fact she actually brought them to me without me even having to ask for them. The other nurses didn’t think I needed them because I was getting “the migraine cocktail!” And that is true, I didn’t need my home meds for the headache, I needed them for the rest of my body. All the other parts that hurt besides my head.

I know, everyone is all in an uproar by the new changes that may be coming with narcotics and the doctors are being more careful with what they prescribe and to who. But anyone could look at my record if they really took the time and see that there is more than enough reason for one or even both of the medications I take. And if they looked more closely they would also see that my scripts last me on average 45 days rather than 30 because I don’t take them as often as they are prescribed. If they took time to look further than the med list they would see a person. A person who believe it or doesn’t really care for the way pain medicine makes me feel. I don’t enjoy being nauseated and itchy when I am already itchy all the time from my illness.

It just frustrates me to no end that the people in the world who have abused the drugs have totally messed things up for those of us who need them. Because people choose to take narcotics to get high it is becoming increasingly hard to get pain meds for people who really truly need them. Many of us need something to be able to get out of bed in the morning. Or to take a shower, or to do any daily task. But because of those idiots many are being refused. And sadly there have been a number of suicides in the chronic illness community due to the fact that they were refused the pain meds they relied on.

I have not shared this earlier because it took me awhile to process it. To really think about how it made me feel and how I could share this best to get my point across without sounding like I was whining. I just wish medical providers would look further than a med list. Or even the list of diagnoses. Behind those things there are people, people who never asked for these life altering diseases, people who didn’t ever do anything to deserve the fact that we are living in chronic pain. Many of us who really need the pain meds would not be able to function or have any semblance of a normal life. And if it comes to the point when none of us have access to those meds a lot of us wont be able to get out of bed, much less work and be a productive member of society. Many of us would gladly trade every last pain pill for the ability to go back to the life we had before we got sick. If i could turn in my pain meds and magically be healed i would be the first in line. Sadly, that doesn’t happen! I can’t speak for all of the people with chronic pain due to a chronic illness, but personally I have tried all other methods of pain relief. I have tried meditation, acupuncture, massage, physical therapy, water therapy, over the counter meds, pain rubs, heat, ice. You name it, I have probably tried and it just doesn’t work the same way that pain medicine does.

At this point the only thing I think we can really do is to start writing letters. Letters to those who represent us in our local, state and federal government.  I am not a political person and I normally don’t include things like this in my blog but I think this is all we have left. I think its time for a CALL TO ACTION for all of us who suffer from chronic pain. We have to be proactive and start writing letters, telling our stories and getting them out there. If we don’t share them, who will ever know what we really live through on a daily basis. They need to know that we are being treated the same as drug seekers, the same as drug addicts or not being treated at all. They need to know that we didn’t choose this life but it has happened and we are doing out best to make the best out of the hand we were dealt and having out pain medications taken away is not the way to do it.

I know in the past people have probably assumed I was drug seeking because when you present to the ER, for a migraine or back pain or a lupus flare that causes pain all over the body they can’t see it. They don’t see our pain on a lab test or an X-ray so they just assume that we are just there for the meds.  When it reality we just want to do whatever it takes to get the pain away even if that’s just a shot of steroid. Healthcare workers have sadly become so jaded by the “opioid crisis” that they can’t see past it. I know from many years of experience as a nurse that it is easy to assume that drug seeking is occurring when someone asks for pain medicine without asking any further questions.  We have to start advocating for ourselves, as I always say if we don’t advocate for ourselves no one else will.  Sadly, I did not do a good job of doing that this time around  because I felt so bad. But I wont stand to be treated like this again.

I am lucky to have a multiple people who act as advocates for me for, will stand up and fight for me when I can’t. My Mom has become my biggest advocate as she has sat in the ER waiting rooms and at my bedside hours in end without complaint. Just to make sure that i get what I need. Many times she is my voice when I can’t speak up for myself. If you are in a situation where you don’t feel as though you can stand up for yourself take someone with you. If you can, take a family member or a friend with you to the ER or to the Dr to help make sure you get the treatment and care that deserve.

If you need any help writing letters to your representatives or finding who your representatives are please let me know and I will be more than happy to help you however I can

Please take the time to also share this story in your communities. We have to get our stories out there, we have to find a way to be heard.

With Love,

Amber

How I Really Feel About…….. Pain

Pain….. is something I deal with daily. And I am guessing that many of you do as well! It has just become a part of our daily lives and something many of us don’t give a second thought to. And most of us would give anything to have one pain free day where nothing hurt at all without having to take a pill to get that way. That being said it has become a BATTLE for some to actually get the medicine that they need to treat said pain. Thanks to all those who are abusing pain medicine it makes those of us who actually battle chronic pain to also be viewed as an addict to some care providers. It is so sad that people who have chronic pain and live in pain everyday have to jump through such hoops just to get the medicine that we need to be able to function.

I usually try to stay away from the highly debated issues like this, but I read something that really struck a chord with me this weekend. A fellow Lupie posted that she got to the point where she could no longer handle her pain at home with all the alternative options, and ibuprofen she has at home. So she went to the ER, simply because she didn’t know what else to do. And of course because her primary complaint was pain, she was looked at by some of the care providers that she was simply drug seeking. And I know she is not alone in this I know this happens all the time. It has happened to me when I went in to the ER with a Hemiplegic migraine, there was no test to show that I was truly in pain so its easy to assume that I really just want pain medications. I even had one doctor tell me that I was just a hypochondriac and that there was no reason for me to be seeking treatment in HIS ER.

That’s the whole problem with autoimmune conditions and chronic pain syndrome, there is not always a blood test or imaging that will show that the patient is truly hurting. Most doctors don’t understand autoimmune conditions therefore they don’t understand why we are in pain. If they can’t see a lab result change or something on an MRI or CT Scan to explain the pain they just don’t get it.  And it frustrates me to no end that I can’t be honest about my pain with some of my doctors without them looking at me and thinking I just want the drugs. When in all reality I just want a day where I can wake up and function like a normal person. I don’t like how the pain medications make me feel but if that is what I have to do to function then so be it. I think many of you would agree with me when I say I just want a day without pain. I would give almost anything to have a day, a week, a whole seven days where I didn’t hurt somewhere and I could do all the things that I want to do without having to spend the next day(s) in bed.

The government at the local, state and federal levels are trying to do what they can to change how pain medications are prescribed and filled to decrease the level of abuse. In some states you are only allowed a seven day prescription no matter what the reason for needing pain medication is. In other places you have to give a urine sample every thirty days before you can get a new script to show that you are really taking the medicine and not selling it. Pharmacies are now being linked in many states throughout their local areas to try to prevent those abusing drugs from doctor hopping and having multiple scripts from multiple different doctors. While all of this is positive and will hopefully start to decrease the abuse of pain killers. It has actually made it harder for those of us who really need it to function. We are being made to jump through more hoops then ever before.

The real question I guess is how do we change the views of these care providers, especially ER providers. Where they see a large amount of drug seekers everyday. What can we do to prove to them that we aren’t wanting more and more medications, that we just want help getting through this flare up. Even with our conditions in our charts that say LUPUS, MIGRAINES, ENDOMETRIOSIS or whatever conditions you have that cause pain, they still often times wonder. I have thought about this a lot and have come to the conclusion that we will never change the way they look at us. We just have to have tough skin and prove to them that we don’t want an extra script or something new to take at home, we just needs something to break the cycle we are in. Maybe one day more doctors and care providers will start to understand the conditions that cause chronic pain. Until then we are stuck in this horrible rut and just have to prove our self to each new provider, and show them who we are and what we stand for.

With Love,

Amber

Let Me Tell You How I Really Feel!!!

Disclaimer: These are my opinions and it’s okay if yours don’t agree!

As I lay here feeling as tho I can feel every….single…. part of my body and it all hurts. I decided to look for some inspiration. Something to get me through this trial. I decided why not? None of my other tricks are working. Not even my Gold Standard Go-To’s. Like sitting in a hot bath, I think I’ve used all the hot water in the house! Probably good that no one will need any for several hours yet. I can’t sleep because even my hair hurts. I started looking for other ways to deal with the pain. Tried guided meditation which has helped some in the past. NOTHING! I started reading other blogs, reading inspirations pages, and I found some that fit. Then I decided maybe my pain could help someone else so I’ll Blog. And it’ll be a good way to pass a few minutes where I can focus on something other than the pain. And I’ll

Place the inspirational things I found helpful throughout the post!

Chronic pain is all psychosomatic (all in your head) people have been told! First, I would like to know how many (if any) o have been told that?!?! Secondly , I would like to know what gives those “Doctors” the right to tell you the pain you are feeling isn’t real? And lastly, I would like to know if they have ever spent a week, a day or even a few hours totally overcome by PHYSICAL pain. No, I’m not talking about spraining an ankle, or hitting your funny bone. While yes, those things hurt, that pain isn’t going to last. You can see an end in sight! With chronic pain you look for that light at the end of the tunnel and see nothing. Nothing but BLACK. There is no light. Chronic pain is just that, pain that’s chronic. Pain that you will live with at some level EVERYDAY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE!!

If I had a nickel for the amount of times I’ve heard “Well, I just don’t know how you do it! how you put up with all that pain!” I’d be a rich lady. My answer is always and forever will be, “It’s my only option. I don’t have another. I can’t just say you know today I’m not gonna deal and wish the pain away.” There are days I wish I could, like right now. In this moment I wish I could just say “I’m done with you for now pain and it would go away!” But I can’t. And neither can all the other hundreds of thousands who deal with similar things. So for all of you who also deal day in and day out with chronic pain I applaud you! You are some of the most courageous people I know! And it’s because of you that I know I can keep pushing through.

“Courage is not having the strength to go on; it is going on when you don’t have the strength.” – Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), 26th President

The sad part to me is that most chronic pain sufferers & Lupus Patients suffers in silence.

They feel that it is a better option to suffer alone than to open up to a close friend or family member about what is going on. It’s sad that we have to feel that way. But I know why it happens. Let me give you an example that maybe you can relate to. Have you ever been home from work on a sick day? Not welling enough to work but well enough that you can text or play on Social

Media? If you have been in this situation, did you receive any backhanded, dirty text, or comments about how much better you MUST be since you are up and on Social Media?!? Probably not. But the second you have a Chronic Illness or Chronic Pain and stay home and someone notices you on the Internet the rumors start rumbling about how you must not be THAT sick if you can be on Facebook. When it’s quite the opposite. You still feel like a giant pile of horse manure, but Facebook is giving you a much needed distraction from what you are dealing with. And if you really wanna know, It’s my business how I spend my time!! Not yours!!

Living with a Chronic Illness or Chronic pain sucks. That’s just all there is to it. You usually end up losing out on opportunities in every aspect of your life, simply bc the pain is too much. No one should ever have to deal with pain to the point that they can barely physically move bc their entire body hurts. In this day in age there should be more medicines available to treat these horrible life altering disorders more directly. Those of you non-spoonies may be thinking, so go to the pain Doctor and get on some meds and move the heck on. Well, sadly it’s not that easy. I am in the third largest city in my state and no pain dr will touch me bc I have Lupus and Fibromyalgia. They won’t even see me in their office. So I, like many others across this fine country, are stuck without or get medication from a family doctor who is not trained in treating chronic pain.

In many cases we have those who are abusing the system and pain medications who have ruined the system the rest of us. Those of us who truly need treatment and medications should NOT be punished based on the poor decisions of another person. Okay I’ll get off that soapbox.

But seriously if you’ve never lived a period in your life where pain took over don’t be so quick to judge those who have. We who suffer would gladly give it all away to have a normal life again. We didn’t ask for this, want this, and the largest majority of Lupus Patients did nothing to cause the situation that they are in. So please before you judge do a little investigating on your own. Don’t assume that just because I look like a normal 32 yo female that you can yell or give me dirty looks for using a handicap tag. I have it for reasons that you may never know.

All we can do is keep fighting the good fight!! Keep doing all we can to advocate that we get good care and the meds we deserve. We deserve the chance to live a normal (or as close to it as possible) life just like everyone else does!

It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.”

– Confucius (551-479 BC),

Philosopher

With Love,

Amber