Dilaudid. Tramadol. Amitriptyline. Ibuprofen. Naproxen. Acetaminophen. Aspirin. Hormone therapy. Kratom. CBD gummies. CBD oil. Cannabis lotion. Cinnamon. Ginger. Essential oils. Epsom salts. A heating pad. Bubble baths. Pelvic floor therapy.
These are all things I have used in the past seven months to manage my chronic pain from endometriosis and a couple other suspected pain generators in my pelvis. Every day of my life, I incorporate a multitude of them to be able to go about my day, to finish my assigned work shift, to be able to drive myself, to get something else done that day other than work and sleep, to be able to think straight, to attempt to be a version of myself that I recognize.
These are all things I use or have used to manage my pain, and these are all things that fail to do so. Even with all of these in play, the pain still persists, still dominates. My deep bench of reinforcements are no match to the litany of attacks my body carries out against itself. Every day, I am failed by the resources afforded me, and the frustration is not minimal.
The chronic pain patient makes trade-off decisions all day, every day. Do I grit through all-encompassing pain, or do I allow overwhelming nausea and stomach pain? Do I limp all day and want to crumble to the floor in pain, or do I choose debilitating fatigue and dizziness? Do I struggle even thinking straight because the pain takes up all of my brain capacity, or do I decide to take a pill that makes me someone I don’t recognize? Do I allow the pain to debilitate myself, or do I risk lifelong addiction? And, for some, do I again wonder how I will make it through this day, or do I break the law?
We are facing an opioid crisis in our country, and a larger drug problem. I believe that at the core of that crisis is a pain epidemic. Our chronically ill far too often fall into two different camps: the first camp is over-medicated and becomes addicted to pain medication while dealing with their initial disease and all the subsequent side effects, and the second camp’s pain is not taken seriously and under-treated (or treated like an addict), and often end up using whatever they can get their hands on to make the pain stop, and the results are often dire, lifelong, and lethal.
All the while, the DEA is trying their best to ban CBD oil, medical marijuana, kratom, and other natural pain management alternatives from which millions of chronic pain and mental illness sufferers find relief. They are not 100% effective or without their own side effects and trade-offs, but patients and their medical allies should be given the opportunity to evaluate whether those therapies would benefit them.
I don’t write this post to garner sympathy, but in hopes that this will give you, dear reader, a brief glimpse into the daily frustrating battle someone with chronic illness wages everyday in order to operate, live their day, and survive through to the next one. I also hope this has reminded you that the drug crisis in this country is not one centered around crime, but around human suffering, and that it is all of our problem, because even if you don’t realize it, it affects your mom with fibromyalgia, your cousin with Crohn’s, your child’s teacher with gastroparesis, your best friend’s wife with endometriosis, your neighbor with leukemia, your nephew with PTSD, your coworker with Lyme disease, and your friend with arthritis.
So be quick to show kindness to all, and slow to judge; everyone is fighting a battle (whether large or small) that may be invisible to us presently, but is nonetheless VERY real.