While people with severe pain levels are at risk of having a poorer health than people without pain, you don’t have to become a statistic. It is possible to manage chronic pain and find relief with effective strategies.
I remember when I thought everyday pain was a thing that would happen only when I became a senior citizen. I was wrong to think I was so invincible. First came the arthritis diagnosis just as I turned 30. As time went on, inflammation levels increased, other diagnoses like rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia were thrown out there. My pain levels were advancing much faster and it didn’t have anything to do with my age. At times my pain is so severe I have no choice but to spend the day in bed.
If you are dealing with chronic pain from arthritis, fibromyalgia, or another disease that causes pain every day, you’re not alone in your struggle. According to the CDC, an estimated 50 million Americans, have chronic pain and many of those people deal with severe levels of pain. Sadly, our options for relief have been shrinking lately.
Hopelessness and Chronic Pain
I have been prescribed far too many medications that have since been pulled by the FDA. I have never found 100% relief from any of them. Opioids help, but they have too many undesirable side effects for me. It's also become next to impossible to be treated with even low dose opioids because of the current battles being waged against chronic pain patients. There are days that my pain is all I think about...what can I try next to make it go away or at least lessen it? There are good days too, when I use multiple approaches that all work well together, and I can go out into the land of the living and do normal, everyday things like grocery shopping.
When you live with chronic pain, it’s like sitting outside in a snowstorm without a coat on. It’s hard to see through the fog, and it hurts. If you’re a chronic pain sufferer, I’m sure you understand how quickly your world fades and becomes something unrecognizable when your health starts to fail.
One of the worst side effects of chronic pain is the depression caused by how I felt physically and emotionally. On the days I can’t do much of anything, it's far too easy to feel like a burden on my family. All of these negative feelings spiral pretty quickly, when you're dealing with pain day in and day out.
When you get sick from a cold or a stomach bug, you can go to sleep and know that you will feel a little better in the morning. Each day you get better and eventually return to normal. But chronic pain patients don’t have this reassurance. When I have a particularly bad pain day, I go to bed in pain and I know that I will wake up in pain. However, as the years have gone by, I have gotten better at managing my pain.
An Arsenal of Treatments
From a medical standpoint, when I see the doctor and get a new medication or treatment, I'm always hopeful it will work. From a home treatment standpoint, I'm more of a skeptic but I will try almost anything. I believe in having a war chest of products and treatments I can use at home because some of the side effects from prescription medications make things worse for me. Several gave me terrible brain fog and made me even more tired and lethargic. I gained weight from some of them when my arthritic joints were already in agonizing pain, and I had a family to care for.
At my worst I was tired, depressed, feeling pretty hopeless, and stuck at home. But I could still read and research and most of all...I could experiment. While I may not have been able to do the physical activities I used to enjoy, I still had determination, and that determination led me to finding ways to lessen my pain and enjoy life. Life may be different now and I may not be able to keep up the way I used to, but I can still be a happy participant.
One of the things that gave me comfort during this time was knowing that I wasn’t alone. Millions of people live with chronic pain. I reached out to other people with similar health problems. Their struggles were nearly identical to my own:
- Feeling hopeless
- Anger at missing out on life
- Worrying that they are a burden on family
- Guilt and depression
Reaching out to a community of chronic pain survivors gave me hope and also a sense of normalcy. When you live with chronic pain, you start to become isolated and fearful that your thoughts and feelings aren’t normal. What other survivors taught me is that these feelings of hopelessness, depression, and guilt are all very rational responses to an irrational event. Chronic pain isn’t a disease of choice; it feels like an awful life sentence for something that isn't our fault.
Where Did I Start?
One of the first steps to coping with a chronic pain disease is reaching a healthy level of acceptance. That doesn’t mean accepting depression, guilt, and hopelessness. It means accepting that this disease is something we’ll always have to live with and that no treatment will be able to completely, 100% get rid of our pain. But it is possible to find relief and live a life free from the depression and guilt that is part and parcel to a chronic pain diagnosis.
There are times when my pain is less severe. Capitalizing on these moments and practicing gratitude for them is crucial. On good days, I spend time learning about chronic pain management and experimenting with different, at-home techniques and remedies. I’ve chronicled my experiences on the site so you can see what I did, and whether or not it worked for me.
Some of these remedies worked, and some weren’t so effective. But learning, experimenting, and practicing gratitude have all helped to make me feel like a pain fighting warrior despite my chronic pain diagnosis. My hope for this site is that it can do the same for you. Although some techniques won’t be effective for each person, I am always looking for new or different ways to get pain relief and manage my pain. My goal is to share my experiences, and hopefully they'll help you get relief that also works for you.
You’re Not Alone
You’re not alone in your fight with chronic pain. The hopelessness, exhaustion, guilt, and depression are all things almost every chronic pain survivor feels. Remember, it’s crucial that you be kind to yourself. You are your biggest advocate and champion in this fight against the burden of chronic pain. Don’t be afraid to advocate for care from your pain management providers.
I hope this site is a ray of light to you in a dark time. I’ve been there, and I know how difficult it is to struggle with physical pain and the emotional pain of depression. Don’t give up the fight. It is possible to have good days again and enjoy your life. It’s also possible to get past the bad days. Sometimes the good days make the bad days even worse, because we remember what it was like to be able to participate in life. Hang in there.
Simplify your life and enjoy the little things more often (as cliché as it sounds, it works). My life is not always back to being what it used to be, active and social and pain free, but I’ve learned to manage my pain and enjoy the life I have now. I hope this site can help you get there, too.