We need more chronic pain awareness

Man, my medications make me so freaking tired. Like seriously, I’ve been off work for nearly two weeks because of the holidays, and I basically spent the whole time on the couch watching makeup tutorials on YouTube and flipping through Netflix (if you haven’t watched “The Honourable Woman” you haven’t truly experienced television).

I mean, in my head, I had all these plans and ideas of things I wanted to do. I really wanted to dye my hair, and go through all the clothes in my closet, and organize the mountains of candy that have piled up in my house as a result of my full-time job as the managing editor of a confectionery magazine.

And I wanted to write like 50 columns for the National Pain Report. Do you know how many I actually wrote? I wrote one. This one. That’s how many.

Because every time I start to think about doing any of those things I just end up grabbing a blanket and turning on another episode of Ally McBeal. It’s all those opioids and sleeping pills and nerve pain medications in my system. They just drain the life out of me.

All of this is to say that what I really want to do feels so completely impossible.

What I really want to do is raise awareness of chronic pain.

But the great irony is, of course, that having chronic pain makes raising awareness about chronic pain feel like an insurmountable task. I know first-hand that most of us are either in too much agony, or too drugged up to get the word out about what we’re all dealing with.

Yes, I know there are Facebook groups, and pain associations, and even websites like this for patients to rally around. But I think we can all agree that there’s still so much work to be done.

We need chronic pain awareness that’s even more in your face than all the pink breast cancer ribbons during October. People already know that cancer is bad, but try explaining to someone what it’s like to wake up every single day feeling like you’ve been hit by a truck even though you have an illness they’ve never heard of.

We need a world where I could tell someone, “I have chronic pain” and they would immediately know that I’m going through hell. A world where people hear me say that and automatically ask if they can bring me dinner, donate to my medical bills, or drive me to doctor’s appointments.

We need a world where people learn about my illness and are inspired to walk for chronic pain, and make T-shirts for chronic pain, and buy a can opener in a specific color that donates part of the proceeds to finding a cure for chronic pain.

Beyond that, we need to get our message to the politicians. They need to understand that all of us aren’t actually faking it in an attempt to get good drugs. We literally need opioids just to survive each day.

Politicians should say things like, “We couldn’t possible restrict medical care for those with chronic pain, even if the DEA is asking us to. We all know their struggle is hard enough. We don’t need to add to it.”

And we need pharmacists who look us in the eye when they hand us our drugs. Pharmacists who see the medications we take as just as important as the medications those with diabetes or asthma take, and who prove it by going above and beyond to get us the medications we need when we need them.

More than anything though, we all need to know we’re not alone.

We need to know that others are battling exactly the same demons we are late at night, when we feel like giving up, and giving in. And we need to know that it has nothing to do with us personally when we’re being treated like a drug addict at a doctor’s office. And that none of us really are lazy or faking it or exaggerating our symptoms, no matter what our friends and family say.

So, like I said, there’s still so much work to be done.

The only problem is, who the heck is going to do it? Because personally, I’m in way too much pain and on way too many drugs to do any of it.

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