[Disclaimer: this is my opinion. Nothing more, nothing less.]
A few weeks ago, an article in the New York Times caught my attention. The author, a former chronic pain patient, wrote about his medical difficulties and his “cure.”
He details his double life: one of a working professional, hiding his injuries. The other of someone who could barely sit or walk without agony. After carefully letting the readers in on his secret, he talks about his redemption. A program that ultimately helped him escape the agonies of daily pain.
Naturally, as someone who’s spent her entire adult life in various degrees of pain, I wanted to know how he did it. The solution – boiled down to the bare minimum – is that pain is all in our mind. That we have the ability to believe it away – ok, that’s a minimized version of the treatment.
I read this article at midnight. The next morning, I re-read it, to be certain that I hadn’t misunderstood. He wants me to believe that I can just magic it away, with carefully planned meditations and desensitization therapy? So, the damage to my spine, can be willed away? If only my doctors had told me that! I’d still be a nurse! I wouldn’t have been driven out of my career.
There is NO end to how angry this made me. While I am genuinely happy for the author – I don’t want anyone to be in pain – this article lacks a complete picture. It’s one case/one success story/one type of treatment, not the entire caseload. And that leaves unacceptable gaps in the pain management story.
The problem with articles like this one is that it sends a one-sided picture out into the universe. That people don’t need medication, they don’t need anything but a strong desire to be well. It sets a dangerous precedent that the “opioids are bad!” folks love. It sends a judgmental message to the people who genuinely need medications. And clearly it puts people like me on the defensive!
I’m not saying that having a good attitude won’t help, because it does. My readers know I’ve been saying that on my blog since day one. But I wouldn’t ever preach that a happy thought cures all. It’s simply untrue. I know that desensitization doesn’t quite work that way. I’m feeling prickly today. 😖
For the RSD community- (and I can only speak about RSD, no other medical conditions) – our problems involve every body part, every function. There are warriors coping with symptoms you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Skin burning, difficulty swallowing, muscle wasting, immobility. The list goes on and on.
And while some folks will disagree with me, which is their right, I worry about the audience reading this article. I worry about people who have the power to limit access to medications reading this. I’m concerned that this will further pit the medical community against chronic pain patients. And we can’t afford that.
This simplifies a complex subject. This is, in part, why we are in the midst of a war. The people who genuinely need medications cannot get them because others abuse the same meds. Many people in my groups talk of being dropped from medical practices without warning. Still others post about having their prescriptions decreased, having to make half of the amounts they used to receive, last a month or more. This is insane. I know people who’ve greatly benefitted from programs that have encouraged healthy eating, exercise and meditation. Some have even been able to stop taking their prescriptions altogether, which is awesome. But as one who hasn’t participated, I can’t comment personally.
I’d love to speak with the author. To congratulate him on his success with the program. But also caution him. It’s not appropriate to say “I’m cured! Everyone can do it if I can.” It’s way more complicated than that, as far too many of us know.
This is just my two cents. I got fired up and ended up firing up members of my group by sharing the article. Sorry about that! But we’re all forced to be fired up 24/7. The opioid war in this country has many more casualties than some want to acknowledge. I could be one of them. So could my fellow warriors who have not already been burned by all of this.
Of course addiction is a problem! My heart goes out to all who suffer with it. But I don’t want to be treated like a criminal. I certainly don’t want to be accused of trying to take advantage of my doctors and the system that truly helped me. And I have been accused. All of us have.
And patients have even turned on each other. Some who have opted not to use medication – and thankfully don’t need to do so – have called the rest of us addicts. They said we “haven’t tried” to benefit from life without medications. It’s simply not true. And we certainly don’t gain anything from beating each other up. What works for one person, or a million people, won’t work for every person. And it’s dangerous to imply that it will. It’s cruel.
Words may not hurt me. But they might do a lot of damage to my fellow warriors. And I can’t sit by and watch that happen.
Once again, this is just my opinion. To all of my fellow warriors: whichever method you choose to keep yourselves well, DO IT!! I hope it works for you & keeps you pain-free. ❤️
Be kind to one another.
Peace & painlessness,