When the ER Is Your Last Resort for Chronic Pain, and They Turn You Away


I, like many of those with chronic pain, am constantly struggling to find a balance to cope with my pain. It’s come to a point where I don’t even bother seeking actual pain-free relief, just enough relief that I can do the most basic of functions like eat or drink.

The typical course of treatment for TN is anti-seizure medications; often they help. Other times they don’t help, they stop helping or, like me, your body simply can’t be on them.

I have natural “pain relieving” tea, heating pads, topical numbing cream and an extremely strong sedative  for pain. But they hardly make a dent. What does a person do? Well, truth is… not much.

That’s right. I sit in the dark with my heating pad (or ice pack) snuggled with a blanket, tears rolling down my face making the pain worse and deal with it. What choice do I have?  How many times have I heard, “just go to the hospital?” And my reply is always, “and do what?” Narcotics don’t work on nerve pain so that’s out. I go in there claiming to have an invisible disease that is painful, and often get labeled a drug-seeker. The doctors aren’t pleasant, nurses are rude, why? Because they can’t offer much. I’ve been asked more times than I care to count by staff at the hospital, “you know, we can’t really help so why’d you come?” I’ve been turned away from the hospital because I refused a medication that caused me to develop DRESS syndrome a few months prior. The doctor insisted that it was this medication or leave because they had nothing else for me. So I left. In pain, crying, begging for a sleeping pill strong enough to just let me sleep it off. Doctor walked away.

Emergency room doctors are not equipped for chronic pain, leaving us without options for when the pain is unbearable. They don’t understand it’s often our last resort. There’s a reason this disease is nicknamed the suicide disease and having no options is a huge part of that. Even when patients try to self-advocate, we often get backlisted and put on the backlog of the list of patients.

Chronic pain is real. We need a safety net for when we cannot cope, without fear or judgment.

Getty Image by phillyskater


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Trigeminal Neuralgia

A teacher talking to a group of college students.

When I Finally Told My Professor I Was Masking My Disabilities

I have always enjoyed having a mentor – someone, usually a teacher, who is older and wiser than me and who can guide me through the challenges of life. Therefore, when I first came to college, I immediately started going to professors’ office hours in search of someone who I could form a bond with. [...]
A picture of the writer in front of a banner that was made for one of her anniversary parties.

4 Ways I've Made My Trigeminal Neuralgia Less Scary and More Manageable

Every year, on the date of my “neuralgiaversary,” my friends have thrown me a surprise party! I just want to start this by saying that I have the best friends and none of these fantastic parties would have happened if it wasn’t for them. They completely spoil me, from barbecue food, to sweets, to trays and trays [...]
black and white photo of woman holding her face in her hands

The Monster in My Face: What the Pain of Trigeminal Neuralgia Feels Like

I am a big-time lover of everything scary. Scary movies, haunted houses, going to get the mail in my PJs, you know…scary. I still remember watching scary movies with my best friend Rachel when we were little girls. We would huddle up together in one chair, our eyes closed through most of the movie and [...]
person filling out a disability insurance form

The Questions Disability Insurers Should Really Be Asking

Dear disability insurer: I am happy to fill out these forms regarding my daily living and work history for my disability insurance application. However, I don’t feel that many of the questions are pertinent to my disability and my situation. I have atypical trigeminal neuralgia (ATN). The Wikipedia explanation is pretty good: “ATN pain can be [...]