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When a Doctor Validated My Chronic Pain

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When I saw my pain management doctor today, I was expecting the appointment to go a little bit differently. I had some X-rays, which had appeared abnormal on first glance, at least to my primary care and myself. But the pain management doctor told me they looked normal and that all of my imaging came back clear. He said he couldn’t pinpoint a spot of pain. There is nothing structurally wrong showing clear signs of where the pain is coming from.

And then he said, “Just because the imaging doesn’t show a problem, doesn’t mean your pain isn’t real.”

The tears started to well in my eyes, as they are now.  

It wasn’t a “Sorry, I can’t help you because there is nothing wrong with you.”

It wasn’t a dismissal of my pain.

It was a validation.

We went on to talk about the various aspects of pain. He thinks most of my pain is caused by severe fibromyalgia, and we talked about how chronic pain is just that — chronic. I will probably always have it, but we can learn to manage it. He encouraged me, as all of my doctors before him have, to walk.

The best weapon against fibromyalgia is movement. Not so much movement that we flare, but enough to keep us as pain-free as possible. He asked me to go home and walk around my little block once. And then tomorrow, do it twice.  

We talked about my depression. We talked about my anxiety. We talked about how mental health compounds on pain and it’s a vicious cycle. I shed a few more tears.

In the spoonie community, we are often meet with doctors who deny our physical complaints and send us to psychiatrists.

“It’s all in your head. Go see a shrink.”

I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to my spoonie friends. I’ve heard terrible stories of doctors’ appointments and ER visits.  

When I left my appointment today, I was sad. It’s been a rough year for me. Today was not a good day, and I was hoping to walk out of the office with more information, not more unanswered questions.

But when I got home, I made good on my promise.

I walked around the block.  

And tomorrow, I’m going to make two laps.  

Follow this journey on When Mental and Chronic Illness Collide.

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Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Originally published: December 20, 2016
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