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To Those Who Ask How I'll Manage My Pain Since I Stopped Taking Pills

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I have some important thoughts regarding the question I’ve started frequently receiving after disclosing that I am no longer on “pain pills,” i.e. prescription narcotic medication. Up until April 2015 I had been on them for over a decade, to treat my fibromyalgia, complex regional pain syndrome and other various chronic pain symptoms.

The question is: “How will you manage your pain?”

First, let me say that this question, this very real but very painful question, feels like getting punched in the gut every time. I inevitably mutter, “I don’t know. I just will,” or something along those lines, and try to move on as quickly as possible. 

Let me ask you this:

Can you “manage” a hurricane? A tornado? A flood?

You can prepare as best you can, in some cases barring windows or moving your precious nostalgic items farther above ground, and you can take as appropriate shelter as you have access to. But no, you cannot “manage” a natural disaster.

Think of fibromyalgia that way, and really all of my other aches, pains and nerves that shoot like fireworks through my back, in that same light.

I have some ideas about what I can do to prepare. I have some vague clues about how to brace for the storm. I have my nerve pain medication, my carefully selected furniture, my obscene amount of pillows, my cats, my love… but here is the catch: Via pain pills or any other means, my pain has never been “managed.” It’s survival of the fittest, baby, and you may have no idea how deeply that sentiment goes unless you’ve experienced the soul-crushing despair that can come with a particularly nightmarish pain day. The kind that makes you forget your own name and only remember in that moment that your body hurts so much that you catch yourself wondering if death would be a better answer. But it’s not. And, more importantly for me right now, neither is taking pills.

Right now, in this moment, my lower back is throbbing. The muscles in my arms are screaming at me to move away from the keyboard and let them hang slack for the rest of the day, though that is fraught with problems as well, thanks to this lovely thing called “referred pain.”

The movement of the world stops for no one, and while I can try my best to stay still and rest when I can and need to, if I ever stopped the way my body often wants me to, then I simply wouldn’t be living. I’d perhaps be alive in body, but my spirit would be broken, and I sure as hell am not letting that happen.

So. How will I manage my pain?

One day at a time. Each moment internally assessing the damages caused by individual actions, each moment getting to know my enemy and learning it’s patterns as best I can, but knowing that sometimes this monster called chronic pain will sneak up and knock the wind right out of me… and learning to be OK with that. 

I don’t want pity, sympathy or encouragement, though real, sincere empathy is always appreciated. I want you all to know that we are all in this together, all of us chronic illness warriors. All of us souls who know that in this lifetime we may always deal with our bodies spontaneously experiencing torture from the inside out, and who know we will fight some battles and we must surrender some and sleep for days, but that we must stay ever-vigilant and brave in the face of this personal body war, and most importantly choose to live anyway.

How will I manage my pain?


That’s personal.

So stop asking.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: What’s one secret about you or your loved one’s disability and/or disease that no one talks about? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: May 31, 2016
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