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When I Fear the Pain Medication I Need Will Be Taken Away

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In the news I often hear a great deal about the opioid “epidemic.” There are stories of legislative efforts to combat “pill mills,” of people who are addicted to opioids, and of people whose loved ones have died due to opioid overdoses. In almost all of those stories, opioids are portrayed as bad, evil substances and those who use opioids are portrayed as addicts. I have a difficult time hearing these stories. They scare me. I’m afraid because I am dependent upon opioid pain medication (notice I said “dependent upon” and not “addicted to”). I am afraid that the media is swaying public opinion and that legislation will continue to make it more difficult for doctors to prescribe this type of medication for patients who need it. 

I rely on my medication to help me function on a daily basis like a semi-normal 32-year-old. I rely on it to help me do little things that most people take for granted, including getting out of bed in the morning and going to work. I wasn’t always this way. When I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I basically refused to accept it. I didn’t like to talk about it, I think because I thought that if I didn’t talk about it, it wouldn’t become my reality. Unfortunately, it did become my reality, and my fibromyalgia got worse over time, to the point that pain I previously would have considered bad soon became minor. That’s the funny thing about pain — it’s individualized. You can never fully understand the pain someone else is going through. And because it’s invisible, it’s easy for others to dismiss.

It’s difficult for me to describe my pain to others because with fibromyalgia, the pain is always changing. I have pain from the top my scalp to the tips of my toes, and everywhere in between. One moment it’s in my right arm and the next it’s in my left leg, my pelvis, or my head. One moment it’s burning, the next stabbing, the next shooting. The worst is the pain that’s so strong that you can’t breathe, pain that removes everything external to you because it’s all you can focus on. There is nothing else, there is only pain. This is my reality. It’s not something I asked for, and it’s not something I would ever wish upon anyone else. 

Thankfully, I don’t have to live every day in constant pain. I wouldn’t be able to say this, though, if it weren’t for my pain medication. I hate having to be dependent upon opioid pain medication. I don’t want to take this medicine; what I want is to not be in pain. What I want is to wake up in the morning and not be chronically ill, to not have fibromyalgia staring me in the face every hour of every day. But I do have a chronic illness, I am in pain, and I have to accept that. There’s no point in wishing for something that I can’t change. Before I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia I hated taking medication of any kind. I think deep down I thought taking medication or asking for help made me weak. That’s why it was such a struggle to accept that I would need medication on a daily basis to help me manage my condition. Fibromyalgia has taught me that asking for help and relying on medication does not make me weak — if anything, I have learned that I’m stronger than I ever imagined.

I don’t deny that there are people with opioid addictions. I don’t deny that many people have been hurt by them, directly or indirectly, and they deserve our support. However, I believe this type of medication does serve a purpose, that there are many people that have been helped by it — people who have gotten their lives back and have become hopeful for the first time in years. My hope is that legislators and the media will start to consider our stories as well.

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Originally published: November 10, 2016
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