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When Pain Is Your Best Friend

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I used to be a real go-getter. As a Registered Nurse, I was at the height of my career, flying critically ill and injured patients from scenes of accidents, and community hospitals to trauma centers and tertiary medical centers. I was fit and healthy. That was until I began to show signs of illness, which was diagnosed as Lupus and Fibromyalgia, when I was in my early 30's. That was when life as I knew it began to fade away.

I started having pain with the two diagnoses, and had to start using higher doses of opiates to get through the day. But through physical therapy and lifestyle changes, I was able to get married, and have a baby despite my illnesses. I was disabled, and no longer able to work, but I was a functional mother of a beautiful baby boy.

But a year ago or so, I fell down a flight of stairs and broke my leg. After weeks of bedrest and in-patient physical therapy, I regained some of my function. But my marriage suffered and my husband had finally had enough of my long string of illnesses and injuries. And I thought our marriage was over for good. Thankfully, it was not to be.

But we all suffered. My son, who is now 13, has never known a mother without disability. He was there the morning I didn't wake up, and spent the next eight days in a coma. He was also the one who tried to keep his mom from falling down the stairs again, when there wasn't a handrail to stop me from falling. He was also the one who called 911 after the fall. No child should ever have to call for emergency help for his mom, but I so appreciate him being there. But he suffered greatly from my accident: he went from a straight A student to having failing grades. It greatly impacted on him emotionally, and it wasn't until the last few months that he got his grades back up to where they were.

Now, my days are determined by my pain. They are divided into four hour increments: when I can take my long-acting opiate, and when I can take my short-acting opiate for breakthrough pain. Add a muscle relaxant, and an anti-anxiety medication, and my day is complete. Gone are the days of traveling internationally, and going to the gym five days a week. My goals are fulfilled if I manage to take a shower. Because of my illnesses, and the financial ruin from them, I can no longer go to school for my BS in Psychology, which I planned to use as a grief counselor.

I belong to an online chronic pain support group. It has been a God-send for me. There, the people understand what it's like to cry from pain at 3 a.m., or to feel suicidal because the pain is on-going and sometimes more likely to be horrible.We've allhad the shared experience of dealing with doctors (and nurses) who look at us as drug-seeking addicts, totally oblivious to our pain that forced us to go to them for help. And some of us, but not all,have been fortunate enough tofind a doctor who is caring and wants to help us with our pain.

Recently, I posted aquestion on the message board:"what havebeenyour experiences with nurses?". I was expecting responses like, "caring and professional". I was appalled to read story after story telling of terrible experiences with nurses. It almost made me ashamed to be a nurse. I realize now that education on chronic pain is very lacking in nursing and medical schools. We must educate these professionals on just what it is like to live,day in, andday out,with pain. They must be reminded that they, too, can someday have chronic pain. Ittakes just one slip to end up living our lives.

Sowhat advice to I have for those who know someone with chronic pain? Be as caring and kind as you can, and offer help whenever possible. Sometimes we all need a helping hand to get through the day, and chronic pain sufferers are just asking for a little help, and a lot of compassion. It's a disease that hardly ever gets better, often gets worse and can turn someone's life upside down. It did for me. And it can happen to you.


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