This fictitious right people without pain seem to have to pass judgment on something they have never tried to understand always stirs a great amount of frustration in me. Especially when you consider the fact that everyone, and I do mean everyone, will have a drug dependency at least once in their life.
Now, we all know what we think drug dependency looks like, but I’d like to open your eyes to a completely different kind of drug dependency.
I think the best place to start is to change the way we feel about the word “drug”. Which, medically speaking, seems to be almost as bad as any other common swear word. However, much like the actual meaning of “bitch”- the true definition of “drug” proves it really isn’t a dirty word.
Dictionary.com defines the word “drug” as “a chemical substance used in the treatment, cure, prevention, or diagnosis of a disease or otherwise used to enhance physical or mental wellbeing.” Which is not much different than the definition of medicine; which is defined as “any substance or substances used in treating disease or illness”. I think we can all agree that these definitions could not be applied to heroin or crack cocaine.
Now that we’ve got that cleared up, let’s look at the word ‘dependency’ which simply means “the state of being dependent”. Dictionary.com defines dependent as “Relying on someone or something else for aid, support, etc.” Again, most likely not the words you would use when discussing Meth.
Now that we’ve rearranged the way you think of the words “drug” and “dependency” let’s get down to the reality of what a drug dependency really looks like.
At some point in your life you will depend on a drug to make you better. If you get sick with some type of infection you will need an antibiotic to get well. You will depend on that Z-Pack to make you better. If you’re lucky, this type of dependency will be your only relationship with drugs. Odds are though, that you will end up dependent on many types of drugs.
Take my good friend, for example, who is presently dealing with a bout of depression. Over the course of the past summer she has twice attempted to stop taking her medication and found both times that this was not a good choice. When discussing her choice to end her drug holiday she said to me “I am a better person this way, and society likes me better this way. Trust me.” Indeed she truly loses herself unless she keeps up on her Prozac. My dear friend is currently dependent on her anti-depressant medication. *Yes, she said I could write about her today.*
Now, I understand that depression medications can be a topic of debate so let’s look at a few other mental illnesses that depend on medication to make it through life. Bi-polar or Schizophrenia for example; both of these illness demand daily medication in order to stay even, and live a somewhat normal life. The people living with these-and many, many other mental illnesses are dependent on their medications, though I doubt anyone would ever accuse them of have a dependency.
Now, mental illnesses are not the only place we see this type of dependency, which brings me to my next example.
Do you or someone you know suffer from Migraines? If so, you most likely take some form of medication to ease the frequency and pain of these killer headaches. You depend on your medications to help you feel better.
Now, up until now all of these examples have been a bit light, so let’s consider something a little more serious.
Do you know anyone that has Asthma or any other form of Lung Disease? If you have any of these conditions you are quite literally tied to your medications. You need your inhaler or other form of medication if you want to live. Should you find yourself in a situation where you cannot breathe and do not have your drugs you could quite honestly die. You, my friend, have a drug dependency.
The buck doesn’t stop here though, the list goes on, and on, and on. Hypertension? Hyperthyroidism? Fibromyalgia? Diabetes? AIDS/HIV? Rheumatoid Arthritis? MS? Parkinson’s? Do you suffer from Erectile Dysfunction? Have you gone through Menopause and take hormone replacement therapies? What about a food allergy that requires an EpiPen? I wasn’t kidding people, this list is ridiculous.
What’s even more ridiculous is for all the compassion a person with the above mentioned conditions there is complete lack of understanding and compassion for someone with Chronic Pain. This causes those of us who suffer to hide our discomfort for fear of being judged by the very people we need for support. I tend to refrain from sharing my condition with anyone, even my family. Over the summer I decided the share my adventure with my new cousin. When I finished explaining PCS and my treatment to her she looked at me and said “so you take a lot of pain killers huh?” It was the most frustrating thing, I wanted to cry. All she took away from our conversation, my very private, personal struggle was that I took pain killers. I think that is the last time I tried to tell anyone new about my condition.
When discussing this issue with other women with PCS/CPPS one of the ladies told me “All I can say is that I have made my drug therapy a huge secret. The few people who have found out have made the opinion that I’m a drug addict.”
Could you imagine? People you know and trust can’t seem to understand a condition that causes pain? These people who know her character and know who she is deep inside have decided she is an addict, rather than just understanding that she is in pain. Much like a person diagnosed with Diabetes will be prescribed insulin, would it not make sense that a Chronic Pain sufferer be prescribed pain medications? Miranda pointed out very matter-of-factly that “… if doctors are going to diagnose you with these pain producing conditions, they should also treat or help find treatment for the pain.” Seems like basic stuff to me. Like the medical equivalent of 2+2=4.
Sadly, this is not the case. Instead most of us spend our visits to the doctors and friends alike trying to explain that what we feel is real, and not just a ploy for medication. The constant burning, aching, throbbing, stabbing pain in our pelvis and legs makes it impossible to think of anything else at times. That our days are filled with exhaustion, and pain, and tears of frustration and loneliness just praying that someone will understand. Even when we do finally find those one or two people who understand or want to help we are left with the stress and fear of losing them and having to start all over. Take Jenny for example; she finally found the right doctor to aid her with her condition and then he moved on to a new position. Leaving her with a clinical staff that refuses to help her refill her medications while she finds a new provider. Would you deny a diabetic their insulin? A breast cancer survivor her maintenance medications? I would bet my brand new car you wouldn’t, and yet, the circus we must participate in to be taken seriously with our condition is unending, and disheartening.
While having this conversation my mom (a woman who has worked with the elderly and the sick all of her adult life) said “if you have diabetes you are dependent on anti-diabetic drugs, if you are hypertensive, you are dependent on anti-hypertension drugs, if you are infected with a bacteria, you are dependent on antibiotics …..so it would stand to reason if you have unending pain, you would be dependent on pain medication. All of these help make us whole……….”
And seriously….who doesn’t want to be whole?