As I drifted out of my self-induced haze and near-death experience, choking and vomiting up charcoal, the doctor asked me unsympathetically, “So you want to commit suicide, do you?” I never saw him again, or I would have gladly answered his question.
That was July 4, 2002.
I had taken a partial bottle of Tylenol plus a partial bottle of Advil, just trying to ease the pain; not caring that it might be permanent relief.
Stumbling into consciousness, I learned new appreciation for the word, “Life.” Now, I thank God for every morning. I choose to see the pain I endure as a reminder from God that I’m still alive, and I have work yet to do.
According to the American Pain Foundation (www.painfoundation.org), “Pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined…The annual cost of chronic pain in the United States, including healthcare expenses, lost income and lost productivity is estimated to be $100 billion.”
The prestigious Ohio State University Medical Center located at the website, medicalcenter.osu.edu, states that “chronic pain has been said to be the most costly health problem in the U.S.”
The American Journal of Public Health in their September 1996 issue, (Volume 86, No. 9), tells us that “There now is relatively strong evidence that pain patients are indeed at greater risk for completed suicide than patients without pain.” the article goes on to say, “Patients with various medical conditions who complain of pain appear to be at increased risk for the presence of suicide ideation, suicide attemps, and completed suicide.”
I have personally been on “suicide watch” six times now. I don’t intend to ever be there again, but I wish I could remember what it’s like to live without pain.
There are two different kinds of pain, acute pain, and chronic pain. Acute pain is of short duration–it goes away. Chronic pain persists for weeks, months, years, or even a lifetime.
My pain started in early 1998. It began with diagnoses of tendinitis, osteoarthritis, trigger-fingers, and carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands, forearms, and wrists, resulting from being a bookkeeper for twenty years. Later that same year, I started having muscle spasms in my back that have never gone away. I have since been diagnosed with severe sciatica in my right leg, degenerative disk disease, spinal stenosis, scoliosis, osteopenia, a bulging disc, lumbar facet joint syndrome, peripheral neuropathy, lumbar spondylosis, and now, most recently, osteoporosis. I also developed arthritis in both feet resulting from major surgery on both.
My injuries weren’t occupational. I suffered two serious falls, both under slippery conditions, and both with my feet flying out from under me. both times I landed full force on my tailbone–once in an intersection, and once on a large, pointed rock. (Please note: Rocks are HARD!)
I have gone through physical therapy several times, taken many medications that didn’t work or did little, had several injections in my lower back, and seen so many doctors I’ve lost count.
I spend every day and night feeling as though a 2×4 has been shoved up my behind, I am wearing concrete shoes, lightning bolts are shooting up and down my leg, and bees are buzzing in my foot, ankle, or knee. My hands, wrist and forearms feel like a cross between a root canal and an abscessed tooth. My thumbs, after surgery on both, feel like over-inflated basketballs ready to burst.
For me, and many other sufferers of chronic pain, there is no comfort. Drugs mask the symptoms, but do not provide true relief.
I am never comfortable. I cannot sit, stand, lie down, walk, or move without pain.
Chronic pain is all encompassing and misunderstood. It is an invisible thief that steals your independence, self esteem, enthusiasm, strength, and energy. I feel alienated from the life I use to know. It has cost me the best job I ever had, my first home of my own, friends, relationships, goals, dreams, and intimacy. Now my independence depends on my power chair–and I thank God for it!
I force fake smiles, and laugh phony laughter. I am a captive to anguish.
Chronic pain is a vicious circle. Preoccupation with the pain leads to depression, irritability, weariness, sleeplessness, and unspeakable suffering that effects mental health and well-being. Powerlessness, hopelessness, and erosion of quality of life can lead to deep depression and the loss of the will to live–as it did with me. Otherwise sane people contemplate suicide or seek euthanasia. Chronic pain touches every part of a person’s daily life.
People have asked me, “What do you have to be depressed about?” But they rarely want to hear the answer. I just keep quiet and mostly to myself. Everyone has aches and pains. That’s a street we all travel. But no one is interested in hearing about unrelenting, excruciating pain that won’t go away. And why should they be? It’s depressing.
Just ask me. I know.
Who wants to hear that I feel like I have a volcano erupting in my body? Pain is a constant and faithful companion, but I can’t call it my friend. It abuses my body like a prize fighter on steroids, ending up in a wrestling match between me and rest.
Sometimes I want to scream in agony, yet I suffer alone in silence. On a scale of one to ten, my pain usually feels like a fifteen.
People who don’t recognize or understand invisible illnesses need to be educated. Doctors who think I need psychotherapy because I’m not crippled or missing a limb need to understand the reason I am depressed.
Fix the pain. You’ll automatically fix the head.
I’m sick of people telling me, “It’s all in your head.” My head is about the only part of me that doesn’t hurt!
Chronic pain is a blight and a stain on the human condition. I have gained a new appreciation–and jealousy–for those who can effortlessly do the things that I struggle through. Comfort seems an unreachable and impossible dream.
I cannot sit on wooden chairs or lawn furniture. I can’t stand a crease in the blanket on my bed which is my “office,” I can’t open a can, use a stapler, or write a check without pain.
Constant pain is the most personal of home invasions. It tries to steal my will to live–I can’t get comfortable in my own skin. but, I won’t let this demon drive me to suicide. Suicide is not the answer.
People who care to listen have asked me, “How do you deal with it?” My answer is my faith in God and my belief that the pain is only affecting the temporary shell that I call my body.
I will no longer allow the pain to steal my soul. This article is a result of that decision.
I self-medicated with alcohol and marijuana. That is not the answer either. the alcohol was deadly on top of my other medications and only left me with a hangover. Marijuana, no matter what anyone things, is the only drug that did work for me. But it is illegal and not an option for me
God has work for me to do, and I will never again try to take my life because of this demon that has taken over my body. I know that there is hope out there. I just have to find it, lasso it, handcuff it, and hold on tight.
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