January 18, 2014, 6:22 PM
I have tried repeatedly to come up with some way to describe those hidden aspects of living with chronic intractable pain for those that have never experienced anything like it.
Let’s try this:
One day, while you are going about those daily activities that make up “life”, you step on a hidden bear-toothed trap. It closes with a CLANG! And sinks its jagged, rusty teeth deep into the skin in your upper thigh on your right leg. You scream at the instant agony, fighting back tears as you try and find some way to release those agonizing jaws. Everyone else seems very concerned at your predicament, but seem to look confused and unsure about what to do.
Eventually, with your loved ones help, you end up in a doctor‘s office for treatment. They ask you all of the routine questions like if you smoke or drink, and take various blood tests. The doctor finally comes in, examines your leg and shakes his head slightly before giving you “the talk“.
“Mr Everyone, I see that you are presenting with severe upper leg pain. You say that you caught your leg in a trap? (He looks at your leg again.) Um, I don‘t see any evidence of that. Perhaps the pain is merely in your mind. Stress can do that. Let me recommend a good counselor.”
You listen on in stunned silence, until he finishes, then grab his sleeve and point while shouting, “IT IS RIGHT THERE! RIGHT THERE! THAT BIG RUSTY THING STICKING OUT OF MY LEG!!”
The doctor looks at your leg once again, then back at you.
“I see no trap. Either you are just trying to get pain meds, or you have something wrong in your head.” He coaches the words differently perhaps, but that is general gist of what he says. He tells you “You are too fat. You need to lose weight. Here’s the name of a few counselors you might consider seeing.”
You think he must be insane, and it isn‘t until later that night, while you are cradling your crippled limb, that you realize he truly cannot see the trap. And neither can anyone else!!
In shock and desperation, you try doctor after doctor, and treatment after treatment, only to find that NO ONE CAN SEEM TO SEE THE RUSTY TRAP STICKING OUT OF YOU AND KEEPING YOU IN AGONY DAY AND NIGHT.
And then you get scared.
You try everything you can think of to try and live with the trap embedded in your aching flesh, but slowly lose all normal function. When you go to sleep, it is with the knowledge that you will wake once more to screaming agony. Your friends drop away as you are unable to keep up those activities and interests that brought you together. You lose your job. You lose family.
The Bear Trap affects every aspect of your life. Even taking a shower is now difficult. Every step must be planned in advance, and you never know one day to the next what you are going to be able to accomplish. Family dinners, visits with friends, and outside activities fall in the wake of the pain.
Well-meaning friends and family tell you to just “Get over it” and “Think positive thoughts”. You are told you should try and be happier and not so depressed all the time. You want to scream and shout at them that you are depressed because YOU HAVE A TRAP IN YOUR FLESH!, but no one seems to listen.
They cannot see the bear trap.
Your religious friends will tell you ,”You should just have more faith.” or “You should pray/attend church/tithe more.” You try going to worship for as long as you physically can, but eventually, even that has to fall by the wayside.
You begin to contemplate suicide. After all, every person has their breaking point. It has been well known to academics studying it, that torture often fails simply because at a certain point, the tortured soul will confess to anything just to make the torment stop. Unfortunately, the pain doesn’t even ask a question you can answer!
If you are lucky, you finally find a pain clinic or doctor that will at least treat your pain with something. By the time you get there, you have spent YEARS trying to survive the pain. They get you set up on pain relief treatment and seem to truly want to help. For a while. You agree to unbelievable contracts merely for access to something that will buy you a few hours relief from some of the pain.
Then, under the new DEA non-guidelines (regulations that even the doctors don’t get to see) where if *any* adverse effect happens while you are taking pain meds, the doctor can now go to prison, you are quietly cut off from treatment and shepherded into the dark alley to fend for yourself. You rail at the establishment and medical community to try and make them treat you, but they refuse. You seek other doctors only to find that there are none willing to take on the risk for a single patient. These doctors have families too, and actually treating high pain levels appropriately could cost them their careers and freedom.
They can see the effects of the Bear Trap, but are too afraid to treat it.
Or, your ‘treatment’ continues and you still get the paper scripts for your MEDICINE, and you find that you can no longer fill them anywhere, for any price. The pharmacists and others refuse you and label you a ‘drug-seeker’. They say they have none in stock, or want to charge yuou 10 TIMES what the going rate is, and you would pay it if you had anything left to sell! Unfortunately, you have nothing and are left with nothing.
They cannot see the bear trap either, you see.
At some point in this terrible thing that your life has become, dark thoughts enter your mind. You begin to wonder if just ending your life is the answer. You combat them with therapy, feel-good techniques, meditation and anything else you can throw at the pain to keep away the realization that this pain will last to your final breath. You look at the therapists, psycholgists, and psychiatrists and want to scream “Of course I am depressed!! My leg is caught in this awful Bear Trap!” But they cannot hear that. Some pill or new therapy is the solution that might work!
None of their therapies are effective long term because They cannot see the Bear Trap.
Eventually, after years of screaming alone in the dark with no one but the flies to hear you scream, you give up. These biological machines we call bodies just aren’t that hard to stop. The bitterest thing of all is having to face the fact that the current DEA clerks will then use your death to further humiliate and stigmatize those in pain. To further punish those hurting people for some perceived crime against our society.
Because they don’t WANT to see the trap.