The Stigma of Chronic Pain

I’ve touched on the stigma of chronic pain in an article previously, as well as the “Super Crip” complex that I’m desperately trying to rid myself of. I have yet to address the stigma of taking medication for said pain though. So many people do not understand how spasticity works. Hell, I’m still learning about my disability and I’ve lived in this body for twenty-six years now. I have had to turn down Vicodin, and many other medications due to my own fear of becoming too reliant on these medications and leading down a dangerous path. I have some family members that talk about “Big Pharma” and preach yoga as though it is the be all, end all, neglecting to remember that I take over five medications every day to function as my truest self. One who is relatively free of pain, and happy. I know that my loved ones mean well, but it’s rather insulting. They fail to understand that while I agree some prescription medications are pushed onto patients with too little thought, medication, physical therapy, yoga, and meditation can and do coexist rather peacefully within my life.

I’ve had to say no to a doctor’s suggestions and explain to them why and how my treatment plan works. I don’t want to have medication mask the pain. I want medication that helps me manage the pain.

However, knowing this doesn’t make dealing with the stigma of having to take pain medication every day any easier. I’m constantly told that I’m either doing too much or not enough. Or that I’m using something that is a side effect of my physical disability overlapping with mental illness as an excuse to avoid certain situations. Trust me, it’s not. I know I have stuff to do. A life to tend to, but my body disagrees with me, and unless you live with chronic pain, you don’t know how much of it encompasses your everyday life. You don’t know how much of a privilege it is to be able to say “I just did -insert natural thing or workout routine here- and now I’M FINE.” Well, good for you. However, you don’t live in my body and I don’t live in yours so why are we telling one another what to do? My pain is not an excuse. My body is not an embodiment of the phrase “I’m sorry.” It is simply my body, and my pain is simply my pain. I’m not cancelling our plans out of laziness. I’m cancelling since I cannot get out of bed. I think all too often we mistake pain for weakness and therefore push ourselves over our healthy limits. All this does is forces us to pay for the silencing of our bodies later.

My limits are my limits for a reason, and if I desire to push them, I consult with my doctor before trying to appease myself or anyone else. I don’t want to be at risk for further injury or pain. I’m still very much learning how to do this. I will own up to the fact that I’ll stubbornly try anything once, or even go so far as to avoid recommended medications out of unfounded fear, but learning is a process like anything else. Dissecting stigma and chronic pain is a process and I have to go easy on myself and on others.

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