When I look back over an almost 30-year career managing constant pain, I wonder where the time has gone.
In the beginning, I did an enormous amount of research into medical conditions and treatments, looking for a solution to the constant pain. After I filed for disability — and was, shortly thereafter, evicted from my apartment — I finally got rid of at least 15 boxes of research.
What did I learn? That doctors really dislike patients who know more than they do.
Did all this information help me in my quest? Hard to say. Perhaps it assisted me in making decisions about treatments that would cause more harm than good, but my desperation often bulldozed right over the knowledge retained in my brain.
And yet, knowledge is the only power that patients have. So, I’d like to use my knowledge to answer a simple question: Does pain kill?
My first response is, no, of course not. Sure, intense pain can make you pass out. And pain increases your blood pressure and can give you a heart attack. But doctors would blame that result on your heart, not the pain.
However, intense pain can make you wish you were dead. And you might find yourself carrying out those wishes in your day-to-day life, whether you realize it or not. Living a life in the shadows of debilitating pain… But isn’t a slow death still a death?
I read over and over that non-malignant chronic pain cannot kill you. And yet, I feel like I’ve died a little bit every day for the last 30 years…
I wonder what kind of life I would have had if not for intractable pain. I wonder if I would be a nicer person; if I would have more friends; if I would have a successful career. I wonder if I would have fallen in love, had a big family, like I always wanted to…
I’ve had the handle “painkills2” for a long time, and I believe it wholeheartedly. But I guess, as a long-term pain patient, I’m not very good evidence of this belief. Here I’ve been in constant pain for almost 30 years, and I’m still breathing…
Does pain kill? It can kill your relationships. It can kill your employability and status as a working adult. It can kill your ability to feel pride in yourself and your accomplishments.
Pain can kill your concept of stability, and your ability to provide for yourself, now and in the future. It can kill your hopes and your dreams. And it’s awfully hard to pursue happiness when you’re in constant pain.
Pain causes stress and anxiety, and that can kill you. It can cause anger, sadness, and depression, which could lead to destructive behavior, including drug abuse and suicide.
And whether pain patients and doctors want to believe it or not, constant pain can rob you of your sanity. (Still holding on to mine, just barely.)
Does pain kill? It probably won’t say that on my death certificate, but that will be the truth. It might even be true to say that the DEA is killing me, slowly but surely, by denying me access to the treatments that work. But in reality, it will probably be a combination of both the pain and the resulting poverty that actually kills me.
Does pain kill? Damn straight it does.