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.

5 thoughts on “Does pain kill?

  1. Pain can kill if you are in poverty/homeless as a result, or if you kill yourself purposely or accidentally, I think chronic pain does kill … I could list the ways and some of them you already listed. I believe death can be directly attributed to chronic pain. 😦 Yeah “Buck up” my eye. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I absolutely believe that pain can kill someone. It may not, and obviously doesn’t, kill ALL people who live with chronic intractable pain but it certainly can. I believe it has a lot to do with someone’s current state of health and any underlying conditions which could be exacerbated by pain, such as heart disease, risk for stroke, etc. The first time I was hospitalized for severe pain, I was a teenager, and I quickly went into shock, causing my BP to become dangerously low (70/30), which was likely a side effect of uncontrolled pain. The psychological consequences of untreated or undertreated pain can also become very dangerous, increasing the risk of suicide. The side effects or dangerous interactions of medication combos that doctors and pharmacists fail to acknowledge also put us at risk. I would guess that the most deadly effect of long-term pain might be the constant physical, psychological, and emotional stress that we are forced to endure. The longer we exist in this weakened state, the more difficult it becomes for our bodies to function properly and our immune systems to protect us from deadly diseases, such as cancer. My husband whole-heartedly believes that his severe pain, if left unmedicated, would quickly kill him (his BP spikes DANGEROUSLY high) and if he were to suddenly lose access to the high dosages of pain medication that he has been prescribed for years, the withdrawal could potentially be fatal, if left untreated (which it would be because the hospitals in our area do not care and immediately treat every pain patient as a drug addict, with no concern for their safety or even the treatment of acute withdrawal, should it become necessary). I could go on and on, because this is a topic that both my husband and I have given A LOT of thought and conversation. It scares us, as the DEA continues to spiral out of control, making access to necessary pain medication more and more difficult. We fear a day when treatment may become impossible and the tragic consequences that it would have for both of our lives. In this day and age, chronic pain patients, with illnesses or conditions that are not normally fatal, shouldn’t live in fear for their lives, especially when life saving medications exist but are withheld for reasons that cannot be justified. If technology could be used to develop an actual CURE for pain, it would be amazing! What’s going on with the DEA right now is WRONG and a horrific crisis that is only going to get worse unless people work together and take a stand but unfortunately those who are most affected by chronic pain and invisible illnesses are too weak, tired, and beat down to speak out and make a difference. Even if they could, I’m not sure that the “powers that be” would allow it. I hope and pray that something changes soon, for all of us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve watched and lived the war against pain patients for 3 decades, and I’m sorry to say that I don’t think it’s going to get better anytime soon. In fact, all the changes that are being made are against pain patients, and things will likely get a lot worse. There is no one to stand up for us, including doctors and the media.

      There will never be a cure for pain, as it’s vitally important that our bodies retain that experience as a warning system. Even the new drugs being developed do not look promising to me.

      And even if the DEA were to be disbanded tomorrow, most in the medical industry are not on our side. Now that federal agencies like Medicare and Medicaid are on the side of the DEA, it would take a movement as large as an earthquake for things to turn around.

      Sorry to be so negative, but I think pain patients need to realize that we’re on our own. Hoping and praying aren’t going to make any difference.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s just crazy how the rule-makers can ignore the realities of life as experienced by anyone other than themselves. What’s motivating all these new rues isn’t concern for other people, but concern for political power and money.

    Unrestrained capitalism becomes Social Darwinism. The healthy ones don’t realize how quickly they could fall into our shoes by some freak accident or disease. I know this because I I was one of them. I certainly feel punished for my previous unthinking “arrogance of the healthy”.

    Liked by 2 people

    • One of my teachers in medical school was a Physiatrist who learned that he had MS as a second year med student in Mexico. He already had a wife and kids at the time. He was in a wheelchair when he spoke to our second year class, and taught us that we were all TAB…Temporarily Able Bodied.

      Liked by 1 person

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