I remember a time when I was able to manage my pain without judgement. A time when life was manageable, because my pain was manageable. But within the past few years, at least here in America, that is no longer the case.

In America, when you require narcotic pain management, you’re obviously an addict — a drug-seeking asshole who’s only life-goal is to get high. It doesn’t matter if you’re under the care of a doctor, either. You’re just ‘in it’ for the meds, and your doctor is the enabler, the legal drug pusher of choice.

But the truth is… I’m not a drug-seeking anything; I never was. And my doctor was hardly a pusher. Instead, he was man who took a Hippocratic Oath. One which meant treating a woman who has chronic pain. He and I tried everything to manage that pain, stopping just short of surgery, because, well… surgery!

A Life With Pain

My pain started at 17 after my truck was hit. But that wreck did more than permanently injure my back. It revealed an underlying medical condition, which up until that point, was a non-issue. The key phrase here being: up until that point. The treatment: narcotic pain management.

As the years flew by, the pain increased — and so did the meds. This is the trouble with narcotics. You build up a tolerance; sadly, many people confuse tolerance with addiction.

Fast-forward almost three decades later to a time where I judge my daily pain on a scale of ‘it’s really bad’ to ‘please, just kill me now’; a scale that makes you question whether or not you even want to live. Yes, that kind of pain. Daily. Unrelenting. Unforgiving. Unnecessary.

A Life Without Pain Meds

About three years ago, and because of my own choice, I stopped taking the pain meds. It was a brutal 3-5 days. My body was detoxing. My pain was exacerbated. And I was exhausted.

So, why did I stop?

Because I got tired of being treated like a criminal.

For the record, I never abused my script. I never sold it on the street. I never took more than was required or prescribed to manage my pain. Hell, I rarely, if ever, drank while I was on the meds. Yet, there I was, labeled a drug-seeking criminal. An addict. A waste.

The Consequences Of Judgement

Prior to moving to a new state, I had the same doctor for well over 15 years. Together — through trial and error, and an open and honest relationship — we discovered how to manage my pain. Sure, I wasn’t entirely pain-free, but I was pain-free enough.

Unfortunately, the doctors in my current state weren’t as willing to listen. The records I shared with them, along with the willingness of my previous doctor to speak with them, wasn’t enough and didn’t matter. In their eyes, I was an unemployed dirtbag seeking mind-alerting drugs. In reality, I was a successful business owner, in excruciating pain, looking for a new doctor to continue with my treatment; a treatment that was working!

So, what did I do?

I gave up. I didn’t have the energy to fight. I stepped away from the medical establishment, completely. Yes, I know… a foolish decision, perhaps, but one that felt empowering at the time.

Simply Trying To Survive

It’s been a long while since I’ve been off the pain meds. My pain scale usually sits at ‘please, just kill me now’. But, I bet you wouldn’t know it.

Part of being in pain is trying to protect the people around you from seeing that pain. Over the years, I’ve become somewhat of a master at hiding who I am, what I am and how I feel. But here’s the problem: In doing so, I lost the truth. I no longer know the woman who fills my shoes and lives my life.

The never-ending battle with my pain is changing who I am. I don’t recognize the me that I used to be. I’m a stranger with a familiar life, and an uncertain future.

“Go back on meds,” might be what you’re thinking. But it’ll never happen. I don’t trust a medical community who is so willing to cast aside millions of people because they think we’re all addicted to pain killers.

So, at least for now, I’ll put on my mask. I’ll push away the pain. I’ll make another go at living another day. In return, all I ask is that you stop passing judgement on the people who share this space with you. Stop painting pictures without first understanding your medium.

Like Jim Morrison says, No One Here Gets Out Alive.