Discover more from Bent Column
Be better already
I’ve spoken and written extensively about being judged for using opioids as a part of my pain management strategy. The quick disapproving glances and deep sighs followed by screening questions all fit neatly under the world’s idea that I am bad. Needing opioids, using opioids, is BAD nomatter what. Oh, you have intractable pain that can’t be touched by most pain killers… that sucks. Guess you should just live a hellacious life where thoughts of ending it all are a minute to minute occurrence. What’s that… opioid pain medications might help you? Not worth it. They are dirty. You are dirty and bad for even thinking about using them.
When I first became ill, I was new to pharmaceuticals. Generally, I didn’t touch much more than rare over the counter anti-inflammatories. As my chronic pain journey went from days to months and now years, I quite literally tried every type of prescription and alternative therapy available. Most opioids didn’t work for me. Even transdermal and intravenous hospital applications had to be at excessive levels to make a dent in my pain. Until I found the two medications that are most effective, I was of the mindset that my case was hopeless (as many doctors lamented) and I had no choice but to let my last breath go.
One of the medications I use for nerve pain is not classified as an opioid outside of the United States. The medication I use for migraines on the other hand is a very serious drug that has many risks. I know these risks. I weigh these risks every time I take a pill or get the medication during an episode at the emergency department. That knowledge and awareness that I practice around all of my medication usage, is part of the reason the latest letter from my medical insurance company caused my blood to boil.
This letter, or one like it, pops up from time to time. The same verbiage comes in pamphlets attached to every pain prescription I fill, phone calls from the customer service departments of various pharmacies and insurance companies, not to mention the required conversations explaining why I need these medications with every pharmacy technician, medical professional, and administrative person associated with prescriptions. The sentiment is always the same: you are bad. This medication is dangerous. You can’t handle this medication. Your doctor can’t possibly be prescribing this. Use alternatives. Find help. Do not trust yourself.
In the latest letter, my insurance company provided a list of the alternatives that they have decided I should try. Unsurprisingly, most of which are not covered by said insurance. Oh yeah, and I’ve already tried them all. I also continue to try alternative treatments because, well, I’m not as stupid as they assume. What a wild concept that a woman who has fought so hard for decent healthcare might be trying to get well through every possible channel! I’ve been on these medication for years with time off in between to try alternatives. I constantly argue with insurance companies for coverage of different treatments (to no avail).
So, as I get ready to once again fill my pain prescription and deal with the pharmacy staff, I can’t help but wonder how many of us who are suffering, didn’t have the energy and fortitude to battle? How many people have been bullied into believing that they are bad for needing a drug that has a reputation? Did they make it another day? There are so many people, like myself, who do not feel pleasure from these medications and who would love an effective alternative treatment. But it does not exist and we still want to live.
Side note: If you’ve read any of my other pieces on opioid use, you will see that I acknowledge that addiction is a major problem. Most people should never be prescribed opioids and there should be immediate steps and treatment for those who desperately need help getting off of them. Anyone who can manage their pain and live a functional life without opioid usage should be celebrated and their techniques should be practiced. Opioids should be the last resort and should be very carefully managed by both the patient and their doctors. If you need help getting off opioids or just find yourself worried that you might be flirting with an addiction, please ask for help now. You will be embraced and assisted by pretty much any medical facility. There is zero shame in needing any type of help.
Thanks for reading Bent Column! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
The Martyrdom of Saint Barbara. Lucas Cranach the Elder (German, Kronach 1472–1553 Weimar). ca. 1510