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Why Painkillers are One of My Biggest Allies for a Decent Quality of Life

Why Painkillers are One of My Biggest Allies for a Decent Quality of Life | A Chronic Voice

The Many Negative Associations with Painkillers

Painkillers – hero, villain, friend and foe in one. What’s your opinion about them? Have you been told:

  • Don’t take them, they’re bad for your liver and body.
  • You’ll become reliant, dependent, or addicted to them. A good-for-nothing, pathetic junky.
  • You’ll need more and more of them to kill the pain and eventually, nothing is going to save you.

Maybe you’re the one who tells yourself such things. These were beliefs that had been drilled into my head as a child and young adult; scary old wives’ tales of the horrors of addiction and untreatable pain. That was why I only took the mildest painkillers, whilst enduring my two worst life-and-death situations.

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Painkillers – hero, villain, friend and foe in one. What’s your opinion about them? - Pin Quote

The Dangers of Leaving Chronic Pain Untreated

Bravo, what a brave, strong girl. So self-reliant, self-sufficient, so much willpower, and all that crappy jazz. This approach isn’t wrong per sé, especially if they were acute, one-off episodes. But when the pain is chronic, neverending and unyielding, it can become dangerous to not treat it.

Pain is a deep, dark pit that co-exists with the poisonous snakes of severe depression, anxiety, and yet more pain. There can always be more pain, and there can always be different kinds of pain.

Chronic illness patients learn to identify the unique characteristics of every pain symptom over time. Almost as if we were connoisseurs of pain. Pounding muscle pain pairs well with Sjögren’s Syndrome, whilst those mini joint aches are distinctive of Lupus. This confusion in my brain is a hangover from epilepsy, whilst that severe headache is Lupus manifesting in the Central Nervous System.

The longer you need to deal with pain, the more your sensitivity to it increases. This is due to a number of factors: you’re sick of being in pain, previous bad experiences train your brain to be hypervigilant, and your body starts to become sensitised to the overexposure. This oversensitivity does nothing to help your body, your mind, or your situation. It only makes you more fearful, depressed, anxious, and leaves you feeling beaten and defeated.

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Pain is a deep, dark pit that co-exists with the poisonous snakes of severe depression, anxiety, and yet more pain. There can always be more pain, and there can always be different kinds of pain. - Pin Image

But when the pain is chronic, neverending and unyielding, it can become dangerous to not treat it. - Pin Quote

The longer you need to deal with pain, the more your sensitivity to it increases: you're sick of being in pain, previous bad experiences train your brain to be hypervigilant, and your body starts to become sensitised to the overexposure. - Pinterest Quote

Changing My Pain Management Strategy

Over the years I have become more liberal when it comes to my relationship with painkillers. In fact, I carry a strip of tramadol in my wallet wherever I go. And just like every other person with chronic illness, I have a pouch filled to the brim with all sorts of emergency meds in my bag. My new ‘strategy’ is to pop a pain pill after two hours or so, if my aches do not subside after my morning meds. This is especially helpful if I have an appointment or need to leave the house. If I can nip pain in the bud, it saves me from a bigger pain flare, where I would need steroids instead to control it. That solution isn’t any better, as steroids come with its own set of nasty and sometimes permanent side effects.

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If I can nip pain in the bud, it saves me from a bigger pain flare, where I would need steroids instead to control it. That solution isn’t any better, as steroids come with its own set of nasty and sometimes permanent side effects. - Pin Quote

How This Strategy Improves the Quality of My Life

This strategy can make such a huge, positive difference to my entire day. It improves my quality of life, just like that. After taking a pain pill, I start to feel life returning to my body, and the cogs of my brain resuming their action. It becomes possible to get some work done, clean the house, do some exercise, or go out to socialise.

All these activities in turn, have huge benefits to my life and to my physical, emotional and mental health. I pay off some bills, boost my self-esteem, reclaim some independence, improve my living conditions, and spend quality time with loved ones. We all know how important these factors are as a human being, and to live a decent life.

All these great benefits, just because I decided to take one pain pill instead of wrestling with pain, and wasting my day away. It also isn’t just the current day that’s wasted away, but the next few days needed to recover from the pain itself as well.

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After taking a pain pill, I start to feel life returning to my body, and the cogs of my brain resuming their action. It becomes possible to get some work done, clean the house, do some exercise, or go out to socialise. - Pin Quote
All these great benefits, just because I decided to take one pain pill instead of wrestling with pain, and wasting my day away. It also isn’t just the current day that’s wasted away, but the next few days needed to recover from the pain itself as well. - Pinterest Quote

Not All Pains are Equal

Of course, it’s important to know what specific medications or complementary treatments you will need to treat each type of pain. This may be confusing in the beginning, but you will learn to understand your body better and what it needs to heal in time to come. For example, taking tramadol might help with my period cramps, suppressing an early Lupus or Sjögren’s flare, and standard types of bodily injuries. It is not going to do anything for Lupus CNS headaches, epileptic brain fog, or nerve pain in my feet. You need to understand the root cause of the pain, and target it from there.

Because the source of Lupus CNS headaches are inflammatory in nature, NSAIDs (anti-inflammatories) are needed to suppress them. This means Ibuprofen or its equivalent. This is tricky for me however, as I also have Antiphospholipid Syndrome (a blood clotting disorder), and all NSAIDs interact with my blood thinning medications. Hence, I need to be cautious with how much I take. The other alternative – which I’m currently using – is a temporary increase in my steroid dose. It’s ‘safer’ than taking an NSAID painkiller every day under these circumstances.

Painkillers are useless for epileptic brain fogs. For these, I take a benzodiazepine such as clonazepam, to help me get a better night of rest. This in turn helps to give my brain a break, so that it has more resources for healing whilst I sleep. A lack of or poor quality sleep is after all, the biggest trigger for epilepsy.

Pregablin (Lyrica) is what I take or took for nerve tingles and pain. This medication is a different class of painkiller; it specifically targets neuropathic pain. It is also used to treat epilepsy. Taking pregabalin is not going to do much for my other sources of pain.

There is No Cut-and-Dry Solution to Managing Pain

As you can tell by now, I need to know what sort of pain I’m dealing with, before I know what works. It isn’t as straightforward as ‘pop a pain or chill pill’, but ‘pop the right pill’. There is no cut and dry or hard and fast rule as to how and what you should do. But do what’s best for you. Best being how it makes you feel from an over all perspective.

I have lifted all the internalised stigma I used to have about painkillers, and now view them as one of my biggest allies. However, I am not saying that it is the only way we should cope with pain. Medications are toxic to a degree. But bearing with pain is also toxic in equal measure, as it impairs our quality of life, and shrivels us up into a shadow of who we once were. In other words, pain sucks the life out of us.

I definitely do not pop pain pills like candy all day long. They are my allies, not my masters. I am not their slave, but I am indeed grateful for the reinforcements and support they grant in times of need.

Pin to Your Chronic Pain Boards:

I have lifted all the internalised stigma I used to have about painkillers, and now view them as one of my biggest allies. However, I am not saying that it is the only way we should cope with pain. - Pinterest Quote

Medications are toxic to a degree. But bearing with pain is also toxic in equal measure, as it impairs our quality of life, and shrivels us up into a shadow of who we once were. In other words, pain sucks the life out of us. - Pin Quote

I definitely do not pop pain pills like candy all day long. They are my allies, not my masters. I am not their slave, but I am indeed grateful for the reinforcements and support they grant in times of need. - Pinterest Quote

If Not for Painkillers…

If not for painkillers, I’d be spending more time in bed suffering for no good reason. I’d be unable to meet my friends and family, which helps with my emotional and mental wellbeing. It’s a proven fact that humans need community in order to survive and thrive. I’d be unable to do whatever amount of work I can, which not only helps to make me feel like a useful member of society, but also helps to pay a few more bills, stimulate my brain, and educate me.

If not for painkillers, I’d be unable to cook a proper meal for myself, wash up, or clean the house. Food is also medicine, and to be able to nourish your body is a blessing. To keep the house tidy and organised brings a sense of peace and joy, and is important for our mental wellbeing. It isn’t pleasant to feel like you’re a pig living in a sty, or relying on liquid nutrition and snack bars for all your meals.

If not for painkillers I wouldn’t be able to clean up after, care and spend time with my birds. Quality time with pets have plenty of emotional benefits, which is another form of healing. I’d also be unable to write or blog this much, activities that I view not only important for its advocacy aspects, but also as things I’m passionate about. I wouldn’t be able to work on my hobbies or educate myself as much I want to, which are all food for the mind, body and soul.

How then, can you call painkillers evil in and of themselves? For those of us who live with chronic pain, they are one of our biggest allies.

Pin to Your Chronic Pain Boards:

 not for painkillers, I’d be spending more time in bed suffering for no good reason. I’d be unable to meet my friends and family, which helps with my emotional and mental wellbeing. - Pinterest Quote
If not for painkillers, I wouldn’t be able to work on my hobbies or educate myself as much I want to, which are all food for the mind, body and soul. - Pinterest Quote

*Note: This article is meant for educational purposes and is based on the author’s personal experiences. It is not to be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your own doctor before changing or adding any new treatment protocols.

Read More: Sometimes, Physical Pain Isn’t the Worst Part About Chronic Illness

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Why Painkillers are One of My Biggest Allies for a Decent Quality of Life

Why Painkillers are One of My Biggest Allies for a Decent Quality of Life

Why Painkillers are One of My Biggest Allies for a Decent Quality of Life

22 comments

  • I can not even imagine what it is like to live with chronic pain, knowing that it’ll be with you always must make this even more difficult to deal with.

    I had severe neuralgia for 18 months, the pain was so extreme, I have never experienced anything like it. Id pass out when the pain hit. I was not believed either and was regularly overdosing on over the counter medication.
    It go to the point where I could see no way out and in an overdosed half conscious state, I almost made it as far as the nearest railway bridge.

    Thankfully it is now a distant but very painful memory.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences x

    • Hi Claire, thanks for taking the time to read, and share about your own experiences. Neuralgia I hear can be hell, and I can’t imagine that either. Unending pain really drives a person up the wall. I am glad you made it through, and hope you never have to suffer it again! x

  • My pain is worse than it has ever been and I am thankful for my slow release tramadol which I take twice a day so that I can walk and function a little. Frankly, without it, it is unbearable and I can’t sleep or get about very well at all. Or exercise… which is very important to the pain clinic that I do but physically impossible without pain management. I do not care about the stigma. It is my Life we are talking about here and I Need Quality of Life. Something others simply take for granted.

    • Exactly and well said, Nikki! Only live once, and the irony is that society is all about maximising your life, but how do you do that when you’re in pain all the goddamn time? I am thankful you have something to help you get by, albeit slowly I’m sure. Sending hugs x

  • Great read! I have suffered with chronic pain for years. I tried everything under the sun to get relief with no success. I refused narcotic pain meds for far too long fearing the risk of addiction, and the stigma behind them. The pain became severe a couple years ago and I could no longer function without pain meds. I take Hydromorph Contin (long acting) morning & night, and have regular release for break through pain. I am very careful to not take more than what is absolutely necessary. I think it’s so important to know that NO amount of medication will take 100% of the pain away, it only takes the edge off making the pain a bit more tolerable so I can have a bit more quality of life than if I didn’t take the pain meds. I have never felt “high” or “drugged up” from them so I don’t really understand why people get so addicted to them. If taken as prescribed they shouldn’t alter your state of mind, they should make you more clear because you are not in a state of unbearable pain with no relief. I still struggle with the stigma that comes with narcotic use, and it would be nice if chronic pain patients aren’t made to feel like the are “drug seeking”. There is enough of an emotional strain having an illness that leaves you in constant pain- the last thing we need is to feel weak & guilty for doing what is best for us…

    • Thanks for sharing such vulnerable thoughts, Angie. Am sure many others can relate, too.

      I have had pain meds but only in the ED near death that made me feel nice and high, so I get how people can get addicted to them. But they helped me through that pain, and that was that. I am not craving for more, etc. It is a tool to get through a painful, difficult period. As for chronic pain that’s a different matter with different strategies, for sure. Like you said, no amount of pain meds can totally ease all the pain, it just helps us to actually live a little.

  • I’ll definitely be sharing this one! It’s so true that it really takes a variety of approaches to help us function. To demonize pain medication is so hurtful to those who need it. Well said.

    • Thanks for the support Kathy! Yes, it isn’t solely painkillers for a quality life either, but definitely a huge part of for chronic pain patients. We’d know best, in partnership of an unbiased, knowledgeable doc/docs!

  • You’ve made some very important points here about taking pain medication. I am on Opioid painkillers along with several other medications to manage my chronic pain. Without them, my pain would be at an 8 or 9 on the pain scale all the time. With them, I can generally stay at a 4-5 instead which allows me to have some quality of life.

    Like you, I believe we need to have a community in order to heal. Without my pain meds, I wouldn’t be able to function at all as a normal human being – no managing things around the house, no going out, no spending time with my husband…nothing. I don’t even worry about things like addiction anymore…I know I’m dependent on the medication to stay as functional as possible and that’s just fine with me.

    I’m glad you’ve found the solutions that work best for you. It’s all about our health!!

    • Hi Pamela,

      Thanks for sharing your own thoughts, and I agree with your view points. I think it’s one others can’t possibly understand unless in severe daily pain. Life really doesn’t seem worth much then. We only live once, so living it well is important (ironic because this is exactly what society preaches!). And painkillers do help us to live a little better, to feel a bit more functional and human.

  • Fabulous article and like I always say, “you do you” and whatever it takes to make life more bearable

  • Great article and really puts things in perspective for people who think painkillers are the “enemy”. This really sums up how I feel. Thank you so much for posting this. Love it.

    • Thanks for your comment, Lisa. I think it’s also how lots of us pain patients feel. Painkillers are not the enemy. It’s how we use them. Sending love.

  • Agree with everyone that this is a great post. I’m so sick of the negative rhetoric against painkillers, and the people who don’t take medication that could improve their quality of life because they are so afraid of … addiction, negative stigma, etc. I would not be alive without my antidepressants. I would be curled in bed all day sobbing if not for my pain meds. We are “addicted” to air, too!

    Your comment “There is No Cut-and-Dry Solution to Managing Pain” is so true. One med that helps you may not help me at all, even with the same condition! (Lyrica didn’t do a thing for my nerve pain; it just made me gain weight! Tramadol might give others bad mental states, while it helps my pain so much. It’s scary to be a science experiment, but the improved quality of life is worth it! Thanks for speaking out!!!

    @dSavannahCreate from dSavannahRambles

    • Haha I like the air analogy :p And yes our bodies are all different so what works for each of us, meds or otherwise, differs too. Tramadol can and does make lots of patients super nauseous for example, and I can only take the bare minimum before I feel it too I think (never really tried to go beyond, so there!). Like I said, do what’s best to live! 🙂

  • I don’t like how there is such a toxic negative discussion about medication. Without mine, I would not be able to work 2-3 hours a day, go on walks or meet friends in the weekend. It definitely improves my life and wellbeing. I have tried so many painkillers till I found the right ones for me. It has been a long proces. Like you mentioned, I don’t think you should just take pills for the sake of it but talk about it with your doctor and take your time to notice what the meds are doing to your body. Are the side effects worth it? Are there any long term risks? What is the best time of the day to take them? Etc… Anyway, I love your article and I believe it’s a very important topic to talk about!

    • Thanks for your support as always, Kirsten! Yes lots of unnecessary negative associations, because of a few mistakes or people (who themselves, need help of a different sort too perhaps). At the end of the day, everyone’s just trying to kill some sort of pain in one way or another.

      And yes, the right pill and how it interacts/affects your body is also very important to pay attention to! Sending love.

  • This is such a brilliant post, Sheryl. This needs to be said and I think everyone should read it, including (and perhaps especially) doctors. There’s so much focus on the ‘opioid crisis’ in the UK and the US right now and while it’s good to be aware of the potential risks and pitfalls, it has the potential to be incredibly dangerous to patients. I eventually gave in to the need for Tramadol last year. Things were getting worse and worse and I was getting to the point of being able to manage to do very little because of chronic pain. I’d stayed clear of regular prescription painkillers for so long but a few things happened that made me knew I had to call it a day and look after myself better, starting with readjusting my perspective on such pills. As you say, they can help in giving us some semblance of life and the ability to do things the basics and hopefully also the things that are important to us, like you caring for your birds. Also really good points about leaving pain untreated and the sensitivity factor, I hadn’t really thought about that before.
    Absolutely fantastic post!
    Caz xx

    • Hi Caz,

      Thank you and exactly. It’s really a weigh up of pros and cons as always, and for chronic pain patients, the game of life is not like everyone else’s. Our cards in life are different, and to win or endure, we need to use different strategies, too. Thanks for your comment x

  • Great and needed post. It is educational as we don’t know what people are going through. People without chronic pain need education on this as I think we have assumptions that are not correct.

    • Thanks Amelia! I think even lots of us with chronic pain started out with our own stigmas, too. Until you’re in real bad pain every day, people have no idea.

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