From Pain to Anger to Depression
They say depression is anger turned inward, and especially with chronic pain, I believe this is true.
What else can I do with my anger at my broken body, a medical system that still has no answers, and a society determined to deprive me of the only pain relief I’ve been able to find over decades of experimentation?
What can I do with my anger over spending thousands of dollars on so many completely ineffective “complementary” pain treatments? The anger about losing my income? Having to give up so many of the activities I enjoy?
Every day is a painful reminder of my fate. Every day is a struggle not only with the pain, but with all the loss, grief, and depression that comes with it.
Is it really depression if there’s a completely rational basis for my grief? When even cutting edge science admits to being befuddled and stymied by the pain I suffer daily? On what facts can I base a positive view of the future?
Even if I am shielded from the worst of my pain by medication now, my pain will inevitably increase as my already defective body deteriorate with age.
In the current anti-opioid frenzy, any need to increase my medications will be met with accusations of addiction, the insistence that opioids aren’t working for me anymore, or refusal because I’ve reached some arbitrarily imposed dose limit.
The most logical explanation for my increased need for opioids will not even be considered: pain increases as we age into our senior years.
Doctors and everyone else besides the patients themselves seem to forget that uncontrolled chronic pain is also harmful, physically and mentally.
Most of us with chronic pain already have some permanent damage from not only what is causing the pain, but from the long-term brain changes of enduring the pain, because the plasticity of our nervous system causes the pain paths to become deeply embedded.
Our prognosis is, in reality, quite grim.
I fight to retain my sanity, find the positive, keep my spirits up, and not let myself be swallowed by the despair and fear that’s always just a step behind me, ready to pounce if I give in to weakness.
I am hounded to desperation by the dismal realities of my situation, feeling like there’s no way out. And logically, there isn’t, now that long-term and effective opioid therapy will become essentially malpractice.
We with chronic pain are involuntary subjects
of a great social and medical experiment.
Social safety nets, implemented by civilized societies to keep disadvantaged people from dying in the streets, are challenged by our plight. Because the drugs that effectively reduce our pain just happen to trigger addiction in a relatively small group, we have become targets in the war on drugs.
Our outsized use of medical services and lack of clearly defined productivity have made us economic liabilities, yet medical science can barely even explain what causes chronic pain, let alone find a way to stop it.
We pain sufferers have become pariahs.
Society has no place for us.
And there’s no argument that our numbers are increasing as the population ages. The longer life spans brought about by advances in medical care are naturally accompanied by more pain: the development of new pain and increase of existing pain.
The lack of progress in finding solutions for chronic pain will become more and more of a problem as more and more people fall into this dismal predicament. Should all these people simply be left to suffer? Who gets to decide?
So it’s no wonder that chronic pain is closely associated with depression and anxiety. Who would not be anxious about the future when they can no longer earn money, when there’s no cure or even amelioration in sight, when opioids, one of our only defenses against pain, are under attack.
Pain patients are of little concern to the able-bodied
With all social focus firmly on preventing addiction to opioids, there is no equal drive to prevent or control chronic pain, even though pain sufferers vastly outnumber opioid addicts. The injustice of the ineffective treatment (or even lack of treatment) of pain seems of little concern to the able-bodied, who prefer not to be reminded of life’s arbitrary unfairness.
The injustice of the ineffective treatment, or even lack of treatment, of pain seems of little concern to the able-bodied, who prefer not to be reminded of life’s arbitrary unfairness.
It’s incredibly difficult to keep bravely marching into such a bleak future without a concrete promise of eventual relief.
It’s no wonder that we with chronic pain are angry, depressed, and anxious. It just seems a logical reaction to the situation we are in. How can we NOT be angry about this? And where can we direct all this anger?
Suffering from the betrayal of our own bodies
Our suffering arises from the betrayal of our own bodies, so we can’t blame anyone or anything else for our torment. We’re stuck inside our own bodies which are generating pain in a prison of our own creation. It is a real challenge not to slip into anger at ourselves, then slide right into depression and succumb to anxiety about the future.
Anyone who still believes that our chronic pain is caused by psychological depression and anxiety is either unaware of or discounting the dynamics of the trying situation we live in. By now, research has even proven that the pain comes first, then the mood disorders.
So, yes, I’m angry, depressed, and anxious about the future. Stuck with chronic pain, why wouldn’t I be?
The only way to overcome this overwhelming anger is acceptance: true, complete, and unquestioning awareness without resistance or rancor.
This is incredibly difficult, and as much as I try, I’m not yet able to achieve this state of equanimity. Too many times I still find myself furious and terrified, cowering under that oppressive dark cloud of depression.