To Anyone Working in the Medical Field Who Comes Across a Chronic Pain Patient

Written By Ashley Seymour

This is a letter to anyone who works in the medical field that comes across someone with chronic pain. 

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I live in chronic, 24/7, 365 pain. I am not a drug addict. When I tell you that my pain is constant, I’m not saying that to be dramatic. I wake up in pain, exist in pain, go to bed in pain… I say exist because that is in fact all that I have been reduced to. Chronic pain has stolen so much from me in the past three years including my college education from my dream school, my job, relationships, my independence, some of my vision, my sanity, my happiness and so much more. I am not wearing these dark sunglasses indoors because I think it is fun. I know that when you come to check on me in the emergency room and I tell you my pain level is a 10, you may be skeptical because I am talking to people and sitting up, seemingly OK. That is not because I have a drug problem or just want your attention. If I have made the choice to make the trip to the emergency department, it is because I have battled this as far as I can on my own and have been unsuccessful in getting it under control.

But when I come to the one place that I think may be able to help me, I’m generally greeted with condescending looks and disbelief. That Toradol you just ordered that I say does nothing for me? I’m not joking. I’ve given that my best shot before seeing you and when you look at me with that glare in your eye that just “knows” I’m only there for the strong drugs and tell me, “Well, it won’t hurt anything so we’re going to try it anyway” in a tone that can only be described as horribly judgmental, you make that feeling in the pit of my stomach that says “No one can help you and you will never escape this” even more sickening. 

I took my last emergency room trip because I lost a lot of my vision and was losing more each day. It was accompanied by my ever-present headache and the feeling of knives stabbing the backs of my eyes. I was sent to the observation floor where I was to wait to run some tests the following morning. I asked for some pain medication after being awake for over 30 hours (the pain does not invite sleep). Once I waited until shift change was over so as to not stress the nursing staff, I asked for some pain medication. My nurse, who had already pigeonholed me into the drug seeker category (per a conversation I overheard from the nurses station), said she would ask the doctor but that the only thing they had ordered for me was Tylenol. Two hours later I asked again if she had spoken with the doctor. She hadn’t and there were still no meds ordered. Another two hours later, after asking a different nurse, I was given Toradol, which has absolutely no effect on the pain for me.

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