How Self-Empowered Pain Management Set Me Free
By Laura Morris
As a fibromyalgia patient for more than 30 years, I put most of my trust in Western medical doctors to take care of me, at least in the beginning. That’s what we do because insured health care is set up that way. It’s also what’s drummed into us growing up, and I want to make clear at the outset of this article, that doctors do their very best to help us get well with the information they have been taught to use as scientists.
We get sick, and it’s up to those with the degrees and all the scientific information to create treatment plans that generate the best possible outcome with the data they can gather. However, I have come to believe through many years of sometimes agonizing experience and plenty of research, that empowering ourselves to partner with our doctors and pain management programs, as well as seek out alternative modalities of wellness, will bring greater benefits long term in our overall quality of life.
Shortly after fibromyalgia became better understood and I was diagnosed with it, I was sent to a doctor who managed it with many medications, which took my health down a path I’d rather not have gone down. I was at the mercy of my pain for several years. It took landing in the hospital in December 2012 with sepsis, for no apparent reason, to knock me out of a health care stupor. I was in a life threatening state and they had no idea why. For four days I was pumped with antibiotics and was not told much about my condition.
answer because they just didn’t know.
Sometimes doctors don’t know.
I was not the same after that. For months I stayed in bed in horrible fibromyalgia pain and inflammation; I was terribly depressed and even had suicidal thoughts. I had no resolve to do anything because I was so sick. I did not see my beautiful grandchildren and family for almost two years. It was not until I was jerked awake by this crisis that I came to the realization that if I did not find another pain management program and doctor, I would likely not go on.
I was referred by a family member to our local university. The change was stark and like walking into pain management Nirvana! I felt supported and cried after the initial consultation with my pain physician. She was concerned, she listened, she was open to partner with me and help me get well. I didn’t feel patronized. I felt empowered!
I was reminded that my health care is in my own hands, and that if I am to truly live well, it is up to me. Nobody can do it for me. I am always the one who goes home after the appointment and has to implement what the doctor suggests, or maybe even didn’t suggest. I am the one who has the Internet at my fingertips; I am the one who can eat right, exercise, etc.
Your body is your own, as are your health decisions. Taking your “case” into your own hands can be very empowering. Please know that I am absolutely NOT saying to ignore your doctor’s orders. That’s not what this is about. What this is about is finding additional ways to feel better that can be discussed with your doctor, staying well informed about your condition, eating a healthy diet, and exercising to whatever capacity you’re able to. A good pain management program with an integrative approach will have physicians who want to partner with you in your care. They will understand the benefits of complementary and alternative methods of healing and help you choose the right health strategy for you.
In the early days of my journey with pain, the primary driving feeling behind my pain management behavior was fear and anxiety. I just wanted the pain to go away. This caused me to look to doctors as the people in the driver’s seat with the means to make it stop. I had never thought of myself as the one with the power, who could manage my own pain to the degree that I would be in control. I always thought of my body as the one in control and medication as the thing that made it stop. Self-empowerment changed all of that thinking.
lupus, CFS, or whatever you may have.
Take Control of Your Pain Management and Partner with Your Providers
For years I gave my power away to my doctor. Granted, the doctor is the person with the plaques on the wall. BUT…there’s something I discovered on my journey as a fibromyalgia patient. I learned that the doctor is working for me. It dawned on me one day as I was writing her name on a check. I thought about how I had marched in there year after year, taking all the same prescriptions, but was basically not much better and sometimes much worse. This is not to place blame; this is simply to get you thinking about being proactive, preventative, and EMPOWERED.
Unless you can be honest with your doctor, and feel comfortable telling her/him all your concerns, your doctor may not have adequate information to treat you. All the blood tests, MRIs and physical exams cannot replace explaining how you feel, what your wishes are, and how you’ve been complying (or perhaps not and why not) with their treatment. Sometimes we are reluctant to tell the doctor we stopped taking a medicine because of how it made us feel, or about side effects we are having because we just want to “tough it out.” Not good! Ask questions. It’s their job to help you feel better.
A Note on Depression: For God sake, be honest with your doctor and someone close to you about your depression, so it can be helped and monitored. Almost all chronically ill people are depressed at some point.
See Your Doctor Regularly: I see mine every two to three months. Some people who are chronically ill see their doctor every six months, but if you’re going through a particularly rough time, perhaps once a month or every other month may be beneficial, depending upon your doctor’s suggestions.
to see your doctor, especially if you
are on medication. Remember
that your doctor works for you.
Utilize an Integrative Pain Management Program
Being self-empowered means learning how to take control of the pain rather than letting it control you. I highly suggest that if your local pain clinic has a pain psychologist, physical therapist and classes on lifestyle management, that you take full advantage to the extent you are able. Just learning how to breathe properly and practice mindfulness in the last few years has completely changed my life. It has set me on a new course towards better wellness.
My pain psychologist made a simple mindfulness recording for me to listen to when I need to quiet my pain, which is so empowering! Mindfulness meditation recordings can be found on YouTube by searching Jon Kabat-Zinn mindfulness. He has over 30 years experience with helping people in pain and depression management.
Get to Know Your Health Care Provider’s Staff
If you know the names of the receptionists, technicians and nurses, and treat them like more than just an employee, but a person, they will be more likely to treat you well, squeeze in an appointment, chase down your prescription, etc.
It may sound simple, but these things can help reduce our stress, which can lower our pain, and empower us greatly.
your body, right? So wouldn’t it make sense
for you to take charge of its care?
Don’t let doctors dictate your care if it does not feel right to you. Learn as much as you can about your condition to diffuse uncertainty and put you in the driver’s seat of your pain management.
It is also important to know that your diagnosis is not you. It’s part of you. At least I look at it that way. I am much bigger than my pain now, because of learning how to take control. I have tapered off 95% of the narcotic medication that I had been chained to since my diagnoses in the 90’s, and hopefully by the publishing of this article I will be off it completely, due to self-empowered pain management. I hope some of the things I’ve mentioned will help you find some peace and empowerment of your own.
About the Author:
Laura Morris is a passionate advocate for autoimmune health awareness and the mind-body-spirit connection. With a 16-year career in health and wellness as a coach, team leader and blogger, Laura has always had a love for empowering others to grow. She says, “A 30+ year challenging path with fibromyalgia has taught me that our health care is ultimately in our own hands if we are to truly live WELL.”