My chronic pain takes the form of persistent, severe and frequent migraines that began after I received a workplace injury to my neck 14 years ago and worsened after a car accident 9 years ago. I was prone to migraines from childhood, but from being one bad day every two or three months, after my injury and accident they became a daily, sometimes twice daily ordeal of agonising head pain and vomiting. At my lowest ebb, about 9 years ago, I was never pain free. One migraine would overlap with the next and that pattern would repeat over and over.
For many including myself, migraine although not a dangerous condition is temporarily almost completely disabling. It is impossible to walk around, hold a conversation, do anything except try to be absolutely still and in a dark quiet room. You ‘lose’ days on end in a kind of limbo, not really participating in life at all.
Multiple doctors, multiple medications were tried and most were unsuccessful or produced such bad side effects that I could not tolerate them – a memorable experience with beta blockers had me with a pulse rate so low I was at risk of collapsing if walking at moderate pace. At this time I became very depressed and I can remember sitting in the garden on a lovely day, just crying and crying, and wondering if I would ever be free from pain and able to enjoy life again.
But I have gradually evolved ways of dealing with pain, both with medication and emotionally. I often experience pain, but have many pain free days or parts of days, and I believe that I am blessed and fortunate to be able to hold down a job, enjoy activities and participate in life, albeit with regular migraine episodes. It is manageable, and I have come to accept that my pain is a part of me. I have a physical dependence on painkillers which is a result of the life I am living, this sometimes makes me embarrassed or upset, as I feel like a ‘secret drug addict’. However I believe that you must do the best you can with the tools you have, and if properly prescribed drugs enable me to lead a relatively normal, healthy and enjoyable life then I will take them!
My best advice for chronic pain sufferers is to ask yourself what would your perfect life be? Then ask yourself what could you settle for if you can’t achieve perfection? You may not get the first but you CAN achieve the second – an accommodation of your pain and a sense that life is enjoyable and wonderful.