So many doctors have made it clear: I shouldn’t expect to ever live a life without pain again. Ok, I’ve accepted that. But lately I’ve wondered: should I raise the bar for my own pain relief expectations?
I’ve been watching friends, acquaintances and strangers online dealing with their chronic pain. They complain about their pain, while still trying to live somewhat normal lives. They complain that they can no longer go jogging, work two jobs, carry heavy loads, or climb a lot of stairs. At first I’ve thought, “well of course you’re in pain, you shouldn’t expect to still be able to do that.” But then I thought, maybe they should. Maybe I should.
Obviously there are limitations. I’ll never be able to jog. Or work two jobs. Or for that matter, carry heavy loads or climb a lot of stairs, either. But maybe I should be able to do more than I’m doing now without feeling so much pain.
Some days it isn’t that bad. It’s nothing more than a nuisance. But then, I never try to do anything pain-inducing anymore. I don’t think about it. I simply haven’t done those things for so many years that it never crosses my mind to pick up something heavy, reach out my arm at a certain angle, or sit still for a long time. I shift my position constantly without realizing it, because over the years I learned it was necessary and I did it so often that it became automatic. But maybe I should be able to sit still for longer without feeling pain?
There aren’t a lot of options. I don’t like using prescription painkillers because they upset my stomach and it doesn’t seem worth it. I’ve tried NSAIDS, steroids, Plaquenil, Cymbalta…. it’s not like there are a lot of prescription options left. I try nonprescription things too, mostly through my naturopath.
But today I opened the door for a new possibility. I registered for medical marijuana. The United States is a funny place. I know a lot of you aren’t in the U.S. so basically, marijuana is illegal on a federal level, but some states have made it legal. That means that technically you could get in trouble for having it even in those states where it’s legal, but chances are the feds won’t bother you unless you’re a big player of some sort. On top of that, our current federal government has specifically said they’d lay off. It’ll be interesting to see what happens after the next election. But I digress….
As I was saying, I registered for medical marijuana today. I paid $200 to see a doctor, because none of the doctors who do this are covered under insurance. In a few weeks I should have my license from the state. Then I can buy medical marijuana, also called cannabis, but going to a dispensary (there are about a half dozen in the state so far.) I learned about the different strains. It’s possible to get strains of cannabis that help the pain, nausea, or other symptoms without getting you high. That’s what I’ll be aiming for.
But what’s my goal? When I walked in the door today thinking that I wanted to use it for the days when the pain is the worst. The thing is, the people I spoke to there acted like I’d be using it more often to help the pain more often. After all, hadn’t I just said that I was in pain all the time?
I have no intention of using it all the time, of course. But maybe I could use it more, so that instead of only using it on the worst days, I use it on all be the best days. Because shouldn’t my goal be to feel as little pain as possible?
Obviously I have to wait and see how I feel once I start. Maybe I’ll want to use a lot of it, maybe not. I’ve used it before, so I know that I’ll at least want to use it for nausea and digestive pain. It’s a miracle for that. But what about my joints? If it helps my joints, should I try it? And I learned today that it can help fatigue. That could be a life-changer!
I don’t expect this to cure me. I don’t expect to be pain-free. I don’t expect to walk 5 miles or lift a 5-year-old. But maybe taking a swim and cooking dinner the same day should be a reasonable thing to expect?
How do you set your expectations? Our abilities and symptoms are all so different, but we all have the same problem of figuring out what limitations are reasonable and what aren’t. How do you figure it out? Please comment and let me know!
My son-in-law, who has a debilitating genetic disease, just got his medical marijuana certification. Hopefully, the marijuana will work for his pain. Probably better than narcotics, which are being outlawed by Obamacare anyway.
That’s great! Congratulations for him! (As a side note, it’s not Obamacare that’s causing this war on opioids. It has to do with the CDC, which is separate, public opinion, and politics. If you’d like to read resources, let me know and I’ll be glad to send some along.)
It’s so hard to find the balance between pain and living and its such a personal thing that you can’t compare yourself to others. I have care which helps and means I can choose what puts me in pain more freely, eg I don’t have to cook so I can use that capacity for art. And some days I will overdo my art and end up in pain but that’s not the intention. It’s best to do lots of things regularly that put you at an OKish pain level than do the boom bust cycle you alluded to at the start of your post. I was advised the same with meds, take little and often rather than chasing the pain with lots of meds. I hope you find something which helps
Thanks hejyork! I agree that slow and steady is better than boom and bust. That’s been my approach for fatigue/energy and it’s worked really well. It works for my pain, too. I’m just going to have to figure it out as I go, but of course, I’m feeling impatient to figure it out. It’s great that you have help that allows you to adjust things as needed.
Good luck on the cannabis journey. Being from Oregon, I use a cannabis tincture (alcohol based, but can also be glycerin) for use at night to help with sleep. It has allowed me to stop all of my sleep medications, which at age 60, is becoming an issue for my doctor. The “mainstream” docs have been quite supportive of the cannabis, telling me if it works, keep doing it, since it has allowed me to stop more dangerous medications. There is a lot to learn, so find a good dispensary and try their suggestions as well as follow your instincts.
That’s great Deb D! Congratulations on getting off those sleep meds! I’ll definitely be asking lots of questions at the dispensaries 🙂
I find it so hard to set expectations for myself! Everybody’s pain is different, so even people with my exact condition have different experiences of what they can handle. I’ve been trying to “test the boundaries” a little on things that feel really worthwhile, like going out when my friend who moved across the country comes to visit. Sometimes I surprise myself, but most of the time I end up in pain, confirming that I shouldn’t expect myself to be able to do most of the things my friends do.
“Testing the boundaries” is a great idea, learnforforever. It’s hard to find the right about to test, but I try to test a little bit at a time, too. Sure, sometimes we overdo it – we just have to decide when it’s worth it. I guess that’s the approach I should be taking now. Thanks for the reminder!
[…] I had just started the process to get a license myself. I pointed out that I had already seen a doctor and I wasn’t about to see another. She said I should see hers when I have to renew my license (in 6 months, per state law.) I pointed out that my doctor is cheaper. And that’s when she said it. […]