The Realities of Living With Chronic Pain
Being a 22 year old new mother, new wife, and new college graduate sounds like a woman full of hopes and dreams. The entire world is at her feet and her life has just begin. The future is bright and the possibilities are endless.
...or at least...that's what it should be like...
My reality was and is a little different. I have debilitating chronic pain. About 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, so it's not uncommon. The severity of situations like mine is a bit more rare, though.
My pain started when I became pregnant with my first child and, 9 years later, I'm still struggling with it. It is excruciating to get out of bed most days. Simple tasks like showering or washing the dishes become nearly impossible.
And it doesn't just end there.
My kids are 8 and 3 years old. Boisterous, active, clever, mischievous, funny, and loving little kids. Yet I can't be the mother I feel they deserve. Running around and playing with them is out of the picture. They miss out on extracurricular activities because I am just not well enough to take them. I end up bedridden and writhing in pain if I even try. Taking them to the park or on a hike is a distant and hazy dream for me.
Chronic pain also affects my social life and friendships. Grabbing lunch with a friend or going to a birthday party become incredibly difficult when I can't stand for more than a few minutes at a time. Having to constantly turn down most human interaction can break a person's spirit. Humans are naturally inclined to being social, so forced isolation like this can severely impact mental health as well. For me, depression is a nasty beast that loves to rear its head when I'm in the most vulnerable due to pain. This creates a toxic cycle of pain, isolation, depression, and self-blame.
The financial burden of trying to manage and compensate for the pain can be overwhelming. We invested in an expensive mattress a few years ago and it's helped...a little. Over-the-counter pain medication doesn't even begin to touch the pain, while prescription medication is wildly out of my budget. Physical therapy would be a great option...if I could afford the multiple treatments a week, along with transport and childcare. Getting and keeping a steady job is a whole different obstacle. I can't work anywhere that would require me to stand for more than a few minutes at a time and there aren't enough sick days to cover my pain.
Another troubling aspect of being a brown woman struggling with chronic pain is healthcare. We do not have the same access to affordable and professional healthcare as our white counterparts. Our physical and mental health issues are not taken as seriously and medical professionals spend less time with us as patients. There is an inherent and unconscious racial bias in almost two-thirds of healthcare professionals. This leads PoC to avoid hospitals and doctors altogether, which results in our health declining even more rapidly.
Being a woman of color is difficult enough, but adding serious health issues to the equation just increases my struggles. I'm tired of pain. I'm tired of doctors not caring. I'm tired of having to suffer twice as much as the white population to get half the support.