This world tells me conflicting things about the chronic pain I deal with. On the one hand, I’m told my pain doesn’t exist, is all in my mind, and that if I use narcotic or opiate medicine to treat pain, I’m a drug addict. On the other hand, movies and books like “Me Before You” say that chronic pain is so bad, I should just kill myself.
There is no cultural archetype or trope of the functional pain patient, medicating both adequately and responsibly. We do not have a model of a loving mother who sometimes smokes pot for her joint pain, though I know a half dozen real people this perfectly describes.
Every day there’s a news article mongering fear of an “opioid epidemic” which lumps legal prescription patients in with street heroin users to justify increased barriers to narcotic pill access (driving up heroin’s stock in the process.) Chronic pain is not even mentioned in a lot of these stories, but addiction always is.
There are even some hospitals now that brag they are opiate free and no longer prescribe effective pain relief. Like many with chronic pain, I do not keep a standing narcotic prescription. I rely on edible and smokable marijuana, topical analgesics, and over the counter pain medicine to control all but my very worst pain. When I can’t treat it at home with those methods, I go to the emergency room. Where now they won’t have what I need.
Hollywood loves to kill off disabled characters, and often portrays this as mercy rather than murder. Sometimes the disabled character (written and played by non-disabled people of course) will beg an abled character to commit fatal violence, which is called “putting them out of their misery.”
Why is my misery sufficient cause to approve of “physician assisted suicide” but not sufficient justification to prescribe me narcotics? How can my pain simultaneously be imaginary and a good reason to kill myself? What twisted logic is this, that criminalizes treating my pain yet legalizes killing me for it?
Abled people underestimate the strength and resilience of disabled people, in ways that endanger us. While a period of depression is common after the unset of a chronic illness or after a debilitating injury, within three years a majority of disabled people have some degree of acceptance. They want to learn to live with their condition, not to die.
Let us live and live well. Fully fund public health programs, disability services, and social security. Resist the moral panic over opiates and fight against measures to rob us of effective pain relief. Support evidence based (is, not twelve steps) addiction treatment, and medical research for less addictive pain relief. Boycott films like “Me Before You”. We usually don’t want to die, but this world isn’t designed for us to live in.
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