For some people, pain is almost a being. It is a character in a play; an annoying, uninvited houseguest that lingers on well past the time of stinking fish. But chronic pain is far more than annoying, it is life-changing, life-destroying. When Mr. Pain moves into your life, it is transformative in a very bad way.
For the last four years, my wife was been on a pain management contract. One doctor overseeing all her pain meds, including those involved following any surgery (of which there have been many). She started on increasing doses of opioids, and then two years ago moved to morphine. So think about that. Two years on morphine. Two years before that on opioids.
For two weeks now she has been off morphine completely.
This has been big. I manage her meds. It has been long, long road getting to this point. It took many weeks of slowly reducing her morphine to get her to the point where we could drop it and her not notice it’s absence in her life. I was biting my nails that first week. Fortunately, it all went well and according to plan. Everybody that knows her can see a difference in her affect.
Mr. Pain is gone, for now. But the pain she suffers is not. It’s just different. It’s manageable with stack of remaining prescriptions that is quite extensive and mutes the different kinds of pain and discomfort.
Pain is real. I shouldn’t have to say this, but it is. It is easy to disbelieve another’s pain when you can’t see a cause for it. But that does not mean it is not there. Nor is it a sure thing that you can see the fact of pain in a person’s face. Many people become adept at trying to hide the presence of pain. Chronic, unrelenting pain is the worst and patients will try to adapt to its presence and attempt to hide their misery from strangers, if not their caregivers.
Caregivers have incredibly difficult path to negotiate when their charge is in unrelenting long-term pain. First, they want to help with the pain. They want to minimize the pain. Doing such is often out of their hands. When it is not, they have to be careful not to do much to help, as the patient needs to be own as much of the decision-making and actions as possible. Second, over time, caregivers become desensitized to the pain of their charge – it is the only way to deal day by day with the sense of powerlessness that one feels in this situation. Watching someone you care about suffering in pain daily is horrid. Thinking about their pain levels is horrid. Not being able to do much about it is worse.
Living with someone you love, and providing their care, is not a great life when morphine is involved every single day. Reaching this point is a real improvement in lifestyle.