The link between pain and depression is strong. One can feed on the
other, until eventually it seems like it would be easier to just give
up. When I am stuck down in the dark abyss of deep depression,
everything seems so hopeless. Even if someone reaches down to help drag
me out, the world looks gray and ugly. I can't see the beauty in my
beautiful woods, or the puffy white clouds in the bright blue sky. The stars seem dim, the flowers look dead, the sounds that normally would bring me delight, are just a droning noise.
Four specialist told me four different things, often contradicting each other. Ice, no ice; heat, no heat; injection in my spine, injection in my joint; no exercise, walk. I kept asking for ways I could help myself, and kept being told there was really nothing non-medical I could do. No physical therapy other than short walks would help, there was absolutely nothing I could do to be proactive in improving my level of pain.
Because of my past experience with alternative modalities of dealing with mental illness, I knew deep down that there had to be something I could do, but I could not find anyone reputable who could help me. Juicing was suggested (you know, it cures cancer), a hypnotherapist gave me a CD of fixing my body as if it were the inside of a computer, and all kinds of other slightly "off" things were suggested. I had gotten to the point where I would try anything, but I was tired of spending money. Those injections that did nothing but cause me more pain? My copay was $500 each. The hypnotherapist was $60, but fortunately the odd chiropractor who said I needed to start juicing was a free consultation. Each time I saw a medical specialist was a $35 copay, plus an hour's drive away. These people usually treated me like I was stupid, and didn't listen to what I was trying to say.
I went to my therapist, and then my psychiatrist (he does my med management). The therapist had some good suggestions, and the psych increased my Nardil, since my depression had gotten to the point of daily suicidal ideations.
I finally thought to go to my wonderful General Practitioner. She's always listened to me, and has always had good suggestions, both holistic and medical. After actually listening to me describe how my pain starts and what helps it stop, then asking some questions and reading the reports the other doctors had sent her, she sent me to a Physical Therapist to be evaluated for Piriformis Syndrome vs. some type of sacral dysfunction (for which the last doctor treated me). She suspected I was misdiagnosed. My initial spinal fusion had solved one problem, but as my body tried to learn to adjust and figure out new ways to move, this other problem arose.
By simple stretching and core strengthening exercises (within my abilities), I should be able to be close to pain-free. At least it would be more tolerable than it is now. This is exactly what I've been asking for all along. I knew there absolutely had to be something I could do other than surgical procedures and opiates, but nobody would listen to me. I am trying Lyrica again at a low dose (a higher dose gave me a migraine). In addition to hopefully helping with the nerve pain, my psych said it could also be an effective mood stabilizer.
I know, I've used this before, but it's so appropriate right now.
I now feel hopeful, at least there is light at the end of the tunnel. I have answers, people have listened to me and actually heard what I was saying; this is no longer an open-ended problem. It's not an instant fix, and the pain is getting worse as I sit here typing, but knowing there's something I can do about it makes a huge difference. I almost gave up, I'm glad I didn't, and I'm grateful to my friends and family members who kept me going. And you, lovely readers, who send me comments and support are also incredibly helpful. Knowing you're out there all over the world, thinking about me, reading about my trials, helps me to not feel so alone.
If you are in a similar situation, I urge you to keep trying to find answers, don't give up.
Below are some links, with excerpts, to a few articles about the connection between pain and depression.
Pain and the problems it causes can wear you down over time, and may
begin to affect your mood. Chronic pain causes a number of problems that
can lead to depression, such as trouble sleeping and stress. Disabling
pain can cause low self-esteem due to work, legal or financial issues.
Depression doesn't just occur with pain resulting from an injury. It's
also common in people who have pain linked to a health condition such as
diabetes or migraines
Scientists don’t yet know how depression and chronic pain are linked,
but the illnesses are known to occur together. Chronic pain can worsen
depression symptoms and is a risk factor for suicide in people who are
One of the biggest challenges of treating both pain and depression is
that feelings of helplessness and hopelessness lead people to try cures
that are ineffective and even damaging, according to Kerns. “Continued
doctor-shopping is problematic.”