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Chronic Pain: Hitting Rock Bottom

Posted Feb 03 2010 9:11pm
I usually try to limit blog posts to things related very closely to occipital nerve stimulation, but I'm now faced with a situation that I want to discuss. It's not directly related to ONS but I think it's important to talk about.

I was informed on Tuesday that my supervisor killed himself this weekend. He suffered from chronic back pain. He only moved here last January, so I don't know his history, but from discussions with him last summer I know he's been to many doctors and tried many things. He had a metal rod implanted in his back at some point so he has more of a history than I can begin to imagine, I'm sure. His condition deteriorated quickly at the end of last summer. He got to the point where he could no longer sit or stand for more than about 5 minutes at a time, so he was essentially a prisoner of his bed. He was taking a lot of heavy-duty painkillers just to get through each day. He was not married and did not have any family in the area. Someone from work would go over once or twice a week but they wouldn't stay long so I think part of his downward spiral must have come from feeling isolated and alone. I guess he decided it just wasn't worth it anymore.

However, I do think he gave up on himself a long time ago. We had a discussion last summer about a doctor's appointment he'd been to and the doctor has said something along the lines of "you need to get something figured out. If you feel this way now (he was in his 40's), how are you going to feel when you are 75?" And my boss said "I hope to god I don't live to be that old." I know people made suggestions to him of where to go for treatment, and offered him transportation but to my knowledge he didn't accept much help.

The moral of this story to me, and why I wanted to share it, is this: no one can help you if you don't help yourself. I understand chronic pain. I've been there. Last winter I myself was feeling extremely low and got to the point where I couldn't envision a future for myself because every day was just filled with pain. I was not suicidal but I certainly was depressed. But I (luckily) got to the point where I got mad, not to the point of giving up. I refused to "live" this way and realized that I had to go find help for myself, whatever that took. That's why I traveled 1000 miles and spent 4 months away from home. And if it would have taken 4 times that long, I still would have done it. I had been to "experts," and no, they didn't help. You have to keep searching until you find the right doctor for yourself. Just because someone is labeled as a specialist or has been treating "your kind of case" for 30 years doesn't mean they can help you. You don't have to stick with a doctor that isn't helping you. I wasted way too much time doing that. If they don't help you, move on and try the next one. But if you just sit around wallowing in misery and self-pity, you will never feel better. No one will come knocking on your door saying "I think I have a solution for you."

Wow, I guess this turned into a bit of a lecture but it's just something that I feel very adamant about. I'm very sad for my boss. In all honesty, I didn't know him very well at all, but it still makes me sad that he felt death was the only way to end the pain. I hope to inspire people to take a different path than that, to give them hope, because you don't have to just give in. But you do have to be willing to help yourself.

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