I live with chronic pain and depression

Do you live with chronic pain and depression?

Chronic pain and depression commonly coexist
Chronic pain and depression commonly coexistimage from Unsplash

If you’re living with chronic pain and depression, welcome aboard, you’re not alone. I’ve lived with both since a diagnosis of Transverse Myelitis (TM) since 2011.

Did you know that

  • around 20% of people worldwide are affected by chronic pain
  • chronic pain and depression commonly coexist
  • one study showed that 60.8 % of people with chronic pain are likely to have severe depression too
  • chronic pain accounts for 15% to 20% of visits to GP’s
  • depression is the third most common reason for consultation with a GP and the most common mood complaint
  • any pain that carries on for more than 12 weeks is classed as chronic

Dr Norman Kufakwaro, Consultant in Pain Medicine & Neuromodulation in the UK, says… Depression can be triggered or precipitated by chronic pain. As a result, individuals with chronic pain are at high risk of long-lasting emotional disturbances characterised by persistent low mood and anxiety.

Getting personal

Multiple Sclerosis and Transverse Myelitis causes chronic pain and can lead to depression
Multiple Sclerosis and Transverse Myelitis causes chronic pain and can lead to depression

I’ve lived with chronic pain and depressive episodes for 10 years now. I say episodes because while I’m always in terrible pain I’m not permanently depressed.

I have good and bad days and often my depression is reactive. I’m not good if I’m feeling overloaded, weighed down by tasks or too much is expected of me.

Where before I could multitask now I can only do one thing at a time, and complete only one major task per day.

A major task might be attending to my hygiene and even then, I feel faint after showering. Another might be trying to blow dry my hair, getting dressed, attending an appointment, going to the local shops or cooking a family meal (which I truly enjoy).

Unfortunately, it’s all I can cope with before I become utterly fatigued and unable to manage anything more. I like to think I do all this quietly, and without too much fuss, just taking myself off somewhere quiet to rest and recover.

Unlike my other half!! “Ow,ow, ouch, ooh,ah,ow, ow, owwwwwww, flippin’ ow!”

Other people’s pain

Man with chronic back pain
Chronic back pain — Photo by Pexels.com

Now, I know pain in its many forms. Did I mention that I’ve lived with it for 10 years? Yes, well can someone tell hubby that! Please?! The poor love currently has a bad back.

Now, it’s clear to anyone, even with their eyes covered, that he’s in pain, (“Ooh, ow, ouch, oooooh…….. Aaah, help me. No, don’t move me. ……….”) and I feel for him. I really do.

But why the heck does he have to make so much bloody noise? Neighbours in a one-mile vicinity must imagine I’m killing him. Or perhaps that’s just wishful thinking — on their part, not mine 😉

I get it, I do, honestly. Pain hurts! But just take a damn tablet for crying out loud, until you get to see an osteopath or your GP. Make an appointment or just shut. the. hell. up! Okay, rant over, and back to those who live with chronic pain (quietly) and associated depression.

Supporting someone with a chronic illness

I just took a short break from this post to read that of a fellow blogger, also named Caz, at Invisibly Me. She’s written about supporting a loved one with a chronic illness — way better than I could, and you might want to read it. Just click on her logo. There’s no point in re-inventing the wheel, right!

New chronic pain symptoms

Missed appointments cost the NHS  millions of pounds each year
Missed appointments cost the NHS millions of pounds each year — image from Unsplash

After recently moaning to my GP about what appears to be many new chronic symptoms, she organised an appointment with my neuro team. Said GP wasn’t happy that I’d apparently missed a follow-up appointment in February with my usual team.

Since I’d received my appointment letter about a year ago, was it any wonder I forgot! However, it turned out to be a stroke of luck for me.

I got to see a new Consultant, Dr Marta, who specialises in neuromuscular disorders such as my own Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and appeared to actually give a damn.

She suggested we start at the beginning and she took a full medical history then asked about these new symptoms. She then conducted a few physical tests and asked lots of questions before she explained what would happen next.

Whoop, whoop! If I could have skipped (I can’t) out of her office, I would’ve. I felt listened to and heard for the first time in years. If you’ve ever had to visit the medical profession for long periods of time, you might understand how some of them make you feel like you’re wasting their time!

Biopsychosocial approach to pain management

Image by Monica Noy

Dr Marta used what’s known as the Biopsychosocial approach which addresses pain (health) from multiple angles: physical, psychological, and emotional. The biopsychosocial (BPS) model was originally described in 1977 by George Engel, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Rochester. 

It uses what scientists know to be true about the connection between the brain and physical pain signals in order to change these signals over time. Quite honestly, I’m not sure.

It’s said that when it comes to recurring pain, the brain, nervous system, and body have locked into a painful cycle. The biopsychosocial approach educates pain sufferers on the patterns and habits that might be reinforcing the painful cycle and the powerful new patterns and habits that can break it. Hmmm!

The biopsychosocial approach has allegedly helped millions of people get rid of the real, physical pain in their bodies. The jury’s out on that one. But I’ll give it all a go.

Pain Management referrals

I’ve been referred to

Restless leg syndrome can cause sleeplessness and depression
Chronic restless leg syndrome can cause sleeplessness and depression
  • A two-hour Pain management class, which I’ve already attended and, no disrespect to the three medical professionals (Occupational Therapist and two 15-year-old Physiotherapists?), but it’s all stuff I knew already.
  • Pain psychologist for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to find coping skills for dealing with the pain. On top of the MS pain, I also have Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) and restless body syndrome (yes, it’s a syndrome) and I’ve tried absolutely everything to manage this kind of pain, without success. Here’s hoping.
  • Dr Marta also requested another full MRI dye contrast to rule out any further attacks or changes since 2011. Some MRI scans involve having an injection of contrast dye. This makes certain tissues and blood vessels show up more clearly and in greater detail. Sometimes the contrast dye can cause side effects, such as: feeling or being sick. Oh, just great!
  • Full bloods; 11 vials taken that day; to find any disease that may have caused the constant all over body pain.

Addiction to pain medication?

Am I addicted to pain medication?
Am I addicted to Tramadol — Photo by Pexel.com

Dr Marta suggested that long-term use of Tramadol can cause this all over body pain which p’d off me quite a bit because, as I told her, I only take half the amount prescribed, and I cannot move in the mornings without it. She recommended that I stop the Tramadol

I was even more p’d off ‘cos hubby agreed with Dr Marta as that’s what happened to him when he used tramadol??? and — it’s addictive! Duh! He only used it for a month or so, and very little of it!

So — I tried going without Tramadol for the last three days. OMG! The pain was sheer torture! I could barely walk, bend, stand, sit, lie down or get comfortable. Can you imagine not one, but two people in excruciating pain, in the same room!

Last night I had to give in and take, not the two prescribed, just one Tramadol. Fortunately, I have a telephone appointment with the Pain Psychologist next week where I can have a chat, and look at other more effective ways to cope with the pain 😕

As many of you know, I was a Mental Health Nurse, Ward Manager, CBT Practitioner, and Mental Health First Aid (England) Trainer, so I have a relatively large toolbox of coping skills and different approaches to managing depression.

Furthermore, before my nursing career, I studied hypnosis, various forms of massage, mindfulness and visualisation…………………. so I’m aware of which self-help techniques either work for me (or don’t).

I’ve tried most things, including cannabis, which just makes me paranoid — yuk!. I’m finding it almost impossible to self-therapise (treat one’s self), so wish me luck with my upcoming therapies.

Over to you

Clipart.com

Do you or someone you love live with chronic pain and/or depression? Can you relate? What coping skills do you use? Do they work?

I look forward to your comments and/or tips, and I’m happy to answer any questions.

#InvisibleIllness

Author: mentalhealth360.uk

Mum to two amazing sons. Following recovery from a lengthy psychotic episode, depression, anxiety and anorexia, I decided to train as a Mental Health Nurse and worked successfully in various settings before becoming a Ward Manager. I am a Mental Health First Aid Instructor and a Mental Health Awareness Trainer, Mental Health First Aid Youth and Mental Health Armed Forces Instructor. Just started my mental health from the other side blog.

30 thoughts on “I live with chronic pain and depression”

      1. Good to hear it’s got better for you P. I agree, it can take some time to notice change and evaluate where we’re at.
        That’s why I’m glad to have a new Consultant asking different questions to make me actually think about any changes (unfotunately negative ones for me).

  1. I’m so sorry for what you have to go through, fellow Caz. You know what pain is like all too well and the knock-on mental health toll it takes. I’m glad you got to see a new consultant – sometimes it takes a fresh appointment to get someone who actually cares, believe and listens. That is a pretty monumental occasion as having a positive experience like that is rare!

    Thank you so much for kindly mentioning my blog post here, that’s so thoughtful of you!  ♥

    I’m not so sure how I feel about pain management styles and treatments to be honest. In general, I’m a fan of holistic approaches that take on board all different angles, like psychical, neurological, biochemical and psychological etc. But pain is a beast of its own. I do think another complete MRI is a good idea, especially if the last dye contrast scan was 2011.

    What I don’t like is the Tramadol stuff. I know everyone has their own opinion on this – and mine has certainly changed over the years since living with debilitating pain myself – but sometimes prescription opioids are needed. End of. I hate – HATE – that the ‘opioid crisis’ is being misinterpreted and used against chronic pain patients. I couldn’t function without it now, but not because I’ve been on it for a while every day but because the pain got to the point where there was no option but to start using it. Like you, I’ve been through a few other referrals. Pacing is useful but I found mindfulness made things worse. Nothing comes close to helping with the debilitating side of pain where you physically can’t bloody move. I hope that if you feel you still need Tramadol that you can continue using it and stand up for yourself on that one. It’s hard to do when the ‘professionals’, who likely have not the tiniest of clues what life with chronic pain every single day is like, make you feel like you’re causing the problem with painkillers, or that you’re addicted, or that a little mindfulness could probably resolve it all. Utter horseshit. Coping skills are great, but many of us do need other ways of managing pain alongside them.

    I hope things go as well as possible with the new therapies. I hope you get the appointment through soon for the MRI too and of course I’ll keep my fingers crossed there’s no change/decline.

    Lots of love, the Other Caz.xxxx

    1. I remember I found both of you on here around the same time, and I got confused for a bit because you were both named Caz, and that is not a common name or nickname here in the US… I was thinking, wait, is this the same person? Oh, okay, no, it’s not… 😂

      1. Maybe you two need to meet up and have a rock-paper-scissors fight to determine who gets to keep your name, like the Josh Fight that happened in the US yesterday 😂

      2. 😂😂 I’ve had that nickname since I was a kid, and it’s stuck 🙂 And yes, it was a surprise to see another Caz too, but I’m glad I did cos I love her blog.

    2. Thank you for your kind comments Caz. Yes, I too prefer the holistic approach. I had to give in and take Tramadol again as I couldn’t cope with the pain. I’m going to stay on a reduced dose and see how that goes.
      I also went for acupuncture yesterday which has helped in the past. And today, I feel a lot less tense, something that happens when I’m in pain – holding the body differently causes me other pains. I can’t win lol. I’m going to have weekly acupuncture for about six weeks and see what happens.
      OPIOID crisis? I hadn’t realised there was one! And like you, it’s not because I’m addicted or because I’ve been on them for years – I can’t move in the morning without them!
      My son (Physiotherapist) has spoken to me about pacing, but I was used to running around and just getting things done previously, and my head still thinks I can do this lol. But my body just gives out on me 🙁
      Horseshit – lol, I love that!
      Yep, with the new Consultant, I thought I’ve give all her suggestions a go, including mindfulness lol so at least I can tell her it didn’t (or perhaps did) work at my next appointment in 3 months 🙂
      Thank you for your empathy and kindness “Other Caz”, much appreciated.

      Big hugs to you from “this Caz” xxx

  2. ❤️ Caz❤️
    soooo good to see you. I’ve missed you and sorry you’re having a time of it. I do Loved..”did I mention it’s been 10 years”
    sorry you are having a time of it and hopeful you get some help.
    Loved you shared Caz’s post at invisibly me. Also a terrific post like yours is!
    I can’t ever comment on her stuff and we’ve tried to figure it out. grrrr.
    So Caz from IM Kuddos to you too.
    We need your voices!
    Sending love Caz and again so good to see you writing unless I’ve missed some! I’ll check 💖

    1. Hey Cindy, thank you so much for your kindness and empathy, much appreciated 🙂 Yes, the other Caz and I share a lot of similarities lol and I love her blog too.
      Nope, I don’t hink you’ve missed anything as I haven’t been post much lately. Thank you for staying with me tho’ 🙂 ❤️❤️❤️

      1. You’re so welcome Caz. I do pray that someday this will be a shadow of a thought for you as I know how much you try and how challenging it is for you. I can’t comment to the other Caz on her site so I took the liberty to say hi on yours. Hope you don’t mind.
        Oh good, well there were a few I went in a did catch up on. hope you have a good day. 💖🌷💖🙏

      2. Hey, of course, I don’t mind you mentioned the “other” Caz – we’re blogging pals 🙂

        Having a good day today and so happy that I got a new Consultant. I’ve got my cover letter that she wrote following my visit and there’s so much more support she’s putting in place. Unfortunately, there are a few new possible diagnoses on top of what I already have 🙁 Hopefully, I’ll find out more positive news soon 🙂

  3. All I really know is that you have helped me start to more effectively deal with my various issues, including some painful ones. As I said to my daughter the other day, I can almost open my own pharmacy I have that many differnt medications happening 😂 However, they do make a big difference.

    Now we will go back in time. Strap yourself in….

    A number of years ago, I was pulling down the outside Christmas lights and decorations. Now I already knew that my back was playing up. Then I moved one box that fraction too far. Anyway, Linda said (because she is the smart one), that we had better get you to hospital. I said, no I’ll be alright!

    So, you can imagine what happened next. That night (around 2am), I roll over in bed and “crunch.” I was totally locked up. Now we were living in Country WA at that time. Somehow, Linda got me into the driver’s seat. I had to face backwards, as I couldn’t turn around. It was the longest 1.5 kms of my life as we made our way to the district (local) hospital, over every single bump. Anyway, we pull up at the ED, and again somehow, they got me out of the car and into a wheel chair.

    Being the cheeky so and so’s that they are, they asked if we had been up to something! Following on from that conversation, the assessment was they couldn’t help me as they needed to give me an injection of whatever it was and the doctor was off for the weekend. I would have to go to the regional hospital. Also, there was no ambulance available (and I can’t remeber now for what reason).

    I commented ever so politely it almost killed me getting this far. There is no way Linda can drive me for an hour or or so. They then rang the doctor on call at the regional hospital who said, yes give him the injection. Within half an hour I was like a new person.

    These days, we have telehealth in full swing and it is awesome which means people are getting treated more effectively in their communities without travelling a million miles to get sorted.

    1. Aaaww, that’s good to know you’re starting to address some things you’ve probably putting off my lovely. Sometimes men are worse than women at putting thing on the back burner 🙂
      Wow, that back pain sounds really awful Sean, you poor thing! Lol, you don’t have to say how you got the bad back 😉 We believe you 🙂 And I’m glad you got the injection after which you probably got some almost immediate effect! Crikey, asking you to get yourself to another hospital in that pain.
      I know when my illness started — those bumps in the road — aarrgghhh! I still get it now but obviously it’s nowhere near as bad cos I’m on all kinds of meds, like you 🙂

      We’ve had telehealth throughout the Lockdown, which has been useful and I can see that’s the way it’s going to work in the not too distant future.

      I do believe the “plandemic” was created to see what would happen and see how “they” can make changes to the world! Just saying, and anyway that’s another post lol 😂😂😂
      Hope you and Linda are safe and well at the moment Sean x

  4. Sorry to hear this Caz, I can’t imagine how you must be feeling, and I hope you get some answers asap! I can however relate to your sentiments re your other half, I have had similar in my household lately with mine 😂

  5. I have Interstitial Cystitis which is a chronic bladder disease. Sometimes it is really difficult to stay positive especially when you hurt all of the time. I am glad you are writing about this topic.

    1. Oh no, I feel for you. I have had cystitis several times and that was bad enough, let alone having the pain you get all the time 🙁 And yep, I agree, it’s hard staying positive and trying not to moan lol.

  6. At the risk of coming off as sexist, I feel like most men can be pretty callous when it comes to a woman’s pain yet when they are the one in pain they become like the biggest babies on the planet… no one has ever had pain like they have! I grew up in a house full of brothers so I think I know what I’m talking about here!

    Dr. Marta sounds like she has a great approach!

  7. That biopsychosocial approach does sound intriguing. The proof will be in whether it works for your specific symptoms, however. It seems like chronic illnesses and pain are almost active with their resistance to treatment at times, but I sincerely hope you find a method that gives you better relief.

    1. Lovely to hear from you my lovely and thank you for commenting.

      You’re right about resistance to treatment. However, if I stop taking it, or forget, my body soon lets me know. Like I said to my lovely new Consultant, I cannot move til I’ve had medication in the mornings. So that’s one dose I won’t be stopping any time soon 😉

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