Do you live with chronic pain and depression?
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.
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
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
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
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
- 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?
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.
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
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.