Choices, Pain, Scarlet Letter

It’s difficult being chronically ill or chronically in pain. On the one hand, because pills are given to you by your doctor and don’t necessarily carry the same stigma like natural or holistic remedies, people assume they make them better and that they are good for them. (I am purposefully leaving out opiates because of the current climate surrounding this medication and because most understand that pain medication doesn’t cure you, only masks the pain.) What they don’t get is some meds cure one thing while giving you something else. Example: some medicine you take may be great at helping your Crohn’s but may wreak havoc on your liver later down the line and long term. This is the reason for contraindications on many medications that you are warned about prior to taking them. The kind you hear about on commercials for everything from diabetes medications to anxiety medications: “May cause liver damage, heart damage, stomach bleeding, psychosis or suicidal thoughts and possible death.” I don’t tell people to abandon medicine, but using natural methods when you can, seems logical to me when the prospect of continually ingesting toxic chemicals will eventually have adverse effects. It really isn’t if, it’s when.

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Conversely, as someone who’s been studying and practicing holistic medicine in some manner for 20 years, I see many people who jump into the practice with both feet without taking into account they are still taking medicine. When I gently bring up the fact that they are taking such and such medication while also taking such and such herbal supplement or trying to concoct a blend of herbs that might help them naturally, I just about lose my mind. Just because it comes from nature doesn’t mean that it isn’t powerful. Just because it comes from nature, doesn’t mean that it can’t harm you. There are many herbs and flowers out there from where we can get medicinal relief- key word there is medicinal. These teas, tinctures, salves and anything else we can come up with can interact with medicines that we take orally or even put topically, on our skin. It is up to you, the budding, student, chemist, to study that which you are using and also that which you are already taking. It’s also up to you to talk to your doctor or pharmacist. These people are educated in the dosages and interactions and can save you from possible harm. Do not either, decide to just take yourself off all your medications without first consulting with your doctor first. Some medications need to be tapered off first or the shock can be too great to your system. Afterwards, if you want to dive into the world of Natural Herbal Remedies, do so under the guidance of someone already experienced. This is the best way to learn and the best way to ensure you don’t inadvertently harm yourself. A teacher can double check what you are doing while also teaching you.

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Here, is where we return to the unique subject of opiates.

When it comes to pain medication and ways to deal with pain medication there are many variables. Everyone responds differently to pain. Generally, everyone’s first course of action should be something non-invasive and therapeutic, like therapy and yoga while medications should bring down inflammation, without possibly causing addiction. Medicine is tricky because everyone is unique and you can’t look at someone and know how they will respond. If you want to try holistic ways before you even get to medications, try: white willow bark, turmeric, cloves, ginger, birch leaf, capsaicin and arnica, just to name a few. However, most of us who are taking opiates have all run the course of a holistic route and perhaps still use holistic efforts as we can. We’ve also tried to use general medicine such as OTC medications and then tried physical therapy and yoga and perhaps, some of us even tried acupuncture to try and gain some relief before we were shuffled off to pain management or surgeries or both.

We are a group of people within our society condemned, because we’ve had no choice but to seek outside intervention for chronic pain, for which there are those who have found themselves in the unfortunate position of addiction- a place a no human would seek to get themselves caught. Now, at the mere whisper that you’re taking hydrocodone it’s like you’re wearing a Scarlet Letter “H”. And it might just be that a Scarlet Letter might be preferable. Doctors are taking patients off their medication’s cold turkey; families are intervening between patients and their medication. It’s becoming rather biblical out there, and I do mean righteous. With doctor’s believing they know best, and patient’s families believing they know best and no one stopping and thinking to ask, “Hey, maybe we should ask the patients what they want? Maybe we should ask the patients what they need?” It’s frightening for many people who live day-to-day wondering when the plug is going to get pulled on their meds. When they might be forced to live in horrible pain.

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There are many facets to this story. Many ways you can go about trying to heal yourself and you should have that choice instead of being persecuted for them. Continue to learn what you can and make the best, informed decision you can for yourself because you are the one that has to live with the pain. Only you.