depression and chronic pain tangled

One thing I can tell you about coping is that I like to learn things the hard way. I think we all struggle from time to time due to certain circumstances in our lives. For certain I can say chronic pain management matters. There was a time several years ago when I had no chronic pain management and I suffered. This is a long post but it is Mental Health Awareness week in Canada and it is important to know the struggle with mental illness and pain is complex and we do have the capacity to cope with both.

Depression and pain: the worst lesson pain taught me was to push through

What to do? Well, my answer initially when the pain got beyond my coping strategies was push through the pain hoping there was something in the near future (always a year away it seemed and when it came? Never something that was in any way beneficial to me).  So push through the pain again. And longer. It began to affect my mood. Then some of the medications they put me on made that mood worse. Finally, depression. Pain management is fundamental. I get there isn’t a big focus on that these days and that is extremely worrisome because it is vital.

And what to do? Apparently, in my mind, depression was normal for pain. Who wouldn’t be, right? I mean, Pain. Not sunshine and rainbows is it? So I would push through All of it. Just survive that day and that day and that day. And sacrifice every aspect of my life in order to accomplish what is necessary. It doesn’t work. It makes the quality of life plummet. It makes everything suffer and you suffer. This is no way to live.

The problem is that the pain and the depression are then tangled. You can’t treat one without treating the other. If one isn’t managed the other suffers for it. The depression certainly was worse with pain for me and with the pain not managed it caused a lot of issues with the depression, even when I did start to get help therapy wise for the depression. I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder at the time but not put on any medication for it, which is likely a good thing considering I shouldn’t be on antidepressants as they make my mood substantially worse. But without pain management, I had a hard time making any progress.

Chronic pain management, on the other hand, is something that is a very slow process even once you Do get the right medical team. It improves by increments. So initially they may put you on a painkiller which helps a little. Then start you on physiotherapy and exercise and that is an arduous task in itself and one you won’t see improvements right away. Then, for me, they recommended mindful meditation and you have to get into the habit of that, but see some benefits to stress reduction pretty quickly. They may have other pain treatments like shots of some sort… Botox for migraines in my case. All of this takes time and they try one thing and progress to another or combine. They will review medication and maybe take you off some. I was taken off Lyrica due to its fatigue effects which inhibit one’s capacity to exercise. This can take years to see benefits or months. Some people get this sort of treatment of the get-go. Only took me roughly 20 years.

Add that to a psychologist who also knows a thing or two about chronic pain and you begin to adapt your coping strategies. Not to mention, in my case, depression medication. For me Abilify, due to my sensitivity to antidepressants. Nothing to be ashamed about, taking medication. I certainly noticed a substantial difference, in my case, and evening out the moods enables one to cope with the emotional stress of coping with pain a lot easier. Because there will always be emotional strain dealing with pain.

Also in my case recently I have had a lot of benefits from the Oska Pulse (you can actually get the Oska Pulse at 5% discount) which has really bumped up my chronic pain management to a new level. Also enabling me to do the exercise therapy quite a bit better than I was able to before, which is awesome. Today I broke my exercise record, in fact. A goal I had for some time and now it is achieved. Need a new goal now.

So I really don’t think I would have managed the depression well without a) medication and b) proper pain management. And I would have struggled with even the routine of some of the chronic pain management things like exercise or anything without some sort of depression treatment. They co-exist in a puzzle that seems needs to be untangled together.

In the end, it is about quality of life and what you can do to live better with the pain that you have knowing that the pain itself isn’t going anywhere. But we can manage that pain and we can decrease the suffering from that pain. The recipe for both though is different for us all because both conditions are complex on their own, let alone combined.

More depression posts:

Depression: do not med shame me

Depression is more than emotion

Depression matters: some really, real questions I can answer

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