The most important thing I want to tell people with chronic pain or chronic migraines is to pay attention when they have depression symptoms.
I advocate strongly for treatment of comorbid mental health issues because of what happened to me.
I have had pain pretty much all my life but when the chronic migraines were added to the fibromyalgia and hypermobility syndrome I had problems coping. At that time I likely had depression associated with chronic pain. It developed into Major Depressive Disorder though. Over the decade or so I had it undiagnosed and not treated.
Not that anyone would diagnose it or treat it, because I never said a word about it. I assumed it was normal to feel that way being in that much pain. I was quite aware I was depressed. I had depression when I was 18 and I knew what it felt like. Not to mention when my pain was high my mood plummeted like a rock into a pit of utter despair that was severe as it was potentially dangerous with suicidal ideation. I was aware. But I thought ‘Who wouldn’t feel this way with this pain? Who wouldn’t have those thoughts about pain like this?’ Well not everyone Does. It is necessary to have depression and pain.
Not only that but it severely compromised my capacity to cope. It decreased my motivation to do things. Increased my fatigue immensely. I wasn’t interested in anything at all. And I struggled a great deal with thoughts and beliefs about pain. It resulted in a lot of suicidal ideation because I thought it was madness to live this life of unmanaged pain. I thought the pain would last forever and there was no hope for treatment. Granted, past experience pretty much indicated that and at the time neuros were saying they ran out of ideas and had nothing for me. So I felt fundamentally hopeless.
I had a suicide attempt. At that point I admitted to the depression. However, suicide attempt and suicidal ideation can be just from the pain. Pain itself can kill. But in my case, I did have the depression there as well.
So I did therapy, which was unsuccessful. The therapist said I was too intelligent to argue with. I wasn’t arguing. I was telling her the perfectly valid reasons to believe the way I did due to the pain… in my mind at the time. And she could ‘argue’ against them. Which is ludicrous. She isn’t supposed to. She is supposed to talk about my cognitive reasoning. So that failed.
And it took some time. Until I found a new medical team. I saw two psychologists of my choices for a while, and they were good. But I couldn’t really afford it. I got a new doctor. Who sent me to the pain clinic. Then I saw their psychologist who has a lot of experience with chronic pain and he was wonderful. I saw their psychiatrist who put me on my depression medication. And that was like night and day for me. It made a Profound difference to me.
Because of the therapy and the medication I am able to cope with the pain better. The pain is the pain, but my coping skills are better. I can combat the thought spiral that occurs in high pain better. And my mood is evened out with no deep plummets.
When I think back on how hard I struggled just to exist I wish I could have found a way to get the proper treatment earlier. I suffered so much and saw no way through that suffering. I though that was it. My life is suffering. Suffering and trying to function with that suffering, which made it profoundly worse to think about. I don’t think anyone should have to go through that hell. Let alone for that long of a time period.
I lost a lot of things in that time. My confidence in my capacity to work. My self worth dropped like a rock. I became a hermit. Lost a lot of friends. Isolated myself. Isolated my spouse in the process.
You fear mentioning it to a doctor. Or I did. Because of the stigma. That they will say, oh, well, you don’t have pain after all… it is just the depression. Or treat you differently. And some doctors will treat you differently, they no longer take you seriously. So there is stigma. But I needed to have my life saved, and clearly I wasn’t on a path to save it myself. I needed help.
So if I were to say anything to someone with chronic pain is to watch out for the signs of depression. It is an insidious disease. It can kill. It can compromise your capacity to cope with your pain. And it can suck all the hope out of you. And you deserve treatment for it.