Does Pain Make Us Scared to Go to the Doctor?

So I was speaking with a friend the other day. This is a friend who has recurrent acute pain, not chronic pain, just to be clear. But it’s still relevant to the discussion we started here the other day about how the war on drugs has created this adversarial relationship between doctors and patients.

She’s been trying to get a diagnosis of her pain, which recurs periodically and is pretty severe–severe enough to put her in the bed for several hours when it hits, anyway–for over a year now. After a series of tests revealed lots of little things but no smoking gun, she had to stop the process when her COBRA’d insurance coverage ran out in November. She’ll be covered again in May or June, but until then, she has to carefully manage her access to doctors because of the expense.

So, quite by accident, when she had two root canals in the space of 48 hours and was given tramadol (yep, my old friend) to manage the mouth pain, she found out that the tramadol actually worked on her recurrent acute stomach pain, too. In fact, it’s the only thing that’s ever helped. She’s deathly allergic to morphine and its pure derivatives, so a whole class of pain meds is out of bounds for her. Finding tramadol was for her, as it was for me, a life saver.

Except these pills came from a dentist.

And at the time of our conversation a few days ago, she had experienced two severe bouts of the abdominal pain in a week. And she had exactly four pills left.

She was panicked. That’s why she’d called me. She realized she wasn’t thinking clearly but here’s how she explained what she was thinking:

So, let’s say I go to the doctor. I ask for more tramadol. He says “no.” Because there’s nothing else I can take, he says “take Tylenol” — which we already know doesn’t work for me. And now I’ve got the expense of a doctor visit, no pain relief, and I’ve been labeled a drug seeker.

I get it, and I told her so. Then I suggested she go ahead and make the appointment now, while she had those four pills left, so she could show the doctor she’d carefully rationed the pills and used them only during her flareups. That she was, in fact, not a drug seeker. She agreed that made sense.

This is what it comes down to, dolls. We’re now at the point where we anticipate the suspicion and a lack of medical care.

Doctors, are you listening? We are afraid of you. More specifically, we’ve become afraid to trust you, to seek medical care, for fear that you will jump to unwarranted conclusions.

Now, true, a lot of the responsibility for this falls on us — your patients. And we’re doing what we can to educate ourselves, conquer our fears, and reach out to you.

Are you willing to meet us halfway here?


9 thoughts on “Does Pain Make Us Scared to Go to the Doctor?

    1. Annie Post author

      Yep, and the sad part is so many of us are allowing the fear to make us silent. I wonder, too, how much of this is to blame for folks looking for other, less orthodox ways of getting their meds, which just perpetuates the problem.

  1. Shannon

    I’m scared too! I’m right in the process of switching from one insurance to another, and having to find a new set of doctors. What if I cannot find anyone to keep me with my current meds, that work for me?

    I wrote about this last Saturday and will be writing about the next step this weekend. Anyone have ideas for what I should have together when meeting a new pain doctor, besides a pain log, a patient history, and a letter from my current physician about how he’s been treating me?
    Shannon recently posted..Tuesday-Newsday #49. What a doll!

    1. Annie Post author

      Shannon, it sounds to me like you’ve got it together there. I would suggest, since you are nervous about it, grabbing a good friend to role-play with you. We usually fear the unknown, so make it known. If you have someone with mad acting skillz, all the better — have him/her play the part of a gruff, overworked, snappish doc, and then you practice going over the initial consult talk with him/her. This really helps calm the nerves, I find. You might discover some questions you don’t have good answers for, so you can come up with something in advance to address those questions and practice keeping your cool, which helps diminish the fear. Good luck, doll!

    1. Annie Post author

      Aw, {{{Margaux}}} … gentle hugs to you. Consider the possibility that finding the *RIGHT* doctor can help you manage your pain more effectively and reduce the need to go to the doc in the first place. Please keep in touch – I’m dropping you a personal note via email, too.

  2. Joanne

    I think there’s nothing to be afraid with doctors it’s better to have attachments with the Doctor than letting yourself suffer with a kind of sick.
    Joanne recently posted..Wedding Mate. What a doll!

  3. Brandi

    Oh Annie I am so glad I am finally finding Euston Arch! And this post hits so close to home, sooooo close. I stopped going to any and all doctors about 2 years ago for these reasons exactly. I started going again last summer, though, since I wasn’t getting any better. I’m still working on it. Finding this blog will be a huge support <3


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge