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I struggle with low self-esteem because of using narcotics!! Do you?

Disabled-DoctorDDisabled-Doctor Posts: 9
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:36 AM in Pain Medications
As my screen name implies I am a disabled doctor. On one hand I was blessed with a very good brain. I was always Valedictorian, Highest this, of best of that, etc. I resigned from my last job as an Associate Professor of Internal Medicine at University of Colorado at 42. On the other hand I suffered from neck pain since I was 27 years old. It gradually progressed to unbearable pain in 1999. I was crying myself to sleep every night for 5 years, because I did not want to take any pain medicine. In 2004 I had C5,6,7 Ant fusion, and a revision of that in 2005 and finally, removal of all ant. Hardware and Post. Fusion.
I spent all my adult life hearing, “Narc. Seeker”, and I still sense the Villain-ization by the Medical Community.
I struggle with low self-esteem even though, I know how much it hurts without the medication. Where do we draw the line between tolerance to medications and the psychological addiction.



  • Iam fused c4-c7 with hard ware and herniated above and below my fusion... I do have chronic pain and if I don't stay on top of my medication the pain gets out of control. But, I find myself hiding the fact that I have to take all of these pain meds because Iam afraid of what people will say, So, I find myself hiding in the bath room or somewhere if Iam at a function when it's med time. I think it's sad that we have to feel this way, after all we didn't ask for this, I would much rather live a normal life. I also find myself hiding the fact that Iam on SSD because of the way people feel about that. I feel some people would think Iam just lazy and don't want to work, which is totally oposite of how Iam!!!My first job was when I was 14 years old and i had worked since, I actually loved the job I had when I had to quit, I worked for a home care company as the home care coordinator, I loved helping others. But, there were also those few clients that you could tell were taking advantage of the system, I do not want to be labled as one of those people.
    It sounds like your really down on yourself and I know how you feel but like I said before, we didn't ask for this!!! I still have nights where I cry myself to sleep in pain even with all of the meds Iam on. I wish there were a medical cure for chronic pain, wouldn't that be awesome. Besides being hard on us it is really hard on our families, I feel terrible most of the time. I feel like a failure as a wife and sometimes like the worst mom in the word because I can't do the things I would like to do.
    If you ever want to talk or just vent PM me I would love to be there for you...
  • I too feel the same way at times. I know that I would feel so much worse though if I didn't take my meds. I just wrote in another post about how my family is against me taking pain meds especially my husband. Until they have to live the pain I do 24/7 they have no right to make any assumptions or opinions.

    There are a couple of reasons why I don't like people to know that I take pain meds. #1 as soon as they find out it seems they have some terrible tooth ache or headache and was wondering if I could "help" them out. Which I do not hand out my pain meds for the simple fact they are for my condition only and I'm only allowed so many and I have to go through monthly appts, pill counts etc to get them. #2 is the same reason as mentioned above. I often wonder what people would say or what they think. I don't want to be labeled as a drug addict or seeker. I'm sure I wouldn't feel this way if I had to take meds to control diabetes or a heart condition, why is this any different? It's a medical condition too.

    I know quite a few people in my area that take advantage of SSDI and workers comp. They are out cutting down trees, 4wheeling, playing darts and horseshoes, basketball etc. I would love to take pics and turn them in. They have gotten their houses redone by our town due to their disabilities and get a lot of benefits that I can't even get. I sit and stare at my brand new 4wheeler that I only got about 3-4 months of riding out of it before my back got really bad. Now I watch my husband and all his friends take it out riding even though I make the payments. I can't imagine going 4wheeling or any of the other things I see these other people doing.

    I sometimes get embarrassed when I run into friends I haven't seen in a long time and they ask what I do and I tell them I'm disabled and then they ask well what are the docs doing and I have to explain they are just trying to keep me comfortable with meds for right now.
  • I know it's hard to be on narcotics as being on the other side now being a patient. You're not addicted. You're dependent on these meds to keep you from the pain just like insulin for a diabetic or any other condition. There's bad stigma about narcotics and it's only because there are some who abuse narcs but you need to take them to overall live. I take ms contin 120 mg a day and I feel no emotional high just less pain and that's the purpose of medications. I noticed certain meds like percocet for me brings a personality change and not too fond of those but the slow release meds help especially to tide me over through the night to get a good sleep. Once I know that the meds help me function it's all "about me" not what anyone else thinks especially the medical community. Take care.
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • I feel so blessed to have family and friends that don’t judge me for taking pain meds. I have a doctor that doesn’t judge me or feel that I am over dramatizing when I tell her how I am doing with my health and coping with my pain (for the last year I have dealing with repeated sinus infection and migraines on top of the pain). If I am showing signs of pain my wife will always ask if I have forgotten to take my pain meds, or if I need to take a breakthrough pill. Even with all the support I get I still have issues with being labeled as a chronic pain sufferer that is dependent on pain medication.
    On the days where I take my daily pain medications and life goes on as my new norm (working part time as a painting contractor and doing the best I can as a husband and a father), I do fairly well mentally. I enjoy life and have a positive outlook on my future. But when I do something to aggravate my back, which is often because it doesn’t take much at all, I have a hard time balancing the pain. I will try not to take pain meds when I probably should, and then end up having to take extra because I am playing catch up with the pain. On these days it is hard to think of anything else but pain and it’s very easy to get down on life.
    I’m sure that most people think that when chronic pain sufferers take pain meds, their pain goes away and they are in happy land. Of course all of us know this is far from the truth, when the pain is bad enough for most of us to take break though meds, getting out of pain is not possible. We may get to a tolerable dazed level, but the pain never goes away.
    I don’t know if it’s low self esteem due to taking the meds as much as low confidence in my ability regulates anything in my life. I went to the zoo with my wife and 2 year old daughter a couple of weeks ago and have been in pain ever since. When it takes so little to drastically alter your pain level for days or weeks you get a bit shell shocked over time. Meds may compound this because it may alter your judgment and dictate if you can do certain things, but with or without the meds there is the pain. I honestly don’t know if there is much difference in the mental state of a chronic pain sufferer with or without pain meds, they both are impaired mentally and physically and both are going to have to live a life much differently than a person in good health.
  • No- I dont have low-self esteem about taking meds.
  • I think this is such an important sentence especially for those who don't feel our pain (literally). Neednewback made such a great point when he said......."I’m sure that most people think that when chronic pain sufferers take pain meds, their pain goes away and they are in happy land. Of course all of us know this is far from the truth, when the pain is bad enough for most of us to take break though meds, getting out of pain is not possible. We may get to a tolerable dazed level, but the pain never goes away."
  • I understand how you are feeling. I had a problem taking meds because I did not want to become dependant on them. But then, I realiazed that the only way I was going to have any kind of life is to use pain medications. If I dont, I will miss my grandchildren growing up, my relationship with my husband , my childrens lifes and everything else. I was not able to function without them, so they are a necessary part of my life. Do I like it, NO. But I also want to be able to do some things, and that means taking them to be able. Dont feel bad, no one understands more than you and the people here. I just got to the point that I didnt care. People can see it in the way I walk, the look in my eyes. They know that we take them because of necessity. Good Luck and God Bless.
  • Duplicate post removed by moderator paulgla (10/1/09). Please refer to forum rules regarding duplicate posting.
  • It bothers me when there is such stigma attached to narc pain meds. At best these medications make my pain tolerable. it never truly goes away. And I am starting to suspect it never will and that scares the hell out of me. I am 43 years old with no life. I cannot currently do my job that requires sitting for extended periods. I wish everyone (family, friends, co-workers) understood how chronic pain effects someone mentally and physically. That might lessen the stigma we all feel at some time.

    Dis Doctor, Have you seen a therapist? It might help you deal with some of this. It has helped me some, when I go. My co-pays make that difficult.

    Best of luck to all. I wish us all a pain free existence.
  • It's something 99% of us deal with. Mine was more feeling like a burden when I had to stop working and couldn't contribute to the family ad I did before.
    It's been a long road to get over it.
    I don't feel that way now with the support of my parents who are now feeling the wear and tear on there bodies with age, now they can't imagine my pain compared to the pain they have and can now understand better what I'm dealing with.
    My kids have seen the tears and pain i've had so long that they are very protective of momma and are such great support, I never have to ask them to do a thing. They just do it cuz they don't want me to hurt myself. It all caused my divorce from hubby, the depression was too much for him, but now we are back together, not remarried yet but working at it. I had to get my mind right, and I have.
    I accept now this is my life and it us better than the alternative.
    I don't give a crap what someone else may think of me. I may not look crippled but they don't have xray vision! The only thing that matters is how I feel and how my family feels.
    Without them I wouldn't survive it all!
    Good luck to you! And I know talking bout it helps more than anything! Whether her with us who understand or a proffessional, what ever it takes!
    Take care of YOU!!!
  • Do you watch House? He's my role model (just kidding). He sure manages to keep his self esteem (and arrogance) in tact while popping his Vicodin. (BTW, why isn't he on long-acting meds? HMMPH. Susan
  • Because then he'd probably be more mellow and less grouchy - they need to keep him obnoxious and irascible to keep the show interesting! ;-)
  • And he could be my dr anyday, LOL
    Yeah, I don't get why he's on it either, he's still all those thing, huggy without meds. LOL
  • I absolutely do not have any self esteem issues with having to take narcotics, or even from being in chronic pain. The meds are a tool to help subside the pain when it gets to be too much. As for being a chronic pain patient, it is what it is. There's nothing that's going to change it. You just have to make the changes and adjustments in your life to be able to carry on. And if taking narcotics is one of those things, then so be it (as long as you take them as prescribed, of course).
    APROUD CANADIANveteranButNOTa doctor, my thoughts are my own
  • You shouldn't feel bad about having to take pain meds...you have a legitimate condition which is very painful, and it has to be managed so that you can have some function- just like diabetics, asthmatics, people with lupus or other autoimmune disorders, etc. I try not to let the stigma bother me and I won't let anyone disrespect me because I'm taking narcotics for chronic pain. If it happens, put your foot down, and take your business elsewhere. You deserve dignified and courteous treatment just like any other patient, and friends and family should be loving and supportive towards you. I guess you can say I have a no nonsense approach to anyone who decides to be ignorant or put me down for using these meds. Stand your ground and hold your head up high. And please don't suffer because you're worried about someone else' reaction who DOES NOT have terrible pain like you do. It is okay and it is your right to take something to help you make it through the day. Take care >:D<
  • I am fortunate in that for the most part, medications like Ultram have helped me. Nevertheless, when things have been bad (before and after my first surgery) I took several brands (not together) of medication to deal with pain. My take on this is (as my subject line indicates) the easiest part of all of this; I simply don't care what people think about my taking (or not taking) pain medication.

    I am answerable to my physician, and to those friends and family members who I rely on, and who in turn, rely on me. That simplifies things for me because I am not accountable to the arrogant pharmacy technician who likes to cock an eyebrow when a refill of (insert narcotic pain medication here) is ready to be dispensed. If they want to judge, great. If they think I'm waywardly flushing my life away, OK. If everyone in the world woke up tomorrow and cared about what I take and at what interval I take it, one could not pay me to care any less than I do today.

    I have a number of issues to deal with in life, and I imagine you are very much dealing with issues of your own. Things I worry about include managing my staff of twenty-four, making sure the water/sewer/garbage bill is paid, and making sure those people I care about in life, are cared for.

    I have absolutely NO time to worry about social stigmas, armchair QBs who can solve all of their pain issues with Tylenol, or with self-righteous purists who think I'm living simply to find my next "high." What they think, what they feel, the whispers they engage in as I leave their office/pharmacy are of no value to me and don't serve me in the least. To let them occupy space in either my mind or my life, is to waste time and energy on things that simply do not matter.

    YOUR pain management protocols are between you, your family, and your doctor. That is where it should end, and for me, that is where it DOES end.

    Bottom line--my health, my healing, and my back attached to my body is more important to me than people who think I'm taking the easy way out when I use medications.

    Be honest with yourself, with your doctor(s) and with those for whom you care. Let everything else become "white noise," and never forget that you can walk through life with your head up and your eyes fixed forward, with no shame, no guilt, and no remorse at the very moment you decide that what other people think/feel/project is, and will forever be, outside of your ability to control.

    Don't ever, EVER allow that which you cannot control to control you; for nothing is a bigger waste of your time, your love, and your life.

  • Nice job, there. Very nicely put. Couldn't have said it better myself...

  • ...but society has a stigma against narcotics. Pain killers are so abused that the people who need them take a beating because of those who abuse them.

    You don't have to explain or prove yourself to most people you meet. Now when it is your family. You can't just dismiss them. You need to work it out and come to some kind of terms. Everyone else can go fly a kite.

    I wouldn't be proud of or want House as your role model ;-) He is the perfect example of abuse of pain killers. He elicits the reasons people look at chronic pain people as drug addicts. That said, I do like the show.

    Like House, there are drug addicts in society, and on this forum. They use Chronic Pain as one way to get at prescription drugs. There is no simple way to see the difference or weed them out.
  • I feel guilty and down on myself for the small amount of meds that I take. My problems aren't nearly as bad an other people's here and I constantly wonder how much of my pain is in my head. So, every day I fight with myself and don't take my meds until I am in enough pain that I can't stand it. I am afraid to tell any doc how much this pain is effecting my life, because I don't want 1) to be seen as a drug seeker or 2) to be given more than the moderate amount of drugs that I have now. I am terrified of becoming an addict if I ask for more. But I am still missing some work each month due to pain. I just don't know what to do. I'm a 37 year old husband and father of 2 beautiful daughters and sometimes I cry myself to sleep at night. I feel my life is out of my control and I am totally at a loss for where to go from here.
  • i have a knee jerk reaction to my favorite phrase
    self esteem- right out of the 60's encounter group
    it is used in education all the time
    there is a joke in teaching, he has self esteem but he can't read
    question-why do you feel down on yourself with meds. that is what they are for. to take and to use to help with pain. you my friend have been brainwashed by the medical profession and because of this this is why all of us chronic pain patients have to deal with this crap every day. if drs prescribe to people who need them then we would be better off. unfortunately dr's look in the worse of people thinking they are drug seekers. you need to inform and educate your profession. you are in an ideal postition to inform other drs about meds. narcotics do not harm you physically unless there is a lot of tylenol or advil involved, oxycontin and fenatyl don't have these so they are not physically harmful. people like celebrity rehab and that quack dr drew are what is wrong with meds. meds are there to help but for god's sake don't take them. they help but if you take them they don't help. what b.s.
    so get off your self pity and educate your profession to help us. you of all people should not be in a self pity mode over meds. this anti narcotic stuff from educated dr's really fries my bacon. it is bad enough i have to justify narcotics with friends workers and family. i have to keep it a secret when i see a new dr because i feel that i will be judged negatively. it happened in hospital once were nurse chastised me because i left off my narcotic meds because i did not want to get lectured or judged. you are in a positon to help all with the positive useage of narcotics. i have never felt or never will feel guilty about taking narcotics because i use them for pain and not to get high
    I have 4 fusions from L5-3, the latest last May '12 where they fixed my disc that broke.They went through my side this time. I take 40 mg of oxycontin 4x a day and 4 fenatyl lollipops 300 micro gms 4x a day.
  • My heart goes out to you cuz I know how you feel. Maybe you need to take the meds regularly and not skip a dose, that way you are not chasing your pain. If you wait until you are in major pain before taking your meds, it's harder to bring the pain down. If you have chronic pain everyday and all day then you should be on some longer acting controlled release med (this is just my opinion my the way).

    I would try to skip doses quite a while back cuz I didn't want to take them due to the hard time I get from my husband and parents about taking pain meds but it was harder to control my pain when waiting until the pain was too far out of control.

    I hope I am making sense. Please feel free to PM me if you have any questions, comments or just need someone to chat with.
    Dedalus said:
    I feel guilty and down on myself for the small amount of meds that I take. My problems aren't nearly as bad an other people's here and I constantly wonder how much of my pain is in my head. So, every day I fight with myself and don't take my meds until I am in enough pain that I can't stand it. I am afraid to tell any doc how much this pain is effecting my life, because I don't want 1) to be seen as a drug seeker or 2) to be given more than the moderate amount of drugs that I have now. I am terrified of becoming an addict if I ask for more. But I am still missing some work each month due to pain. I just don't know what to do. I'm a 37 year old husband and father of 2 beautiful daughters and sometimes I cry myself to sleep at night. I feel my life is out of my control and I am totally at a loss for where to go from here.
  • I'm confused. You're a physican, a chronic pain patient and you still don't seem to understand that chronic pain is a disease. It's no different than hypertension, diabetes or any other chronic illness.
    It needs to be treated ethically, and with appropriate mediations. One physican told me that when he was in medical school, treating pain was like treating a fever, find out what causes the fever and treat the problem Little was understood about pain when it was chronic and benign.
    Maybe I've been lucky, I've had some very compassionate people caring for me. They never question my motives or treat me like a drug seeker. They seem to realize that a lot of people like me, work, have families, have outside interests and also have pain.
    Honesty has worked well for me. I also have reasonable expectations. I'll never be without pain, but as least it's manageable. When it flares up, I tell the doctor and we deal with it. When I have improvement, we back off of the meds and I move on.
    Overall, I'm doing ok, not great, but ok..
  • I have a love-hate relationship with my medications.
    I love them when they help me, when my back pain has ceased enough for me to do the dishes, pick up my daughter, clean my house.
    I love them when I feel decent enough to pick up the phone and talk to friends and family instead of ignoring the call because dealing with anything seems like too much.
    I hate them when I get looks for a pharmacist or a tech. I hate them when I get a lecture from an ER doctor about presenting myself with "invisible pain" (anything they can't see with a naked eye i.e. a broken leg) and "addiction".
    Compared to many people I am not on alot of medication.
    If I get the crap I do about my doses, I wonder what some of you on much stronger medications have gone through. It's terrible.
    My step-father (who is now dead) was a "pill popper". He would take like 30 soma and 30 vicodin at a time. He would pass out for hours and be so messed up that he would urinate and deficate on himself while zonked out. He was looking for the high and the escape.
    WE are looking for relief and quality of life, a sense of normality. Because of people like my step-father...we suffer, and it's not fair.
    He died and his well-to-do parents didn't give a crap during his life about what he was up to, despite the warnings closest to him. They want to shift them blame off of him, so they pulled his Rx records and determined that he was being given "WAY too many pills". They filed suit against his doctor, and now that doctor either cannot prescribe certain medications ever, or for a specific time frame, I am not sure.
    I told her "the doctor and the pharmacy didn't put them in his mouth 60 or more at a time...that was his doing".
    She didn't like that much.
    Those that don't abuse unfortunately suffer because of those that do.
    I have a new doctor as of today, and for the first time I have signed a pain contract. I was a little irritated because of course I get the lecture right off. But I'm hoping that once I go through all the testing he asks me for, and gets my records from previous doctors, he will see that this is something I've addressed at every angle. I have tried several things to help with pain. I'm hoping that he will trust me and treat me better shortly. It's becoming very hard to deal with the scrutiny. I am simply doing the best I can to have as normal a life as possible.
  • Wow, you have been through so much at such an early age. It really is difficult dealing with this when you are young. I think the stigma of pain meds is even worse when you are younger. I'm 31 (will be 32 next month) and really having a hard time accepting this at times.

    Your post is so similar to how I feel. I'm sorry to hear about your step-father. I can't imagine taking that many pills at once. I'd be dead. It does suck that those are the ones that ruin it for us that are really suffering in pain and depend on these meds to help cope with our chronic pain.

    Please feel free to PM me if you have any questions or would just like to chat with someone who understands what you are going through.
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