In January 2018, Chronic Pain Australia the national voice of people living with chronic pain, launched its Lived Experience series which is designed to explain to people who don’t live with chronic pain what life is like for those who do.
Our members have told us that in some circumstances health professionals and people in their support network often don’t have an understanding or empathy for their experience of living with chronic pain. This contributes to the distress of chronic pain and is very detrimental to their recovery.
We believe that de-stigmatising chronic pain to the Australian community is essential and helps save lives.
I have been living with chronic pain on and off for more than ten years and I am at the point where medication is my only viable option. I hurt my back in a fall at work, because of that I have had three surgeries on discs in my lower back over the space of about five years. Before all these surgeries I was placed on medication until it was clear that surgery was the only option. The medication was Oxycontin and Lyrica. After each surgery I stopped taking these medications pretty quickly.
I have lived with severe, disabling, chonic, non - cancer pain for over twenty years. It hasn't been fun, and I've lost a great deal - my career, my strenuous outdoor pursuits, (horse riding, distance swimming, motorcycle riding), my independence, my faith in God, my faith in human nature and the ability to be able to make snap decisions on where I go and what I do in my day.
Imagine being in pain every second of every minute of every hour of every week of every month of every year for the rest of your life. This is the reality people with chronic pain (CP) face, and I find it surreal this is my reality now. Life was not meant to be this way. Especially not for me, once a high achieving, vibrant and enthusiastic young woman. And especially not since I'm an experienced physiotherapist on my way to a PhD and yet I can't fix myself. In fact, no-one can fix me, not any of the fourteen wonderful pain/mental health professionals I work with, not any of the thirteen pain, psychiatric and other medications I take. This pain will be with me forever.
I had major spinal surgery for spondylolisthesis in April 2013. One of my vertebrae had slipped out of line (after having my first baby), and there was no disc at all. So, they needed to fuse L5/S1 vertebrae together, put in a cage and two screws to hold me up. I had a 1 year old and a 4-month-old. I couldn’t carry my baby for many months. I needed the help of my mother and an in-home nanny which we really couldn’t afford but there was no other way to get through the day. It took 4 years to recover from and I still have some pain today. However, since that surgery I now have neck degeneration which causes sever migraines and shoulder pain. This is an ongoing problem, which I will manage for the rest of my life. I have lived with chronic pain now for 7 years as the pain started when I had my first baby.