I have been diagnosed fibromyalgia, panic disorder, insomnia and quite a few other conditions for five years now. I have experienced a lot and have struggled to find the help I need to make it through my day-to-day routine, much less when life throws me curveballs. I have tried and put into place all manner of methods of managing my conditions. I have changed diet, put in a modified exercise regiment and adjusted my life to fit my condition. I also take prescribed opioids.
News outlets have been reporting on the “opioid crisis” that has arisen. They talk about the real effects on people’s lives. They talk about the families being torn apart with the misuse of the drug. They are representing every side of the issue. Except mine.
I, like many others with chronic illness, rely on the use of these drugs to lead a somewhat regular life. Understandably, we do not represent all responsible opioid use. However, we do regularly get added to the group of people who abuse opioids. The news loves to report the numbers of total users or the max number of prescribed people in U.S. Using these numbers, all kinds of data can be thrown around as to the approximate number of abusers. I am not ignoring the rising numbers of opioid-related deaths. I fear that too many people are caught up in the panic and it is hurting the people who need the help.
I have recently changed pharmacies due to the national response. CVS has come out to say they will not prescribe more than a week’s worth of an opioid to cut down on the number of pills in the public. This hurts in several ways. I now have more co-pays to look forward to paying. I now have the stress of going to the pharmacy once a week instead of once a month. I get to be faced with the pharmacy techs who judge me on my condition. They have to evaluate what I take, how many I take and how often I take it to ensure I am doing everything correctly. It can feel humiliating and debilitating.
It can also lead to them to refusing to fill a medication. When I was first being diagnosed, I had a tech tell me I couldn’t have any more medication, even though I was taking them as prescribed. I have also been through the panic of not being able to see the doctor in time or canceling my appointment so I end up running out before I can get the help I need.
It is so tight now. My new doctor has a new form I had to fill out saying I have to bring all my meds into the office each visit and be subjected to random pill count checks. To quote a friend, “This is victim shaming.” We are not getting the prescribed medications from a drug dealer. We are getting these medications from a licensed doctor who has examined, poked, prodded and run tests to find out what can help. We are not using these pills for recreational use. We are using them so we can get out of bed and live a somewhat normal life and have a job.
This is a crisis. My crisis. My own personal war inside me. I have to fight to get help. I have to fight to get time to go to the doctor each time. Taking off work to go see a doctor takes a lot of time and most jobs are not forgiving. I have to look at what I have and ration. I have several medications that are “as needed.” Do I take them now when I am having a rough day or do I save them in case I have a worse day? Why do I have to choose? Who is speaking for me? For us? I am only one small voice on a small platform. I am speaking up. Don’t forget us in the crisis.