AbleismPersonal Stories

OMG Chemicals!1!!1

I don’t remember when it was that I realized that when people said they didn’t want to be “dependent on chemicals,” they were referring to people like me. I just know there was a point in my life where I expected people to be able to see that I was the exception to this stereotype, and that currently, I have no such expectation of other people.

My Gramgram sends out a letter to everyone in the family regularly updating us all on her comings and goings. Her most recent letter caught me off-guard in an all-too-familiar way.

Recently, the LA Times ran an article about two counties suing the major drug manufacturers for deceptive practices in their pushing of addictive drugs. It is about time! I do not believe in “better living through chemistry.” Opiates are so dangerous, they should only be used in a hospital or hospice setting where there is constant monitoring or care.

I think it is disgraceful to prescribe opiates to people who need to be fully cognizant and walking around. The wide use of opiates has spakred a lot of the traffic in heroin. It is cheaper than painkillers. I just had a roto-call asking me if I was in pain. I should call the district attorney and report it.

First, let me say, I have experience as an non-hospice opiate patient. Years before my syndrome was diagnosed, I had a lot of pain. It’s hard to say when it started, but it peaked in severity and functional impairment (i.e. my hands were so hypersensitive to pain – hyperalgesic – that I couldn’t do basic things like turning the lock on a door) one day, which resulted in a hospitalization and the prescription to me of both a regular pain regimen and two additional different opiates for so-called breaththrough pain.

The pain specialist actually got pretty close to the diagnosis – she deduced from my symptoms that cranial and cervical nerves were inflamed – but she was wrong about the cause (she thought it was viral) and therefore offered a laughably incorrect prognosis (“It’ll just fade away over the next few weeks.”

Gramgram knows all this, but thought nothing of sending me a letter insinuating that I had difficulty being “fully cognizant and walking around” during that year and a half did not register as a shitty thing to say. It’s so far off the able-bodied radar that a person they know and interact with on a regular basis could be on not just one, but a “cocktail” of medication. Only those people take drugs – you’re clearly not one of those people.

Yet, the stigma readily attaches if the wrong person finds out. At the moment, I’m waiting for my attorney to share with me the recent deposition videos pertaining to my lawsuit. This particular deposition was of the doctor who told my employer that I had failed a physical he is now insisting he never actually conducted.

It came out during the questioning that he had decided to report that I had failed – before I had even been tested – simply because I take the medications I do. He testified that I “shouldn’t even be working” if I take those medications. He called me a danger to society and a threat to the public and to myself, as well as to his wife and kids “who use those roads!”

He said driving on the medication regimen I’d been on for several years without a problem was like getting behind the wheel after mixing alcohol and valium, which is ridiculous and shows his ignorance of a lot of pharmacology. I thought he had played a bit part in the whole debacle, but in fact, he was the one who was most directly responsible for my being discriminated against.

And, he says, he never even spoke to me.

I chose the featured image today because I wanted to remind myself of where I used to be and how far I’ve come. No, that’s not me in the photo, but I still have my ratty old wrist braces from the 2 years I wore them. During that two years, my hands hurt constantly and I had a lot of neuropathy. What changed? I started taking chemicals. You know, to live better.

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Yessenia is a graduate student studying to be a speech therapist with an emphasis on traumatic brain injuries. She spends far too much time correcting the wrong people on the internet, lifting heavy things and training her cats. She's a proud internet atheist and trolls only for the greater good.


  1. June 25, 2014 at 10:49 pm —

    As someone who lives with a whole host of co-morbid conditions including fibromyalgia, that article (and the forwarding of it) is utter fail. I don’t take opiates every day, but when I need them it’s the only thing that allows me to function a bit. Doctors and others who don’t get that actively harm people with chronic pain. Thanks for taking this on.

    • June 26, 2014 at 11:51 am —

      This has been my experience too. It helps that opiates actually don’t help the bulk of my pain very much (for the year and a half that that was my regimen, my hands still hurt most of the time and I wasn’t able to go on the trips I wanted to because I couldn’t stand the pain of the car ride), but the times I’ve still needed them, I’ve encountered a range of attitudes. E.g. I used to get debilitating cramps and ovarian cysts. When I asked for an opiate pain medication prescription for the days of the month I seriously couldn’t walk because of the pain, he told me that I’d better not be ‘back in here every month’ or it would ‘send up red flags.’ As if it’d be somehow surprising that a MONTHLY pain condition might cause MONTHLY pain. I mean the only reason I was asking him was because the chronic pain program at that hospital had told me I really didn’t need any special management if I only needed enough for one week a month, and I could just ask my regular doctor. Shortly after that, I started a different birth control that stopped the pain altogether, so it became a moot point, but I am still angry thinking about that doctor.

  2. January 8, 2016 at 7:48 am —

    Thank you for writing this. I hope this doesn’t offend you, but Gramgram can suck it. I suffer from an incredibly shitty disease that – alongside a slew of other dreadful symptoms – causes me near-constant, debilitating pain. If not for hydrocodone, oxycodone, and the occasional need for IV dilaudid during ER visits, I’d rarely make it out of bed. I thank Science everyday for the existence of these opiate pain meds because they give me the quality-of-life everyone deserves. There are many people who share the same opinion as Gramgram and it makes me sad and so disappointed. This lack of compassion and empathy only seems to be worsening — or perhaps I only notice it more since my disease onset. Either way, it stinks.


    Thanks. Good read!

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