You’re Good, If….
Jun 27th, 2012 | by CareSource
By Jennifer Dozer, Behavioral Health
The other week I caught myself bragging, “I’ve spent 48 hours of my life in labor, but didn’t feel I needed any pain medications.” Of course, both births ended up with c-sections, but there was no brag that I didn’t need any medication after those surgeries. Pass the pain medication please!
There is a common sentiment that one is better or stronger for not taking any medications. We value independence and autonomy. Needing help of any kind, even to ease severe pain, is not something we like to admit. There is a stigma attached to this. With neurobiological disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, this is especially true.
When I was in 5th grade, we spent one semester in gym class trying to climb a huge rope that hung from the ceiling. Touching the ceiling meant you got an “A”, making it three-quarters of the way up got you a “B”, making it half-way got you a “C”, and wrapping your arms and legs around the rope and hanging on for dear life for 30 seconds meant you squeaked by with a “D”. Touching the mat before that 30 seconds was up was instant failure.
Being the puny bookish type that preferred frequenting Star Trek conventions, I did not have a prayer of ever reaching the top of that rope. What fifth-grader lifts weights, after all? My natural abilities earned me a “D”, and just barely.
If I had had help, say, a small cherry-picker, a ladder, or a human pyramid of cheerleaders, I could have reached the top. I probably could have somewhat improved my natural abilities through weight-lifting and practice, but doubt I could ever reach the top without a major intervention.
If it’s unfair to do this to kids, why do we do this as adults? Don’t we all deserve an “A” in Life?
This is why I felt so bad, once I noticed I was starting to brag about not needing pain relief. For all I knew, the person I was talking to could have secretly had a health condition that required lifelong daily medication to control. Maybe they were undergoing cancer treatment and needed nausea medications to live through the side effects of treatment. Was I inadvertently reinforcing the stigma of needing medication and, in essence, shaming them for something they could not control?
The really absurd thing, though, is that I have chronic autoimmune disease that requires daily medication to be the best wife/mother/employee that I can be, unencumbered by excessive pain.
I really ought to have known better than to utter such words. As a behavioral health nurse, I have spent a lot of time working against the stigma of taking daily medications. Our thoughts, our emotions, and our relationships with others are right at the core of our beings. It can be deeply uncomfortable to admit to anyone we need a hand up to reach our fullest potential.
Stigmatizing thoughts almost always begin with “You are good, if…” Isn’t it time, then, that we stop bragging about how strong we are if we do without, and start bragging about how strong we are, period. No qualifiers needed.