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Opinion: Support Desperately Needed for Those Suffering from Chronic Pain

Lonely. The problem is lonely.

I am a Social Security disability attorney. I help people get disability benefits. Over the past 13 years, I have interviewed approximately 10,000 people living with chronic pain. I have interviewed them, talked to their doctors and read their medical records. I do not have a study to support my conclusions, but I do have my direct observations.

Pain is isolating. The worst part of living with chronic pain is not the pain, it is the loneliness. It is not being understood or believed. People do not want to believe it can happen to them, so they tend to find ways to blame those in pain for somehow creating their own plight. You cannot see pain, so others tend to want to believe you are making it up – or trying to get drugs – or lazy – or just being a self involved pain in the neck.

And so the isolation starts. Physically, you cannot do the things you did enjoy doing. Fishing, bowling, hiking. So those social avenues close. It is not fun to hang out with someone who cannot get up and do fun things with you. And sometimes, you do get hooked on the medications, which is an easy thing to do when you have lost your friends. Then you are a drug addict, so of course you are to be avoided.

There is a narcotics epidemic. There is a drastic increase in suicide rates for middle aged people. I do not have a study to point to, but I know why.

Every single day, I speak to someone in severe chronic pain who is socially isolated. Here is what they do not know: I spoke to 10 other people this week who live in their same town who also feel like they are the only ones. Here is what I do know: these people need to meet each other.

There must be a support group in every single county of this state for people living with chronic pain. There must be a place where they can meet each other to share strategies for coping and perhaps even thriving. Ideally, this support group would be facilitated by a counselor trained in teaching people techniques for coping with chronic pain. A place to find a support system of friends who understand. A place where people can share with each other how they find hope.

I know this needs to happen, but I do not know how yet. This is the part where I need your help. I am looking for help with collecting ideas about how to make this happen as soon as possible, because it needed to happen a long time ago.

I am calling my project Got Your Back – Friends helping friends to live well with chronic pain – @gotyourbacksc. Right now, it is a Facebook page. Please visit and comment and share messages with me there.

I will be contacting the state house committee that is investigating ways to deal with the narcotics epidemic. I will be contacting all the doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists and counselors I know who also deal with people in chronic pain. I will be contacting the disability judges. If you have any other ideas about how to make this happen, ASAP, please let me know.
This is an emergency.

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