Dear Mom, I’m Not Prince
I’m not Prince.
I’m not secretly taking Fentanyl or having to land my private jet in Illinois in order to get revived from a drug overdose. I’m not addicted to prescription opioid painkiller medication, nor will I end up slumped in an elevator at Paisley Park (or anywhere else). I will also not turn into a heroin addict, living on the street with a needle sticking out of my arm, resembling an emaciated Ewan McGregor in “Trainspotting.” My doctor won’t let that happen and I won’t let that happen. Have you seen “Trainspotting?” No thanks.
There is panic in the media almost constantly about the “Opioid Crisis,” and I realize you’re scared and you don’t want anything bad to happen to me–like those addicts shown on T.V. I also realize that even though you’re my mother and close to me, you don’t understand what it’s like trying live with the constant severe pain of RA. I get the feeling you don’t trust that I know what I’m doing managing my health and RA, and that’s both infuriating and demoralizing. My health is a top priority in my life and I treat it as a very important full-time job. I don’t want to end up with an addiction or dead in an elevator either, believe me.
While I agree that opioid abuse is definitely a problem, I also feel frustrated that only one side of the story is being told in the media. What about people who suffer from chronic pain, like me, who sometimes really need painkiller medication and who take the drugs responsibly? I feel like everyone (who doesn’t understand chronic pain) is basically freaking out about opioid addiction and abuse now, which is increasing stigma and shame for anybody who takes these drugs.
As your daughter, who loves you very much, of course I don’t want to see you worried or upset about me. But I also need to have the freedom and respect to responsibly take prescription painkillers if my doctor and I feel it’s necessary. I shouldn’t have to feel like criminal, forced to hide pill bottles, or answer probing, intrusive questions about which medications I took today. I can’t breathe, and it’s not from opiates
Before he died, Prince and I did share some things in common: short stature, dark hair and eyes, a hometown of Minneapolis, and chronic pain. However, I think that’s where the commonalities end. I’m not a musical genius or a rich superstar, and that’s probably a good thing. Maybe if I were those things, I would be a real drug addict. But I’m not and I never have been. I firmly intend to remain addiction-free, because think about it–do I really need any more problems to deal with? I don’t think so.
I wish someone would tell CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta (and whoever else is spreading opioid sensationalism) to calm down, or at least to try to calm down the mothers and families of those who suffer from chronic pain and take pain medication responsibly. I’m so tired of major news outlets hurling scary statistics at us, implying that if you put even one Percocet in your mouth, you’ll turn into an insatiable addict, ruined for life.
Calm down, Mom. Please calm down. Remember, opioids have some nasty side-effects, such as chronic constipation, dizziness, and physical tolerance. And do you remember those horrible, hair-drenching sweating episodes I developed from taking Vicodin? If that isn’t deterrent enough, I don’t know what is. Walking around with sweat drops in my eyes and toweling off with Kleenex and napkins all day, every day, is not my idea of a good time. I’d much rather find a better, less sweaty method of pain relief.
So, I don’t really know what else to say except to stress again how I am not anything like Prince regarding chronic pain (mis)management. I’m responsible, aware, and cautious–not to mention paranoid of getting any new health problems. Like you, I’m also a neurotic worrywart (I say this in a loving manner), and I do not want to get sucked into painkiller addiction!
Before I close this letter, I want to reassure you that I’m managing my pain responsibly and with the help and supervision of a physician. I hope you will see that I am an intelligent and well-informed patient. I also hope you’ll see, with the help of this letter, the ridiculousness of some of the media hysteria surrounding opioid drugs. Please understand that media hype is influencing more and more government crackdowns that only further hurt those patients who are already suffering and in pain. We who take prescription painkillers responsibly should not be punished for the abuse and addiction of others.
Please, Mom, hear me out and trust me–I’m not Prince. I don’t even like purple.
With great love and respect,