Pill-Shaming The Chronically Ill
Last updated: December 2019
I've had my fair share of pill experiences since I've been sick. Although before I was sick, I avoided almost all medications other than Ibuprofen. But sadly, sometimes, you actually don't have a choice whether or not to take any. I feel that's what's most misunderstood and what leads to pill-shaming. There have been times that if I didn't take medications, I would have blacked out and needed to go to the hospital. Then the worst part is that it is likely you'll get a doctor in the hospital who doesn't believe your pain. You could end up not even getting the pain management you need. Sadly, doctors can be the worst when it comes to pill-shaming. This can make us feel even more let down than by others.
It's a full time job, being sick
It's easy for those who don't feel our pain, to say things like, "You don't need that" or "Just take Tylenol". For us, we know our pain inside and out. We live in complete survival mode. This means that we do whatever we can to survive, even if that means taking medicine we don't want to. Every sick person that has taken medication, has tried everything else. Frankly, it can be hard to hear others' suggestions when we have a full time job being sick. We already know it all, at this point.
The blame game
Another thing pill-shaming does is makes us feel like our pain isn't real or we aren't strong enough to handle it without medication. This can weigh on us emotionally because it isolates us and brings us down. Really, we should be proud that we are doing everything we can so we do manage our pain. No one in that amount of pain should feel like they aren't being heard. Lack of support and understanding can lead to depression, something all too common with the chronically ill. Hearing things like "I know you're in a lot of pain and I hope your medications can make you feel more comfortable" can be really nice to hear from others. Or, "I know you're doing all you can to feel better and I'm proud of you".
No one wants to take medications. All these side effects and warnings can be awful. That being said, I understand why some with pain might chose not to take them at all. But when the pain itself is worse than the side effects, it can be a last option to get through the day, or for some, to get through a period of time. Just like medications for mental health, they should never be discouraged upon if that's what is helping someone survive their pain. The most important message I have is that taking pills never makes you weak. It does not mean your pain is not valid or real. For those struggling with people in your life that are making you feel this way, I hope that opening up a conversation can help bring a better understanding to this issue.
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