When professionals don’t understand pain

Yesterday I received a letter from a medical professional that was inadequate to say the least. But the most insulting part of all was the inclusion of several “pain level questionnaires” to help me keep my pain in perspective.

My immediate response was to begin listing every swear word I knew from A-Z (suggest some for me to add next time in the comments?) but the longer term anger comes from frustration that I am used to after dealing with medical professionals who have no understanding of what it means to be in pain constantly. They do things like this, sending you little happy quizzes that they don’t actually give a damn about the results of, and the subliminal tag with that is “come on, it’s not that bad dear”. Well you know what, it IS that bad. And scoring something out of six won’t suddenly make me think otherwise.

I was to score things between 0 and 6 with my ‘confidence’ and these were the questions:

  1. I can enjoy things, despite the pain
  2. I can do most of the household chores (e.g. tidying-up, washing dishes, etc) despite the pain
  3. I can socialise with my friends or family as often as I used to despite the pain
  4. I can cope with my pain in most situations
  5. I can do some form of work, despite the pain (work includes housework, paid and unpaid work)
  6. I an still do many of the things I enjoy doing, such as hobbies or leisure activities, despite rge pain
  7. I can cope with my pain without medications
  8. I can still accomplish most of my goals in life, despite the pain
  9. I can live a normal lifestyle, despite the pain
  10. I can gradually become more active, despite the pain

I was sent several of these to take at different times. Please imagine me saying that in a patronizing, sickeningly sweet tone of voice, because vomit is pretty damn close to my reaction.

I’m sure that scores like this are good for people recovering from temporary but painful injuries, such as a broken bone, a nasty bout of flu, and recovery from surgery, but for chronic pain, when it’s already been made abundantly clear that things are seriously worse than normal? It’s the biggest load of bullshit I’ve ever had in the post, frankly.

Oh, and if I was to take the quiz, I’d be in minus numbers.

It’s hard enough when friends and family members don’t understand what you’re dealing with, but when you get the same – or worse – from people who are supposed to be responsible to aspects of your medical care, it’s like banging your head against a brick wall. But more painful, because your trust is invalidated, and the isolation more brutal, when you realize you can’t rely on professionals to understand.

Yes there are some fantastic doctors and nurses out there, but YOU DO NOT SEND PAIN QUESTIONNAIRES OUT TO PEOPLE WITH CHRONIC PAIN. Just don’t. It makes you look like a bloody idiot. Especially if in a phone call before prior to this letter, it has been stated that you’re incapable of any of these things, because that then looks like failure to listen entirely. And that, honestly, makes you not very good at your job.


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