Pain Advocacy: United We Stand, Divided We Disappear

30 Sep

by Heather Grace, IPJ Staff Writer

As Pain Awareness Month draws to a close, I’ve been thinking a lot about the overriding message… Why it is we all work so hard and what we are trying to accomplish. Pain advocacy is so important, especially with the many mixed messages out there, always confusing the public about whether there are any actual people with pain, or whether we are all a bunch of wanna-be junkies.

I really think the tide is turning, and this year, 2011, was an important one. The IOM report did a lot to open people’s hearts and minds. And the work of organizations both national and local, helped a lot to foster a positive message.

This is why our fight is so important, and this is the start of something really important, for all people with pain. The future can be a really bright one if we all realize that advocacy isn’t something for someone else to do. Advocacy is important to all the people who have been hurt, mistreated, suffered due to negligence or even ignorance, about the proper way to treat chronic and Intractable Pain.

I heard this quote in a documentary about being deaf in today’s world. It was talking about how easy it was for society to disregard the deaf. That as society grows, deaf people tend to blend in and eventually become outsiders. How true that is, for all people with pain, as well. Just as you cannot tell someone is deaf just by looking at them, you cannot tell—in most cases—that someone has chronic or Intractable Pain. Though our illness may be invisible to many, our passion, our drive and our voices ARE NOT.

I think that the reason this fight has touched us all so deeply, and brought us into advocacy with both feet is simple:

“UNITED WE STAND,
DIVIDED WE DISAPPEAR”

The ways in which we’ve all suffered indignities–and even just indifference–makes it easy to see how small our world can become if we don’t fight for better pain care, as well as acceptance.

We must stand up and be counted, and tell everyone about our experiences… Tell them all how difficult it has been to live in our world. We must keep fighting until the everyone else with pain is able to join the fight, alongside us!

I AM ALREADY AN ADVOCATE

For those of you already doing this important work, I am grateful! To my fellow advocates, I want you to know that I treasure your contributions to this important cause, and understand the difficult choices you face. I see the work you are doing, to make the world a better place for all people with all types of pain. It surprises me, each year, how hard everyone fights, through their own serious illness, to help others… the 116+ million of us with chronic pain.

Thank you for working through your own difficult circumstances, for braving the toughest days, doing what you needed to do, to be there, even the times when you really should NOT have been, because the pain was so severe. It is both heart-wrenching and inspiring, that you would risk your own health, sacrificing for this cause, for all of us. I am so thankful to work with people who are as dedicated as I am, and willing to give their all, literally.

As October approaches, I hope you will all take the time to relax, recharge and renew… Gain back anything that you lost due to the many ways you pushed yourself, to make a difference for the entire pain community. I hope you will stay connected, and be out there fighting, when you can. But please, give yourself a break, when you cannot.

I WANT TO BECOME AN ADVOCATE

For those of you who are interested in getting involved, but do not know where to begin, here are some suggestions:

Not sure what to do or where to do it? If you are looking for a very specific idea, based on your skills, challenges or even just your location, email me. I would be happy to provide you with personalized suggestions, based on your unique situation.

So, Pain Awareness Month is almost over. But, it’s not too late to have a positive impact. Whether it is September 2011, or you are reading this months or years from the time I wrote it, you have the power to act… Right here, right now. Become an advocate, for yourself. Or, for someone you love. If you are already doing this powerful work, there is something else I would like you to do. Though admittedly, I really overdid it this month, I’ve still been doing little things to bring people with pain together—asking them if they would be interested in also doing this important work. I invite you to do the same:

THE INVITATION

Please, reach out to someone you may not have reached out to before. Ask him/her to join this fight. If you see the heart of an advocate in them, tell them so! Also, tell them what you do to make the world better place for people with pain. Invite them to join you! The more we reach out to help others who feel alone and invisible because of their pain, the more we become a powerful voice of unity, speaking out about pain.

Thanks for taking an interest in pain advocacy. I hope this will be the first step among many to come. Remember, there are many of us out here, and we are all working for the same common goal. Isn’t it better to be working together? Let’s do it!

Take care, everyone! xo Heather Grace

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