Sunday, February 10, 2008

Pain and Depression: An Unfortunate Partnership

Living personally with chronic pain and chronic depression, I am seeing manifest in my own life how these two conditions so frequently feed off of one another. These insidious parasites will, if not paid a fair amount of attention, bleed the joy from one's life without a second glance, and anyone who suffers from either knows how, from one moment to the next, life can indeed be turned on its head.

As far as research goes, the jury is in: depression actually can cause pain, and chronic pain can lead to chronic depression. According to some studies, up to two thirds of patients with depression who are interviewed will report moderate to severe pain, with the back, the joints, the head and the abdomen as the most common areas of complaint.

For me, the depression has been life-long, as far back as I can detect---even to childhood. As far as pain is concerned, what used to be periodic back pain requiring intermittent chiropractic and massage has now mushroomed into chronic pain (which is often between 6 and 8 on a severity scale of 1 to 10) and which has begun to limit my ability to do the things I love. A year or so ago, when the pain was really beginning to ramp up in intensity, I made a promise to myself that I would not allow myself to begin that inexorable slide down the slippery slope of loss that pain can instigate. But as I have communicated here on Digital Doorway before, those losses have begun to take place, and I pray that some of those losses will eventually be reversed.

The scary thing about pain which has neurological symptoms is the potential for an underlying neurological disorder such as Multiple Sclerosis. I have seen enough patients with neurological illnesses to know that it is not a fun place to spend one's days, and I am clearly hoping that my forthcoming evaluations over the next few months will reveal a true lack of chronic neurological illness. Still, I realize that this is a potential outcome, and I really should be prepared for anything.

As for depression, it certainly does not make pain any better, and on days when my pain is at its worst---like yesterday, for instance---depression will often deepen. For several decades now, antidepressants, psychotherapy, diet, exercise and a loving and supportive wife have been the cornerstones of my armamentarium against depression. Now, I need similar success in my battle against pain, although up until now, the pain has been winning out.

Stay tuned for news from my own personal medical front line, as I seek a referral to a neurologist in order to delve deeper into the potential roots of my pain. And perhaps, with any luck, I can manifest further healing in my own life, and be of even greater service to others as I greatly wish to be.
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