Right now it’s 11:20 pm and I’m in bed with my heating pad trying to avoid taking narcotic pain medicine. The pain is overwhelming to both my body and mind. I’ve spent the last week being unable to sleep because of the severe pain in my hips and back due to my Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (a connective tissue disorder you can read more about here).

I am a 21-year-old female living with chronic pain. I am fighting stigmas every day. Did you know that doctors do not take the word of a female in pain as seriously as they do that of a male? This is proven research, and I have found it to be too true with many doctors.

I have some great doctors. But when I say I’m in extreme pain on a daily basis, I often do not get taken seriously.

I can't count the number of times I've been told that it's hormones, my low activity level, or "just normal aches and pains." I've been told to work on my core strength, my posture, and to get out and walk more often. I have EDS, chronic nerve pain and suspected fibromyalgia, scoliosis, and osteoporosis; these conditions are just not fixed as simply as that. I've tried acupuncture, chiropractors, essential oils, physical therapy, and almost everything else in the book. I try my best to manage my pain without medication.

I know I appear from the outside to be a pretty happy, “healthy” person, but just because I can manage a smile doesn’t mean I’m not in pain.

I stopped taking ibuprofen awhile ago due to the risk of rebound headaches and ulcers in my already sensitive stomach and because they simply don’t help with the level of pain I’m in now; but when doctors suggest I take Ibuprofen or Tylenol for my pain, I just want to laugh at them.

Due to my extremely slow moving GI tract, narcotics are not a popular medicine to prescribe for my pain. One major side effect of these medications is constipation and delayed gastric emptying. That can be a problem! However, I believe that it is my choice whether I would rather be in excruciating pain or risk adding a little more constipation to my already non-functioning colon (my colon is literally almost completely paralyzed!).

I am not addicted to narcotics. I do not self medicate with street drugs. However, I need pain relief.

There is such a negative stigma about the use of narcotic pain medication for chronic pain, but why should so many of us live in such pain? Why should we feel guilty or ashamed for asking for and using the only kind of medication that even comes close to helping with the pain?

Pain is a brutal and demonizing symptom, and to deal with it every day and not know for how long it will go on is daunting. Pain drains your energy and it kills your spirit. The chronic illness community needs more resources and better pain management, yet sadly it only seems to be getting harder and harder to find these resources.

I fight a daily battle with pain. And not having adequate pain management resources and also feeling conflicted about the “good” pain medication (the stuff that works), just makes being in so much pain even harder.

If you struggle with chronic pain, I urge you to advocate for yourself and find a doctor who takes you seriously and is willing to treat your pain. You are deserving of relief.

If you are someone who has a bias or judgment against people who take pain medication on a regular basis, I encourage you to imagine living in severe pain on a daily basis. Imagine not being able to go to work or go out and have fun; do you think you would want pain relief if you were the one living in pain 24/7?

I’m a 21 year old female living with chronic pain and I am fighting the stigma.