A Canadian Asks ‘Where the Hell Am I?’

By Ann Marie Gaudon, Columnist

I hear more and more stories like Elizabeth Matlack’s, a lifelong chronic pain sufferer who recently wrote about her problems getting adequate pain medication in Canada. (See “Who Benefits From My Suffering?”).

Not only do I live in a chronically pained body, I feel pain for her. I feel pain for all of those who struggle each and every day, who are now being medically abandoned. Imagine, the only thing any of them has ever done is to end up with a pained body. As I read these stories, there seems to be no stem to the flow. I am beginning to ask myself, “Where the hell am I?”

Just like Elizabeth, I am also Canadian. All my life I’ve lived here and felt so grateful for it. All my life I basically felt safe. I felt secure. I felt that my needs were looked after. I was damned proud of our medical system too. From a blood test to chemotherapy, whatever might come my way, I had faith that I’d be cared for and that I wouldn’t have to claim bankruptcy to get it.

I’ve known for many years that treatment for chronic pain has always been woefully inadequate. I held out hope that good people with good intentions would come to care about this too. In a safe place like Canada, surely it was just a matter of time.

Then I was aghast and insulted to hear that our very own prime minister said that chronic pain was “low grade, but very annoying.” In a cooperative place like Canada, surely someone will educate him to let him know the degree of suffering, disability and high rate of suicidality chronic pain patients have.



Won’t noble physicians with an intense desire to ease that suffering and do justice to their oaths come soon to advocate for us and improve our care? As I look around today, not seeing a trace of this, I am forced to ask myself, “Where the hell am I?”

I’ve lived enough years to know that people don’t generally do things for no reason and the reasons are plentiful. Money, fame, prestige, power, a moral sense of self-righteousness; there are a lot to choose from. Who benefits from a fabricated war on defenseless chronic pain patients while chasing the wrong crisis with a boat load of unproven assumptions?

Somebody somewhere does. You can be sure that there are too many hands in too many pockets to count. They all knew that chronic pain patients would be collateral damage, but the one thing they all have in common is they just don’t care.

Our Canadian government willingly let this happen under the disingenuous guise of “we have to protect you from your pain medications.” Imagine, you’ve been stable with nature’s gift of the most effective medication for your severe pain and now you can’t have it.

No Opioids Webinar

On the same day as I read about Elizabeth, I watched a webinar about how to treat chronic pain without opioids. The narrator was a physician who reportedly specialized in chronic pain. He was very efficient with his colour-coded columns of the categorizations of diseases and which treatments were suited to each.

Then something caught my eye. I noticed a chronic disease called interstitial cystitis was grouped together with pain central sensitization disorders. In bold font on the chart for this group was written: “NO Opioids!!”

Ironically, a few days before this, I was contacted by a woman diagnosed with this very disease. She was admitted into a hospital, where she emailed me. She wrote that a scope into her bladder revealed mass inflammation and lesions that the urologist described as “looking like cigarette burns throughout her bladder.” Her body was breaking down. Too much pain for too long. She was admitted with excessive sweating, soaring blood pressure, fever, and shaking uncontrollably.

It's likely her fight-or-flight response had become pathological in the face of intolerable, relentless pain. I have recently read that unrelieved pain complicates all other co-existing conditions through these stress mechanisms. She is also diabetic.

What would those who promote Canada’s new opioid guidelines -- which have made a mockery of chronic pain – suggest for this woman?  Would she be offered chiropractic care to make her right as rain? Perhaps Advil because that has an anti-inflammatory in it?

The webinar doctor made jokes along the way, such as “No one ever died from mindfulness.” So maybe we’ll start with meditation. She can’t think straight right now? Then maybe she should try yoga on her stretcher.

What became crystal clear watching the webinar is that these people don’t know a damned thing about chronic pain, especially severe pain. But so much worse yet – they don’t care to know -- so long as they get to pontificate about the demon opioid medication and the demons who have been taking them.  

The reality is that this woman has a significant risk of being dead soon. We know the guidelines have already played an unspeakable part in the deaths of chronic pain patients in the way of medical collapse and suicide. But no one seems to care about that either.

This isn’t the place that I grew up in. This isn’t the place where I felt safe, secure and cared for. This is an immoral place where those at the top serve their own political agenda. Yes, I said political because there’s no medical facts driving this out-of-control freight train.

This is an unethical place where the suffering are drop-kicked off a cliff and where the self-righteous and self-serving call down, “It sure sucks to be you.”

I don’t recognize Canada anymore. I’ve never lived in a place with such cruelty inflicted on such a vulnerable group. I didn’t grow up in a place with such a pervasive ultra-conservative meanness, where those in power exclusively serve themselves and to hell with the underdog – let them suffer until the bitter end.

Who benefits from Elizabeth’s suffering? Somebody somewhere does. As for the Canada I used to know and love, I can no longer see it or feel its reassurance. I guess I’ll have to continue to ask, “Where the hell am I?”

Because at this point, I just can’t figure it out.


Ann Marie Gaudon is a registered social worker and psychotherapist in the Waterloo region of Ontario, Canada with a specialty in chronic pain management.  She has been a chronic pain patient for 33 years and works part-time as her health allows. For more information about Ann Marie's counseling services, visit her website.

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.