Be the Best You

By Barby Ingle, Columnist

Recently Melania Trump unveiled her "Be Best” campaign, which focuses on the well-being of children, their use of social media, and preventing opioid abuse and bullying. The First Lady wants to promote healthy living, kindness and respect so that children are better prepared physically and emotionally to face the challenges of tomorrow.

“It remains our generation’s moral imperative to take responsibility and help our children manage the many issues they are facing today, including encouraging positive social, emotional, and physical habits,” she said.

Those are admirable goals. But I strongly believe that we need to make tomorrow the best it can be for everyone – including the pain community. The same challenges the First Lady sees for children are faced by everyone who is living in pain, disabled or is a caregiver for someone in pain.

Since 2012, I have been losing too many friends to suicide who are not being adequately treated or who don’t have access to proper and timely care. Instead of society stepping up and helping, I have seen the bullies (in our community and in the general public) berate and beat down people in pain who want to live, thrive and succeed despite the challenges they face. Pain patients are committing or attempting suicide at an alarming rate.

We can make a difference if we use our voices to encourage positive social, emotional and physical well-being. By living with purpose and exuding positive attitudes, pain patients will be better equipped to deal with the physical and emotional challenges we face.

In recent years, I have been happy to see many pain patients and caregivers use their voices to speak out and work to create the change we need. We have begun to see our stories and efforts get some attention in the local and national media.

Although we are just scratching the surface, we are making change happen. We have to continue creating that change with hope, resilience and strength more than ever.

I get many calls and emails from patients who have been poorly treated in their search for pain care, threatened on social media, and criticized for trying to show the plight of pain sufferers and their lack of access to effective treatment.

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I have seen firsthand how this lack of compassion has affected both pain patients and addicts, who together make up more than a third of our society. Some addicts are stepping up and saying what is happening to pain patients because of sweeping measures to prevent opioid abuse is not right, compassionate or ethical. 

I hope that the efforts of both the pain and addiction communities will show the administration and Congress that we need to work on both the pain epidemic and the lack of access to proper and timely pain care.  I hope you will join in these efforts in your own way. It shouldn’t matter where we live, how rich or poor we are, or what our health is like. We should have less stigma and more compassion for the suffering. 

Ordinary people can do extraordinary things. Let’s make it our mission to have our own “Be Best” campaign. This doesn’t mean being perfect or making change in one day. It means recognizing areas where change is needed and coming up with solutions. A place to start is understanding and sharing core beliefs that we can agree on. There are four beliefs as a pain patient that I subscribe to:

  1. Chronic pain is a real and complex disease that may exist by itself or be linked with other medical conditions. 
  2. Effective pain care requires access to a range of treatment options, many of which are currently being denied. 
  3. Chronic pain is an unrecognized public health crisis with devastating personal and economic impact.
  4. Allowing people to suffer with unmanaged pain is immoral and unethical. 

These goals were agreed on two years ago by over 70 healthcare and advocacy organizations in a letter to Congress urging it to implement the National Pain Strategy. Isn’t it time we started acting on that?

I believe that we can agree on actionable solutions that promote better well-being for all. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on tools and skills that will improve the social, emotional and physical health of pain patients. We need more than pain organizations to make these changes. We need patients, families, caregivers, providers and the public to help us solve the challenges we face as a pain community.

We have a purpose to be your best you. What is it that you can do to be your best?  

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Barby Ingle lives with reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), migralepsy and endometriosis. Barby is a chronic pain educator, patient advocate, and president of the International Pain Foundation. She is also a motivational speaker and best-selling author on pain topics. More information about Barby can be found at 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.