Disclosure: I was given free access to watch “Pain Warriors” in exchange for this review. Even though I was gifted the opportunity to see the film, all opinions in this review are my own and were not in any way influenced by anyone associated with the film. This post may contain affiliate links.
When I mentioned I planned to review the “Pain Warriors” documentary here on FedUpwithFatigue.com, a couple of my chronic pain friends warned me the film was hard to watch.
They were right! It is heart-wrenching – mainly because I resonated so much with the chronic pain patients featured in the film. Their stories are also my story.
If you’ve followed news of the so-called opioid epidemic for the past few years, then you know the media’s narrative has not been helpful to people living in pain. Those of us with chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia have largely been ignored amid the many tear-inducing interviews of family members who have lost loved ones to opioid overdoses.
I would never discount the pain of losing a loved one to drug addition, but there is another side to the opioid epidemic … the side of chronic pain patients who have lost access to the medications that enabled them to function day-to-day with some semblance of normalcy … the side of the physicians who have lost their medical licenses and been forced to close their practices because they dared to show compassion by treating patients in pain … the side of patients who lost all hope and decided the only way to stop the pain was to take their own lives.
“Pain Warriors” tells all of these stories.
The film “examines the invisible crisis of chronic pain in North America and its devastating toll on society. … ‘Pain Warriors’ tackles the other side of the opioid crisis – that of under treated pain patients and the slow death of compassion that surrounds them,” reads the “Pain Warriors” website.
Knowing I would likely become emotional, I decided to watch “Pain Warriors” on an evening when I was home alone. I’m glad I did because I lost count of the number of times I cried while watching it.
When I agreed to review the film, I had no idea one of the featured patients was a woman named Karen who committed suicide after developing chronic cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks.
Her story hit me hard because I was bedbound for much of 2018 due to my own CSF leak. After months of imaging tests and going from doctor-to-doctor-to doctor to get diagnosed, my leak was finally repaired in early 2019, but I am still living with daily debilitating headaches, neck pain, nausea, dizziness and other symptoms as a result of how long it took to find and repair my leak.
When I developed my leak, I was already living with chronic pain due to fibromyalgia, Lyme disease and a bulged disc in my back, so you can imagine what it’s been like to add additional chronic pain conditions on top of what I was already trying to manage.
I understand exactly why Karen took her own life. At my worst, I, too, have thought about suicide. After all, it’s hard to stay hopeful when you know more about your medical condition than most doctors, and you’re quickly running out of the few available treatment options.
After her death, Karen’s husband published a book of her journal entries detailing her life with chronic pain. As he read certain passages aloud during “Pain Warriors,” I recognized her hopelessness, her sadness, her frustration at a life unfairly stripped from her.
Her words were my words, and I wept … for her and her suffering … for her husband who lost his life partner … for me who is still dealing with daily pain … for all of us who live with these miserable, life-sucking conditions that steal our goals and dreams and our ability to function.
In addition to Karen, the documentary features the journey of Hunter, a boy who developed chronic pain following cancer treatment; Yanekah, a young mother who lives with chronic pain following a motor vehicle crash; and Sherri, a middle-aged woman with fibromyalgia and inflammatory bowel disease who took her own life due to untreated pain.
“Pain Warriors” also features several healthcare providers who are working tirelessly to help those living with chronic pain – even when it means possibly losing their licenses and ultimately, their livelihood.
My friends were right. “Pain Warriors” is tough to watch but we can’t and shouldn’t look away. We all need to do our parts to raise awareness of the other side of the opioid epidemic. It’s the only way we’ll ever be heard.
Want to watch “Pain Warriors”?
I recommend sharing “Pain Warriors” with family, friends, doctors and anyone else who struggles to understand the daily challenges of living with chronic pain.
The film is available for streaming on the following platforms:
Amazon also carries the film on DVD and blu-ray.
Now it’s your turn: Have you watched “Pain Warriors”? If so, what did you think of it? Share in the comments below!