Chucking away the parachute

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I’m about to take a flying leap off my safety ledge. That’s what it feels like.

After several months of attempting to go off my pain medication (only the night time dose), I eventually called defeat and went back to the doctor.

I thought I had been doing okay until I looked at the amount of over-the-counter codeine-based painkillers* I was taking for ‘breakout pain’. I was starting to take them regularly, just so that I could sleep.

The thing about those meds is, they may be much weaker than my prescription painkillers, but those puppies will mess you up. They have far more tendency to provoke side-effects, including actually giving you extremely nasty headaches, and mucking about with your digestion, which is really no fun even if you like prunes as much as I do. And they’re addictive.

And it occurred to me that the ‘breakout pain’ they were supposed to be dealing with probably wasn’t breakout pain at all, so much as the same old usual pain, just poorly controlled.

So back to the doc went I. ‘Doc,’ I says. ‘You’ve got to help me. I want to get off these things but it’s not happening. Also, yowch with the painzilla, man.’****

So the doc (pain specialist actually) and I hatched a Cunning Plan: in a couple of days I will take up my Keta-lump and head back into hospital for my second K-Date, and while I’m there I’ll use it as an opportunity to go off all opiate-based meds.

Which may not be much fun. As I now understand, a week on a Special K drip isn’t all red jelly and spacey dreams about being a clownfish. It’s also about nausea, horribly painful mattresses, migraines and snoring embarrassingly loudly. And then there’s no safety-net of nice comforting opiates to take some of the pressure off.

I doubt I’ve been on them long enough to be hugely addicted, so at least it won’t be the fully withdrawal monty. I’m just slightly emotionally addicted to having a reliable way to escape the worst of the pain for a while.

But I have noticed that my daytime dose is not helping nearly as well as it used to: so I have only 3 opions anyway. To increase them and maybe head on down the road to eventual physical addiction; to stay as I am while the therapeutic effect gradually wears off; or get off the things altogether and learn to deal. Which is, I feel, the best choice for me.

So the idea is that I can surf into my opiate-free dream life on a wave of pain-decreasing ketamine, and hope the effects of my second infusion will be cumulative.

Another thing that I hope might help is that I convinced my GP to help me look for a diagnosis for all the muscle and nerve pain, capital F Fatigue, general malaise and brain-fartery that I have been increasingly getting.

It’s been around for a while but gradually growing and starting to get to the stage that it’s seriously impacting on my life again.

It’s been unusually difficult to get some attention paid to it by the medics.

I report it constantly but I think in the usual 15-minute rushed consultations that are targeted at specific, already-diagnosed issues, it tends to slip through the cracks. Or else get chalked up to ‘side effects’.

So I booked my wonderful, understanding GP for a long session so that we’d have time to really discuss it. Then I told her what the problem was, that I wanted to try and get it diagnosed, and why.

The ‘why’ was the important bit. Frankly I’m not sure if there is any way to treat these things that I’m not already doing, but it has been over a year and I still haven’t managed to get back to longer work hours, and that is most definitely not through lack of trying.

The fatigue, stiffness and brain fog are as much the reason for this as my back pain. In fact, these days probably more, actually.

So it’s probably not as simple as getting my workspace zhooshed by a physiotherapist or my movements and posture corrected by an occupational therapist, and voila! less painy, more worky.

In fact after around 4 hours or so at work my brain switches off like a boiling kettle, my body is overwhelmingly tired, and I need to spend 3-4 hours in the afternoon just lying down, in order to have enough energy to eat dinner and get myself back to bed. Which is boring, painful, frustrating and not nearly as nice as it sounds in theory.

But I can’t just expect the Powers of Capitalism to take my word for it when I say that I can’t handle extra hours at work. The only way they can reasonably be expected to tell me apart from a naughty slacking slacker who isn’t paying enough tax is if I have a real diagnosis from a real medical professional agreeing that yes, in fact I genuinely do feel pretty darn awful and staying at work to stare blankly at my screen wondering what day it is, where I am and what this blinky thing in front of me is, is probably not productive for anyone.

Anyhoo, my GP took the luxury of having a nice long appointment to go right back through my medical history, saw a trend that did indeed fit with my tale of woe, and decided that it was time to have a talk with my rheumatologist.

My rheumatologist in turn agreed that yes, perhaps there us something else going on apart from the inflammatory arthritis for which I’m already getting treatment. He is sending me on a new round of exciting tests to check for various other autoimmune problems. (In fact I’m blogging this while gently glowing in the dark as I’m about to get yet another scan-whilst-lightly-radioactive. My life is weird.)

I’m happy to do so, because even if none of the tests show anything in particular, even a diagnosis-by-exclusion would be some sort of key, necessary to unlock the heavy, creaking and reluctantly-opening doors of various employee disability assistance schemes.

Anyhoo, so this is where I’m at. A new round of tests and getting my Dress Jimjams ready for another week’s stint on an IV.

I promise to let you all know how that one goes.
* Yes, the same ones you see all over the news, in hysterical headlines using the word (ugh) ‘epidemic’** and letting everyone know exactly how much money those pesky chronic pain sufferers are frivolously ripping out of your pocket in the form of taxes, in their highly suspect quests to live a life in less pain, while occasionally inconveniently dying from overdoses.***

** I am growing to hate the word ‘epidemic’ almost as much as I already hate the words ‘popup’, ‘flexitarian’ and ‘clean eating’. Please stop using them. Thank you.

*** I’m sorry, I don’t mean to trivialise the problems of opiate overdoses. I feel desperately sad that it should ever come to this. I would probably like to see less finger-waggling at ‘drug-seeking behaviour’ and pearl-clutching about the accessibility of these medications, and a bit more focus on why people might feel they don’t have the resources, the capacity or the desire to access less harmful and longer-term options.

**** I didn’t put it exactly like this, although I think I might indeed have used the terms ‘yowchie’ and ‘painzilla’ in there somewhere DON’T JUDGE ME.

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