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Posts Tagged ‘chronic pain’

In my quest for alternative pain relief, I’ve recently had a couple massages. The first one was quite gentle and while it was enjoyable, the effects weren’t lasting beyond about an hour. So for the next one, I told the massage therapist to dig a little deeper, work on the muscles. The muscles in my back and neck are very, very tight, she admitted, but after working on them pretty hard, she said she felt they’d softened a little bit.

I felt okay during the day, but by early evening, the muscles in my back, neck and head were just screaming at me. Moving hurt. Breathing hurt. I was wishing for some bigtime pain meds, which don’t really exist. I have no idea if further massages are a good idea – if they can actually cause a more permenant softening of my hard and stubborn muscles, or if those muscles will just hurt more at the intrusion. Must do some research on that before the next scheduled appointment.

I was a bit nervous about my assessment for the pain clinic this morning, imagining this making my early-morning stiffness even more extreme. While you have to be in chronic pain to get into the program, you also have to have the stamina to hang out in their program all day.

I made it to my appointment on time, and it didn’t even feel hideously early. They asked me all kinds of questions about my pain and functioning, including one I hate. They asked me to rate my pain on a scale of one to ten, ten being the most unbearable pain you’ve experienced. This was a question I got in the hospital a lot, whenever I told them anything hurt.

The thing is, the ruptured colon totally reset the definition of number 10 for me. Compared to that, nothing else gets higher than maybe a 5 or 6. I figure the rupture probably occured around 9 pm, given that I suddenly felt a great deal more pain than before and ended up collapsing on the bathroom floor. But I didn’t get into surgery until 11 am. Add to that the dehydration caused profuse sweating from the pain and the fact that they wouldn’t allow me any liquids, and I felt really, really bad. I felt so bad that when the surgeon told me one possible outcome of the sugery was death, I didn’t care. I really didn’t. This is basically what I thought: “Okay, whatever. Just knock me out now.” During what could have been my last conscious moments on this earth, strapped down to the operating table, all I could do was complain that the mask put over my face to sedate me didn’t have a good enough seal and I wasn’t reaching unconscious fast enough. “Why am I still here?”

They say you can’t remember pain, and I’ve always found that to be crap. I remember my legs hurting when I was a child, remember how the pain felt. I can easily remember how badly my body aches when the FMS really flares, how migraines feel, how labour and delivery felt. But I cannot remember the pain of the rupture. I cannot bring it to mind at all. I only remember feeling miserable and moaning over and over, like a mantra, “It hurts, it hurts, it hurts.” I felt badly about that, worrying that I was upsetting my mother, who was standing beside my bed helpless to do anything at all to make it better, but I could not stop the moaning. I remember begging for sedation, not understanding why they couldn’t just knock me out that moment, even if they weren’t ready to operate.

Needless to say, that experience really messes up the bell curve when it comes to rating my pain. Assigning a number to a feeling is difficult enough as it is. So when they asked me the question this morning, I decided to remove the rupture from the curve, since it was pulling everything out of wack. I decided that when the nurse says that number 10 is the worst pain ever, she really didn’t mean pain that makes you uncaring of your own death, perhaps even welcoming of it. I decided that unmedicated childbirth could be the worst pain, or maybe the vicious migraines I’ve had, which make me want to hide in a dark room and not move, but have never had me contemplating death – those could be the 10.

After the assessment, which included many questions about my life and how I handle my FMS, the doctor told me that she wasn’t sure how much their program could really do for me. A lot of what they do, she said, was help people come to terms with their conditions and then learn how to appropriately pace themselves, something the doctor thinks I have done long ago. (J disagreed when I told him, saying I don’t know how to pace myself at all). Despite that, she did think that maybe they could still help. She said knowing something (how to hande one’s illness, for example) and doing it are not the same thing, and perhaps having everything in one place and working thought it intensively would be of benefit to me. That was pretty much the conclusion I had come to as well (although I was secretly hoping they knew some stuff I don’t already, and this meeting kind of popped that bubble).

All that being said, they rejected me. Thanks to my Nap, I’m not at the point where I could handle the intensity of their course. That was what I feared would happen. However, she suggested re-evaluating me in September. She did say that it was just a matter of time. I just need to recover from, as she put it ‘this insult to your body’ and eventually they will accept me.

I consoled myself when I left by popping over to a large and marvelous garden centre near there and getting a couple little plants for the few gaps still in my front garden. Green things make everything better in spring. 

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I was up reasonably bright and early this morning because Asher had a play at school I had to attend first thing. The play was happy thing #1.

(Asher with two co-stars who are ‘on a bus.’ If he looks way taller than they are, well, that is because he is.)

We, the audience, got to experience the play three times in a row, as there were not nearly enough roles to go around. It was okay because the play wasn’t that long and the children were uber-cute, even the ones I wasn’t directly related to. As 8-turning-9 years old, they are right on the cusp of being too old for this sort of thing and yet not quite. They are still into it, and yet you can see hints of the grown-up people they are becoming, which I found utterly charming.

Asher was the narrator in the third play, sharing his duties with another kid. In the first two plays, the narrator was not a shared role. In fact, in the first play, the kid who narrated not only knew all his lines but every single line in the entire play. It was very entertaining watching him stand off to the side, lips moving silently as the other kids spoke their lines. It was like he was the puppet master.

Despite sharing the narrating duties, Asher still had a lot of lines, way more than I expected him to have in a play, especially a French play. He had about 10 lines, which is 9 more than I thought I’d hear out of him. It was the second-biggest role in the play. Needless to say, I love his French teacher. I always liked her, but now I love her.

I don’t actually just love her for seeing the potential to memorize that many lines in my space cadet of a son, but because she actually seems to be teaching them some French. That’s more than I ever got in my 11 years of French classes in the Ontario school system.

(Asher with the Other Asher (whose name also isn’t, in fact, Asher). They are buds, despite being dissimilar in practically every respect. Other Asher is, for example, extremely good at all sports. Except basketball. Asher is mediocre at all sports. Except basketball. But that is just because he’s so much closer to the net than the rest of them.)

The bad is that as a result of all of us rushing out in the morning, Jasper did not get enough of a chance to relieve himself in an appropriate spot (outside) and therefore did so in an inappropriate one (inside) – inside Maya’s room in particular. Thank goodness she’s at shul school and I got a chance to clean it up before she got to experience it first-hand. Her siblings will make certain she gets to experience it second-hand. They can’t wait to tell her.

The happy thing #2 is that a book I pre-ordered showed up today. Number 4 in the series Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Battle of the Labyrinth, by Rick Riordan, is being released in the US today, but not until the 13th in Canada. And yet, the moment I pre-ordered it at the end of last week, Chapters happily mailed it out to me. Too bad Riordan doesn’t have the fame he deserves so I could sell it on ebay like people did with the rare early copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows.

Of course, we would have had to read it first anyway. It’s kind of killing me not to just read it without the kids, but they will kill me if I do.

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Here’s a bonus happy and bad, all in one. I have been on a waiting list for a pain clinic here that runs a 4-week intensive course to teach those of us afflicted with chronic pain to better deal with it. I had to fill out a form with pages and pages of questions about my condition and send it in, and the next step is to get an appointment with a doctor for assessment. I was led to understand it would be quite the wait for that appointment, but then I got a call yesterday telling me they had an opening this week. So yay for cancellations! But the appointment, at a hospital all the way across town, is at 8:15 am. AM! The 20 minute drive will be a good 40 minutes with the rush hour traffic and I have to be there at 8. 15. AM. I hurt just thinking about it.

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Here’s the thing: the painkillers I took mostly didn’t do a thing for the pain I was in. Sometimes, if I took a dose then lay down in a quiet room and closed my eyes and didn’t move and the children actually left me alone, it would kick in and at that moment, all the pain would fade away. I’d lie there, half-asleep, revelling in the feeling of no pain. But then my choices were to fall asleep completely or get up and get back to my day and since falling asleep was pointless, I’d rouse myself and sit up, and the pain would come rushing back in.

Those brief moments were not worth the hassles of being dependent on narcotics, and the moment I realized that this was as good as it got, I began the process of weaning myself off of them, a process finally completely last week. I had an appointment with my doctor last Friday, and I proudly went in and handed her the unused portion of my prescriptions. She was impressed and delighted, having been working with me all this time.

I also found some of the pills in a pill container in my backpack, and when I put my hand in my jeans pocket yesterday, found a dose worth there too. As I discover them, I throw them out. But if I’m being completely honest, I’d have to admit that when I discovered the dose in my pocket, I hesitated for a moment. For a moment, I thought to myself, ‘maybe I should keep these, just in case.’ Then the sane part of my brain said, “Just in case of what, dumbass? Pain? There’s always pain, and this shit doesn’t help.” And I tossed the pills.

And being completely honest, I’d also have to admit that today I miss the pills. I ache and have ached incessently for days, and I’d love the chance for just a few moments of no pain. And without the pills, there isn’t even the chance of that, however slim it was.

So I’m very glad I got rid of those pills. And I have an even greater sympathy for people who are really addicted to drugs, for whom those drugs gave a good feeling all the time. Because if I want the stupid things just for that smallest chance and shortest feeling of no pain, it must be hell to give them up when they make you feel really good.

The irony is that I lost my interest in chocolate while I Was Out, so I can’t even temporarily drown my sorrows in a chocolate bar. I suppose I’ll go have a hot bath and read a good book.

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I swam. I yogaed. I walked the dog at a furious pace for at least an hour. Every day was something. Friday, I crashed. It rained, so I even got out of walking the dog.

Shauna asked if it would be better. Yeah, it’ll get better. Only it’ll take 6 months or so of having it feel worse. The entire time I was doing yoga, I had a running commentary in my brain (that I tried to squash it, since it seemed very un-yoga-like) that went like this: fuckthishurts, fuckthishurts, fuckthishurts.

The nice yoga lady, who knows I have Fibromyalgia Syndrome, told me to take it at my own pace and if it hurts, my body is telling me I’ve gone to far. Unfortunately, when you have FMS, your body frequently tells you that getting up in the morning is going too far, or braiding your hair, or walking up the stairs. You can’t listen to it. It lies. I didn’t tell her that. I just smiled and assured her I would listen to my lying body.

When you have FMS, you have to view exercise like physiotherapy. After J tore his calf muscle in the spring, his physiotherapist would massage the scar tissue, digging her way into it to break it up and telling him that the way he knew she was doing it right was by how much it hurt. That’s how it is. Exercise hurts. All of it. It hurts to do it and it hurts worse after you are done. People tell me about how invigorated they feel after they finish a workout. I just feel a sense of accomplishment from ignoring the pain for long enough to get the job done.

That sounds a bit dramatic, but it’s an accurate description. (If you can’t whine on your own blog, where can you whine?) As shitty as I’ve been feeling for a long time, I feel shittier now. The only saving grace is that I knew what I was getting into, and I know it can work.

When I was 21, unemployed and living with mommy and daddy, I began to exercise. I biked, which I loved for the speed and freedom, making it easier to ignore the pain (this time, I’m too far gone to get on a bike, but it’s almost winter anyway, so who cares). I biked for longer and longer, until I was gone for an hour or two every day. I also used their rowing machine in front of the TV, and did weight training with some small hand weights of my father’s.

What it added up to, at it’s peak, was about 2 hours of exercise a day. And, at some point, I realized that the pain wasn’t much there, and I slept through the night and I had energy. I’d kicked the FMS into remission. But it took being an unemployed bum at my parents’ house to give me the time and freedom to do it.

I went back to school for my Masters in Journalism and even though I did try to get to the gym, the school schedule was grueling and I was reveling in the revival of my social life. The exercise fell away and the beast returned. Now I’m 20 years older, fatter and in worse shape, so I think it’ll take longer to get there this time, but every study ever done on FMS had demonstrated that the only thing that reliably leads to improvement is exercise, and I have the personal precedent to back that up.

But, fuck, this hurts.

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Ow ow ow ow ow. Ow.

I exercised. Ow.

I’ve been walking, convincing myself that is exercise. It is, right? But it clearly isn’t cutting it, so now that all three kids are in school full time and I don’t have a full time job, it is time to ratchet up the exercise. Significantly.

My fibromyalgia is bad. Very bad. Washing and cutting up potatoes to boil causes extreme neck pain, for instance. This makes dinner difficult. Every little injury hurts for days, and I am only getting worse. I take 2 pills in the morning and 4 in the evening, and that isn’t counting the pain pills (which I am still slowing weaning off successfully, so at least that is going in the right direction). I feel like I keep propping myself up chemically while the foundation crumbles.

So, time to rebuild the foundation. I swam laps for half an hour this afternoon. I paused every 50 meters (2 pool lengths) to rest, could only do breast stroke and my shoulders and neck still complained (front crawl is completely unbearable) and pulled a calf muscle. All my muscles are screaming, which has tipped me off to how much walking wasn’t really exercise.

I’m going back Friday, then Monday, then Wednesday again. And I signed up for yoga Tuesdays and Thursdays, and will not quit this time, no matter what. And once my body stops screaming at me for all that, I will add weight training. This will not be pretty. The squeamish among you may want to avert your eyes.

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You know what I don’t get – how people manage to throw up photos so fast onto their blogs. Getting them the right size so that they don’t eat all my space takes time, and slows me down. I have two photos ready to go, except their pictures aren’t. Off to work on that.

Oh, and I also don’t get the point of having tags and categories. What’s the difference?

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