Some results of chronic pain


I have two doctor appointments this week. I saw my internist yesterday, and he put me on Lexapro (I’ve lost count of how many drugs I’m taking). Today, I see my latest pain specialist who, like my previous pain specialists, has labored in vain (chronic pain is notoriously hard to treat) and whose staff won’t follow through with his orders for meds and other supplies or even return phone calls (I finally did get a call from his office--two minutes ago someone phoned to cancel my appointment).


I’ve felt as fragile lately as I can remember. I’m a bit like Moritz Thomsen, a WWII bomber crewman who wrote that people generally believed that the more missions he survived, the stronger he became, but that the opposite was true, that every mission left him weaker and more frightened. My ability to survive is directly connected to my belief that I will someday get better, and this faith has become increasingly hard to maintain, hence the Lexapro. I’ve resisted anti-depressants for years, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

People who have not suffered with chronic pain have no idea what it is like, and, as with acute pain, I have no thought that I would either if I were suddenly restored to normalcy. But I’m not normal, and I spend every waking hour of every day hurting. The emotional cost has been high, and the following represents my effort to convey that cost. After years of suffering, chronic pain...

Makes me unable to remember things.

Causes me to question my judgments and perceptions.

Makes me feel so confused that I need Peggy to tell me what’s real.

Causes people to lose confidence in what I say because I am so often in error.

Leaves me exhausted if I get out of bed, but won’t let me sleep if I stay in bed.

Makes it necessary to take numerous pills, sleep in the perfect bed, and use a CPAP every moment I’m in bed because the pills make my severe sleep apnea dangerous to the point of being potentially fatal.  

Makes me regard myself as a weakling because I’ve no doubt that a lot of people do a lot better in the face of a lot worse.

Causes people to treat me as an invalid who must be watched and protected.

Injects stress into my relationship with Peggy because small things can instantly send me over the edge.

Makes me isolated, and being isolated makes me more dependent upon Peggy. 

Makes me think that I have little to give, and that the day might come when Peggy will be better off without me.

Would make me even more impatient, irritable, and hateful without Peggy to give me balance and perspective.


Makes every action seem hard, and causes me to feel that I can never do enough and I can never do it well enough.  

Makes me cynical and distant because I have learned that most relationships end when hard times begin.

Makes me mourn for the person I used to be and even to wonder what that person was like.

Causes me to recoil from pity because I can’t separate pity from condescension. I would prefer that people believe I’m strong even when I’m unable to believe it of myself.

Makes me feel like I’m having a bad drug trip even when I haven’t taken any drugs.

Makes me guarded, watchful, fearful, afraid to ride my bicycle, afraid to take a walk, afraid my car will break down, afraid my house will burn down, and afraid an earthquake might hit, because I know I wouldn’t have the strength to cope.

Makes me fearful of losing my mind.

Makes me wonder at times if I’ve already lost my mind.


Causes me think that if I were smart and strong, I would find a way to escape the pain, or at least it wouldn’t bother me so much.

Makes me feel as if other people are together somewhere out there, and I am alone in here.

Makes me feel desperate enough to want to believe things about religion that I know aren’t true. I interpret this to mean that I lack integrity, and the fact that no church would want me anyway leaves me enraged by what I see as their hypocrisy.

Makes me rehearse suicide daily because I want to be ready when life becomes so hard that I can no longer bear it.

Has driven away most of those who once read my blog because they got tired of sad posts.

Makes it impossible for me to relax my muscles for more than a few moments.

Makes it impossible to plan events because I can never trust that I will feel good enough to carry through.

Makes the universe seem uncaring if not malevolent.

Forces me to evaluate every new physical activity in order to decide whether I should risk it.

Makes me hate that intrusive question that is asked by every acquaintance and every store clerk without the least desire on their part to hear the answer or on mine to give it: “How are you?”

Makes me fearful that one day I’ll explode.

Makes me wonder what it would look like to explode.


Makes me certain that I’m failing at life at a profound level.

Makes it harder to bear life’s hurts because it’s all I can do to cope when everything is going well.

Makes me too tired to work, travel, meet people, or attend events. 

Has taken away whatever gifts or intelligence that I might have once offered the world.

Makes me feel dead while alive.
 

Makes me want to run from people because I don’t feel like a normal person who says and does normal things.

Makes me resentful of people who feel good and have the energy to be a part of life.

Makes me scared that the pain will keep getting worse and that new kinds of pain will be added to it.

Makes me almost phobic that I might have to have more surgeries, and that they will leave me in even more pain for a year or more.


Makes me want to die prematurely.

Makes me scared that I will die prematurely. 

Makes me wonder why the pain is a lot worse at some times than other times.

Makes me wonder if at least some of my pain isn
’t imaginary.

Makes me feel alone because other people don’t know what it’s like and few really care.

Has taught me that pain specialists have little to offer, and they’re damned slow to offer that.

Teaches me that the only way I can get narcotics is to be very careful about what I say and do.

Leaves me fearful that if anything happens to my internist, I won’t be able to get narcotics. 

Causes me to switch back and forth from near normalcy to near suicidal despair and hysteria.

60 comments:

Beth Brown said...

I hear you.

Charles Gramlich said...

The worst thing for me is to never feel really good anymore.

billy pilgrim, knight of the woeful countenance. said...

not knowing the source of your pain it's difficult to leave a constructive comment. my main concern would be the trend, is the pain increasing or is decreasing with each passing day?

Helen said...

This is sobering ~~ A must read for anyone who has no clue as to what you deal with ... I read every word and think you omitted the word "not" from paragraph three, first sentence. Take care, Helen

Myrna R. said...

I wish there was something i could say to decrease your pain. I won't pity you because pity debilitates. But, I will feel with you as best I can. I think of you when I feel pain (which I do often). i appreciate the honesty of your writing. Glad you're taking lexapro because pain does depress and alter perception. I know it's no help or consolation, but your openness somehow helps me confront my pains, which are minor compared to yours. Thank you Snow. You must know my good wishes for you.

Snowbrush said...

The following is about the weather situation here in Western Oregon, and is therefore irrelevant to this post. Ijust left it as a comment on my friend Charles' blog (http://charlesgramlich.blogspot.com/) and I thought I would share it here because it is such a big deal to those of us who live in the Northwest.

Here in the Willamette Valley, we normally get almost constant drizzle in winter and spring, little rain in summer, and temps below ninety for all but ten days of the year. Last winter, we had little rain, and this summer, we had NO rain, WEEKS of temps above 90, and humidity as low as ten per cent. The reservoirs are now so low that the bottom of the boat ramps are ten feet above the water, and you’ve surely heard about our fires (over a million acres were burning in Washington and Oregon last week, which was the last I heard). Sometimes, the smoke from fires 100 miles away makes the air quality so bad here in Eugene that it’s in the “unsafe” category. We had to cancel a trip to Crater Lake last week because of the smoke and the possibility that the place we were planning to say would have to be evacuated. I never knew how bad forest fires could get before I came to Oregon, and I’m not even sure I’ve seen the worst because if we get another winter like last winter, and another summer like this summer, it’s imaginable how bad it might get.

Snowbrush said...

“my main concern would be the trend, is the pain increasing or is decreasing with each passing day?”

It’s getting worse. You’re too new here to know this, but I’ve dealt with bilateral shoulder pain for years, and have endured three hellacious surgeries with long recoveries, all to little avail, pain-wise. I also have a dead vertebra in my neck that might or might not be connected to the shoulder pain, plus I have a bum left knee that sometimes become so swollen that I have to give up walking more than necessary. Two years ago, I broke my back, and the result of that has been moderate to severe pain in both my upper and lower back. The most acute pain I’ve ever suffered has been in my shoulders, but back-pain is nothing to sneeze at either because I live with the feeling that I am right on the verge of a spasm, and if you’ve ever had a back spasm, you know that it can put you on the floor fast. The only thing that might help my shoulders and knee would be to start replacing joints (I’ve had one partial shoulder replacement), and I’m not even sure that would help my shoulders because when one has been in pain for years, the pain takes on a life of its own, and then there’s the question of whether some of the pain is nerve related. No one can prove that it is, but they can’t prove that it isn’t either. I’m also deterred by the fact that shoulder replacements leave a person with a very fragile joint, and that’s in the best case scenario, because shoulders are very complicated mechanisms that few surgeons operate on much, and many, many things can go wrong. As for my back, I think I’m just fucked. I get some relief from narcotics and a TENS unit, but I can’t reach back there to put the TENS pads on, and although Peggy is happy to do it for me, it’s ever so much more convenient to be able to do things for oneself.

I only know two people who are in as much or more pain as I (I suspect it’s more), and they both have obvious mental issues because of it. I think that mental problems are surely the norm among people who live with significant pain. It lowers your IQ, your lifespan, and your ability to cope with almost anything, and the doctors you go to for help don’t usually have much to offer; they can easily make things worse; and don’t get me started on insurance, callous nurses, drug side-effects, and so forth. Dealing with pain is more time consuming than a full-time job, and I’m to the point that almost anything I might enjoy doing just seems like too much work.

“I read every word and think you omitted the word "not" from paragraph three, first sentence.”

Helen, thank you so, so much. Rhymes with Plague also does me the favor of pointing out errors, and it’s worth paying a reader to do that. I’ve gotten to where I trust myself so little that I have Peggy read my posts, but she missed this one. It’s easy to the mind to fill in what it expects to see, and I had to read that sentence repeatedly even after being told of the error.

Snowbrush said...

“Glad you're taking lexapro because pain does depress and alter perception.”

Yes, I’m aware that I’m at the edge of a cliff here, or else I wouldn’t take it. I was on Zoloft for years (prior to being in pain), and got a lot of good from it, but by dampening my lows, it also dampened my highs, so I finally stopped it cold turkey (I would never do THAT again). It did have one lasting benefit. Prior to taking it, I suffered from shyness, and it solved that problem. Now, I might feel awkward socially because I don’t know what to say, or I don’t want to talk to someone, or I’m in the company of extroverts who simply won’t shut-up, but I’m no longer more than a very little bit shy, and that’s an incredible benefit. I had assumed that my internist would put me on Zoloft again, but he said it wouldn’t work to take it with narcotics and that Lexapro is better anyway, so, golly, I can’t wait to feel it coming it on (this can take weeks). Interestingly, people who are mildly depressed get no benefit from anti-depressants, while people who are moderately or severely depressed usually get a lot.,

“I know it's no help or consolation, but your openness somehow helps me confront my pains, which are minor compared to yours.”

It’s actually the best consolation I could receive because pain isolates, and it is the only thing I’ve ever encountered that made me seriously think about giving up writing, so for me to know that what I have to say is of benefit to even one other person means more than you can know.

rhymeswithplague said...

I counted your items -- I'm retired now and have loads of free time -- and found that you listed fifty things chronic pain does. Just think, Snow, with forty-five more and you could be the new Martin Luther. One of them, though, is not true:

"Has taken away whatever gifts or intelligence that I might have once offered the world."

Your gifts and intelligence have not gone away. They are very much in evidence and on display every single day in your blog, and they are impressive. Formidable, even.

Elephant's Child said...

There is rather a lot of this post where you have stepped inside my head and extracted what I am feeling, and put it much more coherently than I can manage.
Some of your reality is also mine, and some of it is very individual. In both instances it sucks.
Despite the way you are feeling, and despite your too harsh assessment of the drain on your intelligence and your self worth you do still have a huge amount to offer.
Thank you for being you.

billy pilgrim, knight of the woeful countenance. said...

i guess another question would be; are the injuries getting worse or is the pain medication becoming less effective?

i would also guess that your joints are getting almost no synovial fluid from the lack of movement etc. are you getting injections lubricate the joints?

angela said...

Makes me feel as if other people are together somewhere out there, and I am alone in here.

This one sentence ways it all!
I feel all this too but this really really struck a cord. I think this is why I love the net. Somehow I can again feel connected.
I'm thinking the day is coming for me to get the antidepressants the doctors keep wanting to give me after eight years I'm losing the battle and the will to keep fighting.
I'm in the trenches with you snowbrush

Stephen Hayes said...

I wish you could find peace and contentment, and relief from so much pain. Some people seem to be dealt a bad hand in life; I hope there are areas of you life that bring you satisfaction.

Snowbrush said...

“found that you listed fifty things chronic pain does.”

It must sound like I set a numerical goal and determinedly kept going until I reached it, but I had no idea how many things I listed, although I will admit to having been mildly curious, so thank you for letting me know.

“Your gifts and intelligence have not gone away. They are very much in evidence and on display every single day in your blog, and they are impressive. Formidable, even.”

Thank you, but still I feel an ebbing within myself. Maybe with less pain, I could turn it around, but I would very much hate to take an IQ test about now because I think I would end up crying in my beer, and I don’t even drink beer.

“Some of your reality is also mine, and some of it is very individual. In both instances it sucks.”

I wouldn’t trade places with you—or with a lot of other people. For one thing, I can never tell whether someone is in less pain or is simply handling it better, so this isn’t an area in which I would want to take a leap into the unknown. It’s supposed to make one feel better to make a list of everyone who is worse-off than oneself, and it did used to help a little, but now I’m simply too wrapped-up in my own distress for it have much benefit. I’m feeling ever more ground into the concrete as it were.

“are the injuries getting worse or is the pain medication becoming less effective?”

The pain is worse. My best help right now is from a TENS unit, but, where pain is concerned, I also rely on Ambien and Neurontin at night and oxycodone during the day.

“i would also guess that your joints are getting almost no synovial fluid from the lack of movement”

I exercise as much as I can tolerate, and that’s much of my problem lately—I simply can’t tolerate much anything other than bike riding for short distances.

Snowbrush said...

“are you getting injections lubricate the joints?”

I had injections of sodium hyaluronate into my knee eight or ten years ago. They didn’t help much, but then the orthopedist didn’t use a fluoroscope to guide the needle like she was supposed to (going in blind has a one-third failure rate). Upon receiving your comment, I looked up the brand that I received—Synvisc—and noted that it only takes one shot now instead of the three it did then, and that it’s also recommended for shoulder pain (back then, the only proven benefit was for knee pain). Anyway, I’m to see an orthopedist about my knee (he or she would be at least the sixth one I’ve seen over the years for knee pain alone), and I’ll ask about the possibility of such shots (into both my knee and both shoulders) because I really, really don’t want surgery. As for my back, my internist said he would talk to the pain specialist (I have a new appt in two weeks) about the possibility of facet point injections between the vertebra. I should think that the pain specialist could do the sodium hyaluronate injections into my knee and shoulders as well, hopefully making it unnecessary to even see an orthopedist.

“I'm thinking the day is coming for me to get the antidepressants the doctors keep wanting to give me after eight years I'm losing the battle and the will to keep fighting.”

It’s good to have options, and if you really hate them, you can always quit. When I took my first anti-depressant, the only thing available was the tricyclics (Elavil is a well-known brand—it’s still used for pain as well as an anti-depressant for those who can’t tolerate the newer ones). The ones now have few side-effects, and probably work better for most people. I’ve tried many of them. Prozac was the first to appear, and it worked wonders for me for awhile, and then quit working even at the maximum dosage. A few others either didn’t help at all or they had too many side-effects. Then, I tried—and liked Zoloft—and, more recently Cymbalta (which I didn’t like). I took it mostly for pain, and it helped some with that, but it gave me a jump-out-of-my-skin feeling that I hated and did nothing for depression, and since the amount pain wasn’t THAT great, I stopped it after about a year (Only it and Effexor are supposed to help with both pain and depression, but I couldn’t tolerate Effexor).

“I hope there are areas of you life that bring you satisfaction”

Yes, to whit, Peggy, Brewsky, a few other critters of one species or another, old movies and TV shows (I recently watched every Columbo TV show and movie, but I also watch shows a lot older than that), wild plants, potted plants, yard shrubbery, reading, rocks, yard work, baking crackers, and, of course, blogging.

Elephant's Child said...

Fortunately it is not a competition. We can feel for each other and for everyone who is struggling and wish (however impotently) that things improve. Hugs.

PhilipH said...

Dear Snowy,

Your desperation shines through.

Yes, I know this might sound stupid and heartless but it IS so.

Your clarity and perfection in showing us your turmoil is quite amazing, honest and extremely worrying.

You write: "Injects stress into my relationship with Peggy because small things can instantly send me over the edge."

This, to me, confirms how severely you're suffering. So close to slashing your throat at that moment. Little things DO mean such a lot when the slightest upset can turn you into a raving lunatic.

I've been many things in my life, but neither a doctor nor a trick cyclist. However, it seems that you are deeply anxious and living a chronic 'black dog' life and this new medication can, hopefully, bring you some relief. It will not be of immediate help but could ease your mindset in a couple of weeks. I earnestly hope so, I really do.

Your words have profoundly hit home with me Snowy and you have my most sincere regards and wishes for an easing of your mind and body pain.

Phil

Snowbrush said...

“Fortunately it is not a competition.”

It is a bit like a class, though, and while I don’t need to be the star student, I would very much like to think I’m somewhere in the running. So, I guess that, to me, it has that one element of a competition… I have the idea that I’m good at handling acute pain. I say this because of the way I’ve handled accidents (the last two of note being a broken back and a crushed thumb—you’ll recall that I almost lost the thumb and posted some gross pictures of it). I’ve also had many procedures that doctors said might have me jumping around the table. For instance, the shots I now get in my back are supposed to cause too much pain for many people to sit still, and I get ten to twenty of them at once. But I don’t jump. In fact, I carry on a conversation with the doctor (my only worry was that he might have trouble concentrating on the shots and on me, so I asked him). I’m not in that office for long, and I want to make use of every second, and I’m able to do this whereas most people couldn’t, and that gives me a sense of pride in my strength. Chronic pain, as you well know, is a whole other animal, and it leaves me humiliated by my perception of myself as weak. If I could know, really know, what is going on inside of other people, maybe I could feel better about myself, but, of course, I can’t know.

Another thing to consider is that if a doctor thinks I handle pain well, he’s going to respect me and therefore take me seriously when I talk about being in pain, whereas if her perceives me as a wimp, he’s not going to respect me, and he’s going to be dismissive of what I say. I have no thought that doctors are any better than workers at any other job in terms of competence and caring, so I’m ever mindful of having to manage them in order to get what I want. I hate having to change doctors, but it doesn’t take much for me to do it either because the potential for harm is too great to stick with a bad doctor.

“Little things DO mean such a lot when the slightest upset can turn you into a raving lunatic.”

I try to remember this when I see other people behaving badly, but I still have no respect for people who take their bad behavior into public. Even so, I went with three other people to see the movie Mr. Holmes yesterday, and was so upset by it that I was sorry I went. I guess the Lexapro must be coming on because I felt like I wanted to jump out of my skin, and here I was watching a movie about a smart and energetic man who had become feeble and senile, i.e, a man like myself only ahead of me on the road. It was NOT what I needed to watch, and I got this image of myself sitting on the floor and wailing, and then I thought, oh my god, what if I actually did it? It would clearly mean that i had lost my mind. I then sat there wondering if I was going to have to leave the theatre, but I found that the waves of panic were like ocean waves with troughs, and so I simply waited for the troughs.

Snowbrush said...

“It will not be of immediate help but could ease your mindset in a couple of weeks.”

These things are unpredictable. I got so high off Prozac within days that I wondered why it wasn’t a black-market drug, but after a few months, the high went away and I was as depressed as before. That wasn’t what was supposed to happen. Yes, I’m optimistic about Lexapro, but I’m also feeling strung-out on it at the moment (maybe because of another drug I’m taking with it), and am simply waiting for it to level out, which I trust it will do. If it should not, something would need to be different.

“Your words have profoundly hit home with me Snowy and you have my most sincere regards and wishes for an easing of your mind and body pain.”

Thank you. I think of your daughter’s suffering and of your suffering because of it. I’m also aware that aging and the deterioration of Western civilization isn’t easy for you either, so I don’t feel that we are necessarily far removed. I would definitely say that emotional pain is nearly always worse than physical pain unless physical pain becomes so bad that a person can’t survive it, as is the case with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, for example, in which the whole person eventually collapses like a plant that has been repeatedly run over by a truck.

Robin said...

Hello *Snow*! Yes, it's me...a voice really from the past! I just happened to *visit* my old blog...and voila! There you were! I am happy we both have survived through most of 2015! I am on FB...like of many...don't know if you are..but if not, e-mail me! Let's catch up! Love to you, Peggy and Brewsky! ♥♥♥ Robin ♥♥♥

Snowbrush said...

"e-mail me! Let's catch up!"

Hi, Robin, and welcome. This post sort of was my catch-up.

Ginny said...

I'm sorry you're going through this. As someone who has suffered from chronic pain this really hit close to home. I'm lucky that I'm doing better now but just reading this brought me back. I hope you can find something that helps you.

kylie said...

dearest snow,
every time you post about your mental health or your pain levels i think there MUST be SOMETHING to help you but my frustration is only a very faint mirror of your own, i am sure.

as my own level of disability increases i become more hesitant about venturing into the world, with concerns about how i will manage the challenges of unpredictable situations so while i have no pain i do have some understanding of the loss of confidence and enjoyment that you speak of.

i send you my very best wishes, i wish i could send something more useful.

xox

Mim said...

One thing you are not Snow, is weak.

hoping this all get's tolerable with the Lexapro

G. B. Miller said...

Woah.

I can see that chronic pain can be a bitch. I wish I had some words of wisdom to help you through this, but alas, about all I can say is that while I don't have chronic pain (muscular dystrophy), I can understand what you're going through.

Hang in there, I'm sure that you'll find someone who can finally be the answer to your prayers.

Snowbrush said...

“I hope you can find something that helps you.”

Hope is probably the one thing that it would be fatal to be without. Billy Pilgrim suggested “joint lubricants,” something I had tried before, but that appears to have been improved, and learning about its improvement gives me hope, as do the shots that my internist mentioned. I’ve also found it true that the pain isn’t always the same. I have periods when it’s better, but it has been unrelentingly bad for months now, and that’s what has gotten me down. Pain has become like a long drought that I fear will never end.

“i think there MUST be SOMETHING to help you but my frustration is only a very faint mirror of your own, i am sure.”

I can’t say that I’ve tried everything because some things I haven’t tried sound simply ridiculous, plus they would cost an arm-and-a-leg, but I’ve tried everything that makes sense to me except for one: I haven’t fasted. Years ago, I fasted once a week, and it did seem to make an improvement in my overall well-being, so why don’t I fast now? I’m sure it qualifies more as an excuse than a reason, but the more miserable I feel, the harder it would be for me to undertake a regimen that is in itself miserable. If I really, really knew, that it would help, I’m sure I would do it, but there’s very little actual evidence for it. Of course, this doesn’t mean a lot because the things that get tested are usually the things that there’s money to be made off of.

“One thing you are not Snow, is weak.”

When I’m thinking my best, I don’t even know that the word means anything (aside from being a statement of blame) because there are so many variables and so many things about ourselves that we can’t control. This means that all any of us can do is our best given our situation and who we are. To blame ourselves for being who we are is no more useful than to blame a dog for being who he is. We like to think of ourselves as beings of immense power who can accomplish wonders, and while I can’t say it’s not true, I think our optimism is overblown, or else we would accomplish far more than almost any of us ever do.

“I can say is that while I don't have chronic pain (muscular dystrophy),”

As I said to someone else in this chain, I had rather have my problem than theirs, yet I’m the one complaining, whereas they—and you, to my knowledge—almost never express unhappiness. Yet, some seem to find a common chord here that is meaningful to them, so maybe my complaining isn’t wasted. I really debated posting this, but I know from the past that the harder it is to share something, the more positive comments I get when I do share it.

Sparkling Red said...

I work in a facility that deals with many clients in chronic pain, and you can be certain that you're not alone in your feelings. You are hanging in there as best you can, and that's admirable.

I have some experience with chronic pain, although the chicken and egg were reversed in my case. I became severely, clinically depressed, and one of my symptoms was significant joint pain throughout my body (primarily back, hips, and feet). The pain fed the depression and the depression fed the pain. It's an awful cycle, I know. I also had suicidal thoughts, although I never got as far as making a specific plan. And I also beat myself up (metaphorically) for not being tough enough to go through with it.

Paxil/paroxetine is my saving grace. I sincerely hope that the Lexapro is helpful to you. You have to be so damn patient with psych drugs because they take so long to kick in. I wish you all the best.

Tom Sightings said...

I didn't realize you were having these difficulties, and all I can say is that I hope you feel better, at least sometimes. I've had a cold for the last week, and feel miserable and can identify with most of your items ... but I know I'll feel better in a few days. I know I'm lucky; and I hope some luck comes your way as well.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

Find a neurosurgeon who deals in pain management. Have them use microbe to find your pain centre and sap it so that your nerve pain is shut off. That is another option for severe chronic pain these days. I feel your pain.

Snowbrush said...

“The pain fed the depression and the depression fed the pain.”

It’s ever so. Cymbalta is an antidepressant that helps pain. I figure it helped mine by 10-20%, but it did NOTHING for depression, and it made me hyper, especially when I was trying to sleep. Lexapro does nothing for pain—at least not directly—but is supposedly a good anti-depressant, and I know that if I can get a handle on this despondency that the pain will decrease.

“I also had suicidal thoughts, although I never got as far as making a specific plan.”

I have everything but the date and the music. My options would be liquor, oxycodone, and either a .22 or a .38, while sitting in a lawn recliner, but I have made an oath to never do it while Peggy is alive unless she agrees that it’s time. For instance, if I had Alzheimer’s I think she would accept my choice, but not for this. I think the thing about suicide is that pain takes away so many choices, but it alone can’t take away that one, and it’s empowering in a way to know that there is escape.

“I sincerely hope that the Lexapro is helpful to you. You have to be so damn patient with psych drugs because they take so long to kick in.”

My experiences have varied. Prozac came on within a week or two while Zoloft took weeks if not a month or more (it was too long ago to remember). I already imagine that I feel the early effects of the Lexapro. Of course, I can’t prove that I’m not imagining this; I can only report what I feel. For my part, I believe what I feel based upon the fact that drug affects vary enormously from one person to another.

“I've had a cold for the last week, and feel miserable”

Colds have been the bane of my existence since childhood (I have many memories of my mother rubbing Vicks on my chest while smoking a cigarette), so I got to where I would go to great lengths to avoid them. Those lengths have grown much greater because I don’t need any more problems.

“Have them use microbe to find your pain centre and sap it so that your nerve pain is shut off.

I think you mean facet point injections. That’s what the internist said he would talk to the pain specialist about. Kassube isn’t a neurologist, but he can give such injections. At one point, he was sticking needles into my neck vertebra with fluoroscopic guidance. One problem I see with this is that I have pain over a large area both in my upper and lower back, so I simply don’t know if this method would be applicable.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

No I mean a neurosurgeon who drills into your skull and while you are awake uses a probe in the brain until the spot is found and then I think with laser the point is zapped. The pain connection is ended and so is your pain. It is a very high tech operation.

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hello greetings and good wishes.

I am extremely sorry to read this. I cannot offer you any consolation or guidance since your pain and anguish is too much. I only hope that you will get some effective remedy and peace of mind.

You are a very strong man to with stand so much pain. I admire you.

Best wishes

Snowbrush said...

“I mean a neurosurgeon who drills into your skull and while you are awake uses a probe in the brain until the spot is found and then I think with laser the point is zapped.”

Yes, I’ve heard of that—thank you so much for suggesting it. I have no idea if such a surgery would be applicable because my pain is so widespread—both shoulders, one knee, and large areas of my upper back and lower back, but maybe you just meant for my back. My internist had a similar thought when he suggested nerve-killing vertebral injections into the area to which the pain is connected. There are also implants that zap the area with electricity. I see the pain specialist again next Thursday, and hopefully he will have a better idea than the analgesic shots that he has been giving me because I can’t tell that they’ve helped.

“You are a very strong man to with stand so much pain. I admire you.”

Joseph, I’m always delighted when you visit because I like you despite our religious differences. I guess you heard about the pope’s announcement about forgiveness for abortion. I had no idea that a simple priest couldn’t ordinarily offer absolution. We are on opposite sides of the fence regarding homosexuals, but I do agree with much of what you point to as evidence of declining society.

I admire me too at times. Last summer, I replaced a 64-foot section of wooden fencing that required me to remove posts set in concrete. This summer, I’m replacing the second of three such fences that enclose my backyard. I really don’t know if I’ll be able to do the final section next summer, because the work is really too hard for me. Still, I started this section, so I will finish it. It’s harder for me to not work than it is to do work that will make my pain worse, but there is a limit, and this fencing project is at that limit.

billy pilgrim said...

there's a huge placebo effect with anti depressants so just as important as the drug is your frame of mind and ability to buy into the drug.

"treating mental health is more about managing expectations than finding a cure." i think that statement is very true. additionally, almost everyone googles the drug and checks out side effects. in my experience, doing this creates anxiety about the side effects and you're much more likely to suffer from them. and that begins the terrible cycle of rumination.

Maria said...

I'm visiting via Angela's, the Aussie Empty Nester blog, and anything I could say would seem trite and probably ignorant....but what I will say is that you have made me realise that I have no problems and neither does my DH.

Joseph Pulikotil said...

We might have differences but that doesn't mean we can't be friends. Is it necessary that we should always have common grounds to be friends? I lost one of my blog friends because I could not see eye to eye with her. I lost one FB friend because of differences of opinion regarding same sex marriage. Both of them have been my friends for many years. People who become friends thinking that we should always have common ground or see eye to eye on all issues are basing their friendship on flimsy grounds. We are human beings and we are entitled our own opinions and ideas on any subject under the sun. Good friends understand this and agree to disagree on many points but that doesn't mean they cut of the friend. This is ridiculous.

I also remember that another FB friend cut me off because we had difference of opinion regarding Jews. Another blog friend deleted my comment because I wrote a comment which he did not like but I never did any such thing and we still visit each others blogs. Now I am very careful while writing a comment on his blog posts. If think I will not be able to write something which he likes, I don't write any comment. I think he is the loser for getting my views.

I like to read different opinions in my blog and that makes me realize there is diversity of opinions and thoughts. I know even in a group of two or three people there will be different opinions on a given subject. I welcome such differences and that will not affect the friendship. Even between husbands and wives, between parents and children there are always differences in thoughts and opinions.

We enrich our knowledge by listening to divergent views.

Best wishes

Snowbrush said...

“there's a huge placebo effect with anti depressants so just as important as the drug is your frame of mind and ability to buy into the drug.”

Of course. This is why half of drug test subjects are supposed to be given a placebo without even the people who administer the drugs knowing who got the real thing and who didn’t. I recall reading that about one-third of the time, the placebo “works.” Even so, if I derive an earlier than expected benefit from a drug, I will have no way of knowing the reason, so I can’t very well ascribe it to the placebo effect, although I know that might be the explanation.

“almost everyone googles the drug and checks out side effects…that begins the terrible cycle of rumination.”

You also get a print-out of that information with your prescription. There are people at both extremes. Some won’t take Vicodin for three days following a minor surgery because they think it will kill them, while people like myself take so many drugs for so long without apparent harm that we become much more liberal in our expectation of negative consequences. Still, the number of drugs I take daily for long periods of time worries me a lot, partly because I might die, and partly because if I start having liver or kidney problems, I won’t be able to take them, which means that I will simply have to live without the benefits they provide.

“what I will say is that you have made me realise that I have no problems and neither does my DH.”

Well, good. I’m glad you visited.

“We might have differences but that doesn't mean we can't be friends.”

I can understand you losing friends due your strong and freely expressed opinions, but then I do too for the same reason, although our opinions are very far apart. I don’t know to what extent you understand the American concept of “political correctness,” but in the name of complete tolerance, it has become a force for intolerance, and people like you and I number among its targets. For instance, if you were a teacher, a nurse, or held some other job that had you in the public eye, you could, depending upon where you worked, be fired for privately expressing your thoughts to a co-worker if those thoughts were deemed as intolerant of some “marginalized group.” For example, your opposition to gay marriage would be seen as “homophobic,” and your perceived “hatred of homosexuals” could most definitely get you in a lot of trouble depending upon what part of the country you were in. So it is that PC represents a black-and-white view of the world according to which you go along with it, or there’s something seriously wrong with you. As for gay marriage, I support it, but my wife, Peggy, opposes it, yet I never imagine that Peggy “hates” homosexuals, but her former employer wouldn’t have seen it that way had she expressed her views at work, although that employer was a Catholic-run hospital.

schmidleysscribblins.com said...

Chronic pain is tough. I am watching my husband suffer with something similar. He's up for another sugery in two weeks that will improve his situation we hope. It's also difficult to watch someone suffer.

As for cats and dogs, I like cats. My daughter has 7 dogs and one cat. The cat rules. Dogs are better in my view. they are much more loving and can teach us much. Have a good day. Or as best a day as you can.

kj said...

hello snow, i too have chronic pain and due problems with my back, hip, both knees, and a pulled groin muscle i'm on the losing side of walking. i've just finished a major move during which i had to produce but i'm sore as hell and my movement isn't normal. i do understand the losses you face. you already know i work in the field of rehab and back pain is one of my specialties. as always, i wonder if you had physical therapy for your back injury, if you've tried mindfulness, what the potential benefit of psychotherapy and meditation and other non-narcotic modalities might be. for me i know these are the right path, and weight loss. i also know i am stuck with chronic pain that affects my quality of life.

some mornings i wake up in a growl. still, i don't know if i am willing to put in the effort needed to feel as good as i can feel, and that alone is my biggest problem (and failure).

i hope you are able to create a somewhat equal list of what's positive for you. balance matters.

you have a lot of support here. i'm glad. hoping your mood improves and your pain decreases.

love
kj

Snowbrush said...

“i wonder if you had physical therapy for your back injury”

Yes, but they invariably gave me exercises that aggravated my bilateral shoulder pain. I’ve seen at least 20-30 physical therapists over the years, many of them with doctorates, and as a consequence I have very little confidence in them except when it comes to helping a person “loosen-up” after surgery, and even then, the exercise sheets that the doctor gives me are about as good, so really the only good the therapists do is to push a person to do the exercises.

“if you've tried mindfulness, what the potential benefit of psychotherapy and meditation and other non-narcotic modalities”

I mediate, after a fashion, by memorizing passages that promote centeredness and confidence and quoting them to myself as I lie in bed along with poems that I enjoy. As for sitting and repeating a mantra or watching my thoughts impassively, that kind of thing makes me stir crazy, so I won’t do it.

As for therapists, I’ve not seen any for pain, but I’ve known quite a few, and I’ve also been to quite a few for anger and depression, and have come away with an extremely low opinion of what they offer. I suppose that, in theory, theirs is a field in which some benefit is possible, but I’ve seen but little of it. I would even say that I personally came out by far the worse for their ministrations except for the good that I received from one therapist who I saw for stage fright. She sent me to Toastmasters. Well, that was a very good thing, but I could have done it for myself. I only went to her because I hoped for an easier way. As with physical therapists, I came away thinking that much of her job was simply to push people to do that which they could have thought of for themselves. I will say for her that she was a rock, whereas every other therapist I’ve ever known, whether personally or professionally, was significantly troubled, present company not included. Also, Zoloft, which works for both depression and anxiety did more for me than the stage-fright therapist did, and its benefit has continued for the eight or ten years after I stopped taking it. This kind of thing inspires me to think far more highly of drugs than of therapists, and I’ve noted that few orthopedists or pain specialists suggest sending me either to a psychotherapist or a physical therapists, which implies that they think no more highly of them than I do.

As for non-narcotic modalities, I don’t know what you have in mind, but I’ve tried everything that made sense to me, and the best thing I’ve found is physical work. Years after my three shoulder surgeries, my shoulders have finally gotten well enough that I can do quite a lot of hard work. Right now, I’m continuing with the fence replacement that I started last year, and this involves removing eight-foot posts set in concrete and replacing them with new eight-foot posts set in concrete. Some of my main tools are a sledgehammer for breaking-up concrete, and a 20-lb landscaping bar that I thrust repeatedly into holes to break-up heavy clay, Rather than harming my back, the work is helping it. It is hurting my shoulders quite a lot, but instead of stopping the work, I’m simply trying to keep it to manageable proportions. Along with making my body strong, hard works cheers my mind and makes me feel like I’m good for something. I love it, and one of the worst things about my problems is that I’m unable to do it to the extent I would like. Age is also a limiting factor. (continued)

Snowbrush said...

I’m actually a big believer in narcotics because they enable me to keep going on a job when I would otherwise be in such pain that I would have to stop. On a hard day, I might take up to sixty mgs of oxycodone, and it makes all the difference while in no way diminishing my capacity to work. I can also bike, drive, get up a roof and lean over to clean-out gutters, and other chores that wouldn’t be possible for someone not accustomed to the drug. I very much resent the present push toward thinking of narcotics as doing nothing of good while killing 43 Americans a day. I actually think that, more than anything, the present war on narcotics is mostly a way for the DEA to justify its funding now that more and more states are legalizing pot. If I were suddenly cut-off from narcotics, I guess I would go looking for heroin because I couldn’t afford to buy legal narcotics illegally, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to live in more pain than I can avoid. I’ve been on narcotics for at least eight years, and its a challenge to stay within the limits of what the doctor will prescribe, but I do it. He did finally raise my dosage from 20 to 30, but I don’t dare ask him to go beyond that, although it means that I sometimes run out before I can get a refill.

“i don't know if i am willing to put in the effort needed to feel as good as i can feel, and that alone is my biggest problem (and failure).”

It is the human condition. Can I say that I consistently do everything possible to feel my best? No, but in all honestly, ever after all these years, I don’t even know what that would look like. Work that looks easy, brief, and harmless can leave me in intense pain for months, while work that looks insane (like this fencing project) seems to benefit me. Go figure. I do have a few ideas of what will hurt me every time (reaching above my head and pulling something toward me are the worst offenders) but many, many things are still unknown to me despite my best efforts, and physical therapists have proved worthless in helping me figure it out. I can say that (a) physical work and (b) the avoidance of emotional stress are the things that help me most. When Peggy and I fight, my pain level goes through the roof even as my emotional state is crashing through the floor.

“you have a lot of support here.”

One reason I’ve tried my best to maintain your friendship through our recent difficulties has been that, when I look back, no one supported me more than you when I worked under the house replacing drain pipes three years ago. It was my first hard job in years, and I needed it so much, and you were there for me. Yet, I wouldn’t be surprised but what you even remember it. So much of the good that we do is mostly unknown to us.

billy pilgrim said...

the mindful way through depression with jon kabat-zinn might be worth a look.

at the foundation we've had success with tai chi. for mindfulness i've always been a fan of thich nhat hanh.

lotta joy said...

The snowbirds have landed, and within ONE DAY they have all requested that Joe pick up their mail because they are all combining for a big four day trip through FLorida. I feel anxious, angry, resentful and envious. No one is in pain. No one has to spend a week recovering from their thousand mile treks to get here for the winter. They hop in their cars and sail away waving their hands at Joe as he trods up the street "fetching" their mail. Joe says I shouldn't feel resentment, like it's a failing of mine. "Shouldn't" this. "Shouldn't" that. Makes me damn angry. WHO, even Joe, has the right to tell ME what I should and shouldn't do when they've never spent more than 12 hours in temporary pain. I now depend on Joe to gather my meds into AM and PM doses, for I no longer remember what I "should" and "should not" be taking at any given time. I read your list to him as I sighed at recognizing every fear of yours. A few times Joe injected "Well, I don't agree with that." and I felt myself snap. "You're in no position to agree or disagree with anything Snow has to say". Yes. I miss the old me, and the old me had no idea what the new me would become. If I had known ................. then what.

Snowbrush said...

“at the foundation we've had success with tai chi”

Foundation? What did I miss? I don’t remember anything about a foundation.

I took Tai Chi lessons for awhile before taking the advice of someone who suggested that I would learn just as much if not more from instructional DVDs. My favorite by far is by Paul Lam M.D. who was so poor as a child that he has permanent disabilities from hunger. He’s a joy to watch and to learn from and has all the humility of Thich Nhat Hanh (who had a stroke recently). I recall picking up a book once by Jon Kabat-Zinn, but it has been years, and I recall nothing about it. I have pretty much given up reading books that are aimed at making me a better person. It’s one of the many things that I’ve become jaded about over the years. While I enjoy reading old novels by great writers, as well as philosophy, theology, biography, and light science, if a book is to be found in the self-help section, I tend to avoid it. Now, I have some news to share.

I saw the pain specialist yesterday. He said my MRI came back normal and that he really had nothing more to offer since the shots into my back muscles had already proven not to help. I asked about facet point injections into the backbone, and he said they’re hard to do and dangerous in the thoracic region (years ago, he did a series into my cervical region), so without physical evidence that they’re needed, he wouldn’t do them. I said that, well, part of my back problem is that it’s hard to do back exercises due to shoulder pain, so what did he think about injections into my shoulders. He said he could put steroids into my right shoulder, but since I had a partial replacement in the left, he wouldn’t dare place a needle into it, because if it became infected, the replacement would have to come out. I asked about lubricants, and he said that insurance wouldn’t pay for putting them into a shoulder, but that if it would, he would do them but only on the right side due to the infection issue (I’ll check with Medicare). He then gave me a list of chiropractors and acupuncturists. I had tried acupuncture and came away feeling like it was a rip-off, but I haven’t been to a chiropractor because a physical therapist told me that it would be dangerous because of my osteonecrotic C5, but the pain specialist said that as long as the chiropractor avoided my neck, I should be okay. I never thought I would see the day when an MD would recommend acupuncturist and chiropractors, but as it was, the pain specialist expressed no confidence in them, but offered them as an alternative because he was out of ideas. I could see another pain specialist, but I don’t think I will because I have faith in this one, and I already have seen others about my shoulders, and I didn’t like them. I left thinking that I’ll probably go back to him for Synvisc shots into my left knee, which now hurts too much for me to take walks.

I now have all the posts set for my new fence, and am down to replacing one gate and the last two sections of fencing. I love work like this. When I can work hard, I’m a new man, and for some reason digging agrees with me. Much to Peggy’s dismay, I sometimes literally dig holes in the yard just for the fun of it. As I tell her, other people pay money and drive across town to work out in a gym while I can stay home and dig for free, and it IS one of the few exercises that I can tolerate as long as I don’t overdo it.

Snowbrush said...

"You're in no position to agree or disagree with anything Snow has to say”.

I feel for you, and I feel for Joe because I know that when I’m scared and hurting, it’s very, very hard sometimes for Peggy to say anything that doesn’t sound insensitive if not callous. From my point of view, not even drugs, adultery, and the demise of our group marriage, have challenged my marriage to Peggy so much as living in pain. Peggy complained recently that everything can be going along fine for us, but if she innocently says just one sentence that I don’t like, my mood goes over a cliff and stays there for hours or even days. This is true. I need more than anyone can give, so all I can do is to try to value what they can give. Just as it’s a challenge to live in pain, it’s a challenge to live with someone who is living in pain, and I don’t even think that such experiences that I have had with pain would qualify me to do the latter. The nearest I come is when Peggy has a three-day migraine. I give her credit for trying her best to keep going and to be pleasant, yet it’s obvious that she’s suffering a great deal, and this leaves me feeling confounded and helpless because I need so very much to fix her problem, and I can’t. I even feel guilty because I think that maybe something I did caused or exacerbated her headache. For instance, she’s now helping me on this fence project while in the midst of a three-day migraine that’s threatening to last beyond three days, and I can’t imagine but what this project is making it worse, and I blame myself for that. I would actually prefer that she stop working because I’m at a point where I could do everything myself, but she won’t do that, so the situation sucks for both of us.

I have no thought that my pain is worse than—if even as bad as—what she’s now experiencing, but while I write this, she’s out walking up a local hill for aerobic exercise despite not only having a migraine but also having an allergy attack. Just as I’m sure that people are in wonder at some of the projects I undertake, I’m in at least that much wonder that Peggy is out climbing College Hill (so named because a college stood there 150 years ago) because I know I wouldn’t do it.

I love you, Dana, and I’m so very, very sorry for your pain and the misery that accompanies it, but I’m also very, very thankful that you have Joe because if there’s one thing I believe in, it’s in Joe’s goodness as a man and in my observation that he’s doing doing the best he can to support you in a very discouraging situation and despite his own health issues. For his goodness to you and his goodness as a human being, I would even say that I love Joe although I’ve never met him or even exchanged a word with him. You tell Joe that I’m there for him in spirit just I would be there for him in other ways if he ever needed me.

Snowbrush said...

Billy Pilgrim, at your recommendation, I reserved the jon kabat-zinn book on pain relief. Mindfulness mediation has been a big thing for thirty years. It's often called Vipassana, but it's the same thing.

billy pilgrim said...

i was thinking more about mindfulness for depression but i guess the principle is the same. embrace it rather than push it away.

possum said...

Wow Snowy, I have been gone a while and come back to this??? PHEW!
Had to go up to the mountains and bury my dad and my uncle and straighten some paperwork out. I am now the oldest in my family. That's a scary thought.
As you might remember (or not) I have lived with serious pain for years. Was told when I was back in my 30s I would never walk again. I refused to accept that. I don't walk well or fast, but I am on my feet. A friend is currently borrowing my wheel chair - he had a little accident with a chain saw... so I am being extra careful.

I fear addiction, so I put serious limits on my pain meds, telling my doctor if I ask to have it increased, cut me off. I have lived with an addict and I have seen what it does. I fear that insanity more than the pain or being parked on wheels for the duration...

I still work out in my yard as much as I can. Like you, the joy of doing something is a great high. For me it is a greater high than any drugs I have ever had.

And you may remember I am a Buddhist... that has helped me keep it all in perspective.
I used to do Tai Chi until my knees decided to drop me to the floor and disrupt the class. So I do a bit of it here at home just to keep limber, but with a chair close by for that inevitable moment.

I got suckered into going back to the college and teaching - just one day a week... but it has done wonders for my attitude. I will be 72 this week. Imagine! Don't think I could handle the stress of the younger ones anymore - or their parents - or the bullshit from the administration... but I can handle this. Best of all, I don't need a salary to survive. No pressure.

Hope you can find something to help... not a pill, not a smoke... but more like that natural high you get fixing the fence. Nothing can beat it.

Snowbrush said...

Earlier this week, a very active friend who is 70 fell down and broke her shoulder. She already speaks of being impatient with her convalescence and unable to do any of the many things she loves. She has no idea what a long road is before her, one that she might very well never reach the end of short of death.

“i was thinking more about mindfulness for depression but i guess the principle is the same. embrace it rather than push it away.”

The idea of a person embracing pain doesn’t seem genuine to me. I’m sure the acceptance prayer used in AA (I think Tillich wrote it) makes a lot of sense, but it seems to me that acceptance and embracement are worlds apart.

“I have been gone a while”

Your absence was noted. People wander in and out, and I seldom know why.

“Had to go up to the mountains and bury my dad and my uncle and straighten some paperwork out. I am now the oldest in my family. That's a scary thought.”

I’m sorry for your losses. Peggy and I are now the oldest people on our long block, and we’re the ones who have lived here the longest after losing three neighbors in their nineties last year. That too is uncomfortable. Seniors add to a person’s life, so what to do when that person IS the senior?

“Was told when I was back in my 30s I would never walk again. I refused to accept that. I don't walk well or fast, but I am on my feet.”

I’m very glad to hear it.

“I fear addiction, so I put serious limits on my pain meds”

I fear addiction too, but having regularly used many of the things that people commonly become addicted to, I realize that I don’t have an addictive personality. Of course, it would be foolish to feel smug about it.

“I used to do Tai Chi until my knees decided to drop me to the floor and disrupt the class.”

Because I like HARD work and HARD exercise, Tai Chi seemed like too little to me, but it at least gave me some exercise. I’m very sorry you had to give it up.

“Hope you can find something to help... not a pill, not a smoke... but more like that natural high you get fixing the fence.”

The one thing I always and desperately NEED pills for is sleep. I often need them during the day too, but if I didn’t take them at night, I would be tired all the time, which I pretty much am even with them.

All Consuming said...

That's a long list, and I think you'd get some benefit from talking to someone, perhaps some CBT would help. I say this because I began CBT with Mindfulness (I've had CBT several times and my brain does well with it). I'm crap at meditating, but it isn't the meditation part that helped. It stops you thinking of a negative future, and dwelling on past pain too. When we do that, and compare how we were to how we are, and what we might become, we are practising being deeply unhappy. And getting towards a diploma. It's the intensive thought patterns you have that made me think of it, and the fact that it's helped me enormously too. I don't know the options in your area so far as speaking to someone about either, or both, but I'd definitely give it a shot if I were you.

This whole post, and the comment replies, are in themselves a monument to how brilliantly you can still write. If you could take away the comparison to how you were, and just have this post, so well written, so many sharp answers, you'd be less hurt. I know that isn't a magic wand, and there's every chance you're a special case, and who knows what will work for one, but not another...but if you could focus on the abilities you still have (and that's only going to happen with help, because we get very, very set in our minds as we age), then your mental pain would decrease, and the technical stresses that thinking about grim things have on your body (tensing a great deal without even realising it), would help with the physical pain a good bit too I think.

It would be absolutely true to say that if you don't think it would help, it won't. And I'm not saying that you'd be wrong not to try it, because I'm not sat in your chair or Peggy's right now. But think about it. And as others have said, take heart in the possibility that you may feel a little relief once the drug has bedded in too.

I feel for you deeply sweetheart, and Peggy too. The love you have, from home and around you here too is so warm, and continues to be so. You are loved. And that's something to hug and hold onto when the worst spikes come. Here is some of it - Love you Snow Xxx

Snowbrush said...

“I think you'd get some benefit from talking to someone”

Well, there is my blog. I know you meant someone professional, but I have no thought whatsoever that such a person would do me nearly as much good as writing.

“perhaps some CBT would help”

I can only guess…Curmudgeony Bastard Therapy? Okay, I looked it up—Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I wrote this list while at a low. I am now at a high, having finished my fence yesterday (except for the gate, which is small potatoes since it doesn’t involve heavy digging and doesn’t impact my neighbor). The pain is still very much there, but the work helped both it and my attitude toward life. I would guess that the Lexapro is also helping. I wouldn’t say never to therapy, but I would say probably never.

“I don't know the options in your area so far as speaking to someone about either, or both”

Eugene is overrun with counselors and meditation instructors of one kind or another, including mindfulness, which also goes by the name Vipassana. Nearly three decades ago, I went to a weekly Vipassana meeting.

“if you could focus on the abilities you still have”

Yes, I can still write, and I still retain the ability to build a good fence among other things. Sometimes, I look at the things I’ve done, and wonder how I ever did them, but then I remember that I didn’t know how I would do them even when I started doing them. For instance, three or four years ago, Peggy and I built a roofed deck out back. The project was small enough, but it did present some challenges that I can now see that I handled very well. In So it is that I do well at making up solutions as I go along (I also learn well from books, which is something my father couldn’t do). My limits at this point are more physical than mental, and it’s also true that I’ve always been a person who could do more than he thought he could. Back when I worked with my father, he made the comment that I just needed to believe in my abilities to do carpentry, plumbing, electrical work, and so forth. This was and still is true, but few of us ever hit the exact right spot between caution and optimism, and there are downfalls to a surfeit of either. I used to think how grand it would be to be an optimist, and then I noticed that optimists tend to run into all kinds of problems that I easily avoid. For instance, they don’t take signs of ill health seriously; they don’t save enough money; they’re more likely to have confidence in people who don’t deserve it. I heard a Holocaust survivor say that it was the optimistic Jews who stayed in fascist controlled Europe during the thirties while the pessimists fled to America. Peggy tends to have less confidence than I do, so when we work together I take the lead in planning and in the skilled use of tools, while she watches everything I do and points out mistakes. Since she’s an unabashed perfectionist who is very, very good at spotting even minor mistakes, this often creates a problem because I interpret it to mean that she doesn’t believe in me. This project went unusually well for us. (cont)

Snowbrush said...

“And I'm not saying that you'd be wrong not to try it, because I'm not sat in your chair or Peggy's right now.”

I have thought about it, and I probably will again. Thank you. I will just point out that chronic pain sufferers probably gain more from relating to one another than to a therapist (of course, there’s nothing wrong with doing both). Back when I first started living in significant pain and, from my perspective, significant disability, I thought that there surely must be a formula that would enable to triumph over it, but I’ve since settled in for the long haul and accepted that I will never triumph over this, so it’s rather a case of adjusting to it, sort of like one might adjust when a storm knocks out the electricity for a prolonged period. It sucks while it’s happening, and it sucks in retrospect when the lights and heat come back on, but it is what it is, and there’s nothing to do but get through it. So far, it seems to me that you have more serious problems than I, and that you do better with them, yet it would make me crazy to live as you do because I so need to perform hard physical activity. About twelve ago, my left knee got bad enough that it was interfering with my ability to hike in the mountains, so I went in to have it “cleaned up” in the naive belief that this would enable to hike like always. Instead, the surgeon told me—during surgery, I had a spinal—that if he were me, he would never hike again. This was a very heavy blow to me, and things have only gotten worse and worse since then. At one point, this same surgeon said that, if I were a less active person, this knee problem just wouldn’t bother me all that much because it wouldn’t limit me in ways that I was unaccustomed to. I then reflected that the very people who are hurt the most by increasing incapacity are those who value extreme activity the most. I have a friend who broke her shoulder this week, and she can’t even see an orthopedist until Friday. She’s an extremely active retiree, and here she is in pain and unable to do any of the things that she values. When I saw her last night, she had gone from her customary calm self-assurance to acting as if she was about to jump out of her skin. It was very hard for me to be with her for even a few minutes, maybe because I’ve been where she is, and maybe because she could no more listen to me than if I weren’t even there. I’ve since adjusted somewhat, but I very much doubt that I will ever do as well as you. You’ve been a major encouragement to me, but I’ve always doubted that I would be doing as well in your situation as I am in mine. I used to berate myself for not being stronger, but we’re all different people with our various strengths and weaknesses, and while we can all do things that we would have once considered impossible, we’re still strengthened and limited by who we are. No one short of Peggy has helped me so much as you, and I thank you. Fortunately, I found you years ago.

All Consuming said...

"I’ve always been a person who could do more than he thought he could." - Me too, and I also wonder at things I have achieved afterwards. I wonder if I really managed it.

Mindfulness now is miles away from the Vipassana of back then, but, as you have tried the original, the updated might not be for you either.

"I will just point out that chronic pain sufferers probably gain more from relating to one another than to a therapist (of course, there’s nothing wrong with doing both)." - there are a lot of help groups out there, but for myself, talking to others who have the same ailments is not therapeutic at all. I find it brings me down every time. Perhaps its because I've had these ailments for so long, but I don't recall ever finding them of use. I don't find writing about it in my blog useful either, other than to update folks on what's going on in one fell swoop, rather than repeat myself. Also, everyone always sounds so sad when I do, (what do I expect, balloons and a parade eh? Hahahahaha). Unlike a group of patients, a therapist is good for me because they have no baggage to share, they are going straight for the mental tools, showing me how to forge and use them to avoid the blackness, counter the pain. And also deal with how other people react to living with, or loving someone who has long term pain.

I'm glad you don't berate yourself anymore, for its' a rod your back doesn't need honey. But of you change your mind at any point, I'll send Peggy a hair shirt (courtesy of Lardy), and some good strong birch twigs to slap you with.

" No one short of Peggy has helped me so much as you, and I thank you. Fortunately, I found you years ago." - this is so lovely, I am hugely touched, and grateful to have found you, my favourite Curmudgeony Bastard. *hugs him* Xxx

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

Oh Snowy, I feel your pain! My own shoulder issues have me terrified that life is just over...what I wouldn't give to be pain free

Helen said...

~~ thinking of you this morning.

Snowbrush said...

“Mindfulness now is miles away from the Vipassana of back then, but, as you have tried the original,”

As I understand it, it’s capsulated in Ram Dass’ words, “Be Here Now.” Therefore, if you’re washing dishes, wash dishes; don’t watch TV and wash dishes. If you’re walking, walk; don’t make plans for your vacation and walk. Do one thing at a time, and pay attention to that one thing, because otherwise, you’re living someplace other than where you are. Am I right?

“but for myself, talking to others who have the same ailments is not therapeutic at all. I find it brings me down every time.”

It takes me out of myself and enables me to remember that I’m not the only one in the world who’s suffering, and that I’m far from the worst sufferer. Just know that what I’m talking about is reporting rather than grousing because the latter amounts to wallowing in misery, and while it’s bearable for awhile, it’s a hard diet to live on. Personally, I love hearing about your troubles because if you gloss over them, it makes our relationship seem unreal. I recall one reader saying that you bummed her out. Well, tough shit. Being friends is about more than sharing the good times.

“I don't recall ever finding them of use. I don't find writing about it in my blog useful either, other than to update folks on what's going on in one fell swoop, rather than repeat myself.”

It has been my mainstay because I think I bore people when I’m talking, but no one is a captive when I’m writing, so if it displeases them, they can always go away and come back when I write about something else, and I would prefer that they do that rather than to comment when it’s obvious that they merely scanned the post. As for being repetitive, that’s as boring to the speaker as to the listener, and has led me to hate being asked how I am, and to lead me to value writing over talking.

“Also, everyone always sounds so sad when I do”

I hate that too because pity is alienating. It divides people into the categories of I’m OKAY and I’m NOT OKAY, with the result that the former feels superior to—or at least luckier than—the latter. What a horrible thing to see someone and have them say to themselves, “I”m so glad I’m not you.”

“Unlike a group of patients, a therapist is good for me because they have no baggage to share”

It’s possible that I too would find therapy supremely useful. I met a therapist at a party 30 years ago. I never saw him again, but I liked him so well that I emailed him a few months ago to ask if he would take me on. He said that he worked for cash only (instead of insurance), so that left me out, and caused me to think it was better to avoid him anyway because when professionals do that, they eliminate everyone who isn’t wealthy, which I interpret to mean that they’re more into money than helping people. I have serious issues with therapists because I’ve had some who left me far worse off than when I started. It’s a relationship that involves one-way vulnerability, and it would be very hard for me to go to a therapist or to trust a therapist. I would even say that I hate their profession. I also think, based upon the many I’ve known professionally or as friends, that I’m probably less screwed-up than most got them, and the idea of going to someone who is worse-off than myself lacks appeal.

“My own shoulder issues have me terrified that life is just over…”

I know the feeling, but I don’t remember if you have a diagnosis. A torn rotator cuff sounds like a likely problem, and if you let it go too long without getting it fixed, the tendon will sever, the ends will draw apart, and it won’t be fixable. Blue ice packs help the pain enormously, and sleeping in a recliner might also help the pain. You have my email, so write if you need to.

“~~ thinking of you this morning.”

Snowbrush said...

“~~ thinking of you this morning.”

My response didn’t get copied over—Thanks, Helen.

kylie said...

I have many times wanted to suggest chiropractic to you, maybe i actually did but i had to back away from that idea so now that it might be back on the table, i j ust want to encourage you to give it a shot so long as it's safe. and the chiro is the best person to determine that.

I always wish you well, snow and i do again

Ginny said...

I hope they find something that works for you soon. Chronic pain is difficult to treat because you don't know what will work and trial and error takes so long when you're in pain. Wishing you the best in finding something that works.

Linda said...

Snow,
You have expressed so well the things I feel and some things I never knew I felt. I tried to email you this summer, but none of your emails where I wrote to you seemed to work. Email me and I can reply.