As my regular readers know, I’ve suffered from significant middle-back, shoulder, and knee pain for many years. Eighteen months ago, I started developing low back pain. In February, it got so bad that my pain specialist ordered an MRI. When the radiologist said I might have a tumor, the pain specialist ordered a follow-up MRI. The second MRI didn’t show a tumor, but it did show “degenerative changes of the lumbar spine.” Perhaps, these changes were put in motion when I broke my first lumbar vertebra in 2013.
Over the years, I’ve had to give up hiking, biking, camping, and even neighborhood walks, but I was somehow able to do yard work. Yesterday, just getting my tools out for yard work left me in so much pain that I came indoors. I can still do light housework, but it has started leaving me winded. My internist suspects a heart problem, so he ordered a number of tests, the last of which is scheduled for tomorrow. I wonder if the problem could simply be caused by holding my breath because of the pain.
I have been in worse pain (pain that felt like being stabbed in both shoulders with ice picks), but I’ve never been so nearly devoid of hope. Oxycodone helps, but getting enough oxycodone is impossible. Because I’m at the top dosage of oxycodone, the pain specialist suggested morphine or Dilaudid, but I hate to go to a new drug because of the time it would take to reach an effective dose. A major fear of mine is that the anti-narcotic forces will persuade legislatures to deny narcotics to people in chronic pain. If that should happen, I would have to either live in utter misery or shop the Dark Web for Fentanyl. Because Peggy is opposed to the latter, I would be in an impossible situation.
I stayed awake for my prostate surgery last month. When I told the anesthesiologist that the surgical area felt fine, but that my back was killing me from lying on the hard surgical table, he gave me dose after dose of Fentanyl until I was completely free of pain for the first time in a long time. If I could feel that way everyday, it would be worth dying sooner, because the life I’m now living hardly qualifies as life.
I wrote the above yesterday, not knowing if I would put it online (I have come to share very little of what I write, either online or through correspondence). When I got up this morning, the following all but bubbled out of me, and I think I might put it and what I wrote yesterday online. Here is what years of living with chronic pain has been like…
A toothache that is horrible at times, and less horrible at other times, but is always there. Feeling like a physical and emotional weakling. Feeling that the person I used to be has gone away, and I don’t know where to find him. Not being able to enjoy things. Not looking forward to things. Not liking anything or anyone. Blaming myself for being in pain and for letting it rob me of a happy life. Not being able to concentrate or remember things. Being edgy, and feeling like a fool for being edgy. Suspecting that the world is full of people who are in more pain than I but are handling it better. Avoiding social engagements. Knowing that people will pity and avoid me if I tell them how much I hurt.
Looking forward to doctor’s appointments because doctors are friend substitutes who won’t reject me for telling them how I feel. Drawing-in on myself so I don’t have to deal with challenges. Dreading being in even more pain and losing even more mobility. Being awakened throughout the night by pain. Structuring my life around pain-avoidance. Wondering how I am going to pay for the household jobs that I can no longer do for myself. Tensing my body because I’m afraid to relax. Holding my breath because breathing hurts. Feeling like a cripple, an invalid, a has-been. Feeling sorry for Peggy because she married a loser. Wondering where my friends went.
Feeling like I’m losing my mind. Wondering how much longer I can hold-on. Worrying that pain and medicine will shorten my life. Feeling that if I were stronger, I wouldn’t need so many drugs. Blaming myself because I haven’t found a way out of the pain. Knowing that no one on earth understands what I’m going through because I look like a normal person. Wondering if people think I’m making it all up. Wondering if people consider me a boring whiner. Believing that I should avoid people because no one would want to be around me anyway.
I won’t even try to wrap this up with a satisfying conclusion. I will instead put it online pretty much as I wrote it.