Monday, February 8, 2010

Medication: A Cautionary Tale

A few weeks ago I went a bit Prima Donna and asked the lovely Cindy Sowers to remove a paragraph that she'd written about me for the TDP Blog Artist's profile. She was confused as to why it upset me so much, but she very kindly amended her article. It was taken from my own blog after all, and just alluded to my joint problems, but I am feeling pretty touchy on that subject right now. I'm just in my forties but over the last few years the arthritis and occasional mobility issues have often made me feel physically much, much older and combined with other, deeper personal issues I've been battling for years now, day to day...well,  of late I feel as though my problems are coming to define me. Am I becoming just a long list of ailments and issues?

What do I do? Do I pretend it's not happening, bury everything and just repeat "I'm fine" like some deranged mantra... or bleat on about it, here on my blog to virtual strangers and virtual friends alike? Neither option seems particularly healthy. A Confession: I have PTSD, I have had it so long that it used to be called Stress Anxiety Disorder when I got diagnosed. I don't want to share, but it causes havoc, even years and years after the event that triggered it and is something I just have had to learn to work around. I also have arthritis and other minor irritations that I personally believe are caused by living in a recurring state of high alert. I think I am using up my body's resources at a higher rate than I should and it comes out sometimes in weird rashes and nervous ticks and all sorts of tiny ways that no doubt summon the word Hypochondriac into my GP's head unbidden! Besides, I know if I remind anyone to file me under that overused acronym -ptsd- they will roll out The Medication (rejoin the Walking Dead, no thanks) and cajole me to therapy sessions which just trawl through the detritus and stir everything up again.

So I keep wavering on this topic of do I talk about this kind of stuff here or not? Some of the time I feel fine, my demons are quiet, my joints work, I forget about it all... but there is one thing I want to share with you... in the hope it might help someone else travelling down this road unprepared... Arthritis is tangible, I was fooled into thinking that something which has shown up very un-missably on an X Ray and even on an MRI scan, well, there should be pills for that, right? Something to make me feel better, isn't that why we go to the doctor? So, I finally gave in and opted for heavy duty anti-inflammatory and pain killing drugs. Big time!

It's not like me, but the Doctor doles out the pills and the agony becomes this hazy thing you stand/sit/lie beside... the injury this time is to my sciatic nerve and nothing can interrupt that signal to the brain, it's far too fast, so the pain killers just kind of displace the pain. Very odd sensation, to feel extreme pain but just not be so connected to it. What the doc told me is that they are highly addictive and have to be managed, what he didn't tell me is that for many, many people those drugs will have quite unpleasant physical side effects. What was not mentioned was the fact that those of us with a sensitive stomach will be affected quite suddenly and violently after about 2/3 weeks of relative peace, as our bodies try to purge what is poisoning our systems and that it will probably go on for about 48 hours. I won't go into the gory details as I'm sure you can figure it out, that lovely view of my window, or even a fuzzy cat head, is not what I've been staring at every 20 minutes or so since Saturday night, just my disheveled reflection in the toilet bowl. I seem to have morphed into a character from Trainspotting.

Charming, you're thinking, why are you sharing this on your blog? Because, as I said, Doctors might tell you about morphine, but they don't seem to tell you this about combining anti-inflammatory drugs and high dose painkillers that include a lot of Codeine. I know I am unlucky that they have affected me so badly, but I also know that I am far from alone in having this violent reaction. I'm just sharing this with you because a lot of people develop Osteoarthritis in later years, a lot od people have back injuries and need relief. When the doctor first prescribes these drugs they seem like a MIRACLE, but just go easy, try not to take the maximum dose and wean yourself off them as soon as possible. This is my third attack after trying 3 different brands of pill combinations and I think I'm done, I can't put myself through that again. I could joke about the weight loss but I am staring at a corpse in the mirror so maybe not, this doesn't feel funny at all. Dealing with the pain head on seems an easier, if daunting, option right now.

What is the best defense against arthritis pain and sciatica if you can't take the pills then? I need to get through this bad patch then exercise, weirdly enough, supervised stretching and low impact exercises that lengthen the ligaments and improve elasticity so the weakened bones are better supported. We need flexability and good posture not muscle bulk. Even when you have moderate pain the stretching will help, but get expert advice first so you know your doing it right. And I guess Glucosamine and a healthy diet and keeping the weight down won't hurt either... just keep moving, it's what our bodies are built for and ANYTHING is better than the hell I've just been going through.


Linda in New Mexico said...

I'm sorry for your pain, both from the arthritis and from the doctors meds. I would say I do know your pain, but I am not as bright as you are. At least not anymore. I have let the exercise go and am in pain 24/7. Thanks for reminding me abou the stretching of the ligaments. I have total knee replacement 2 years ago......some folks have wonderful results....I have a metal knee...that's about the extent of the less pain, just part of my body missing. Thanks you for the reminder. I will start off again very slowly but deliberately. And most doctors are idiots...end of my mini rant.

Kaerie Faerie said...

sorry to hear about your painful experiences, that is why my husband and I live in Florida, the hot moist weather is a godsend, he has scoliosis and I have disc problems, sleeping on magnet pads helps a lot, and having a hot tub keeps the hubby walking. Keep moving and good luck
and think about moving to a warmer climate

The Josie Baggley Company said...

mmmm I know what you're speaking of alright. And coming to the end of your post I was thinking 'tell her about glucosamine' when I then read further. Excercise is KEY. I should listen to myself for cryin' out loud! EVERY bloody time my disc slips I SWEAR that as soon as I recover I WILL excercise to strengthen the muscles supporting the skeleton.But NO I just forget about it. Your post is grand Yve..& you still pop a little humour in there as that is your core NOT the pain. Am I right or am I right eh?

FairiesNest said...

Oh You are SO right! I recently developed degenerative disc disease and the doctor tried to put me on painkillers. I told him that I couldn't take them because of serious ongoing digestive problems and he acted like I was insane...NOT take the drugs?! It just isn't done! They actually wouldn't let me leave without a prescription! I had to go elsewhere to find relief that wouldn't make me sicker. I wanted to shout, "do no harm! Remember!!" ( As well as the exercises, my alternative doc put me on fish oil and curcumin ie. turmeric to reduce inflammation with great success) I hope you're feeling better soon and bless you for sharing, Hopefully you can save someone else this pain.

Yve said...

Thank you all and Linda, I'm so sorry about your knee but maybe get down to the physio and get them to supervise your stretching. It will help, even post op. My physio told me that being double jointed is the best thing for arthritis sufferers as you naturally have longer, more elastic ligaments which is how come I managed to not take painkillers until my mid forties despite having the X-rays of an 80 years old! They got me this far but now I need to keep them supple as they naturally shrink with, if only I'd joined that circus and become a contortionist... hhhmmm

We all do it though, the pain abates and the exercise regime goes out the window, but Rainey, you know you are right, you have to keep your sense of humour and it's much easier to do that without the bl**dy drugs! Doctors just want you out of the office so they can see the next person and prescribing pills seems the easy way out.

Keep smiling, and stretching I guess :o)

Georgina said...

OMG, the pain you must be in! Luckily, I haven't had any problems...yet! I'm 58 and a bit a member of the big broads section of the department stores, but nothing hurts so far.

Thank you so much for your sharing your experience with us, especially the effects of drugs. I will not take codeine for anything. When I was 16 years old, I had the flu with an awful cough...the kind that you think you're going to cough up your spleen!!! Well, the doc gave me cough medication to ease the symptoms. In less than 3 hours I almost went through a whole bottle of the stuff...couldn't get enough of that cherry flavour...yea right...loved all those wacky, wonderful dreams is what I craved...I became very addicted to it in just hours so my mother immediately called the doc and he prescribed something else. That was a wake up call for me to never try drugs because I liked the affects from them.

Again, thanks so much for sharing.


Pattee said...

Hi Yve~ I'm so so sorry your hurting.

I've had hip joint pain for many years... I sometimes have to crawl up my front 3 steps to my home. I have vicodine for pain and you are right the side effects are not pretty plus highly addictive... I do walk but have to be careful on how fast ~ I know this is going to sound really weird... but here goes. I live in the Pacific NW in America.. sea level...

When I go to any high elevation my hips magically stop hurting! It makes me seriously look at other places to live...

I hope that you'll find a way to feel better~

Sonia ;) said...

Awww Yve,

I fully understand..and it does suck when that happens. I try to stay away from those as much as possible.

Sending you hugs Darlin' - Mid 40's sucks lol. Yoga is wonderful.


Abi said...

Bloody hell. Fancy a move to Texas? Sounds horrible, and undeserved. Good luck with healing... sounds like lots of good advice here...:O)

Yve said...

I know, there is lots of good advice from lots of kind souls. I live right on the coast and have heard that before about sea-level, when I go walking in Snowdonia my legs hurt less, but then when I'm active, I guess there's no pain?
I would love to move somewhere warmer and lie in a hot tub, kind of my dream but I doubt it will ever happen, sadly :o(

Yve said...

Tee hee, Georgina, only just got that about the Big Broads section! :o)

TheBlakkDuchess said...

Keep dreaming!!! Never give up on your dreams... ^-^

And thank you for sharing this, as you hit the nail on the head when saying that doctors rarely warn patients of the more... unpleasant... side effects of painkillers. Yay for keeping on trying, but more importantly for listening to your body and knowing when enough is enough. Keep active & keep positive!
You mentioned "supervised stretching", which is wonderful advice for anyone! I go to a yoga class once a week, and it helps me feel like sunshine. ^-^
Good luck and hugs, and may you feel better from the meds mess soon. ^-^