On being ill—the symptoms started when—
Why does it matter WHEN exactly? It does on one level that fusses over the need to know WHEN—but also the need to know HOW LONG. Awhile—awhile ago. Six months—seven months ago as of today, November 15th. It started somewhere between the day closing in on the end of March and the start of April, I had no idea what was wrong with me, I only knew that I felt terrible—which translates to worse than usual, because I have FMS, so feeling fatigued and achy is part of the daily package. I went to the doctor to check up mostly because my heart was doing whacky things, my blood pressure was a little up—no stress, at least nothing unusual that stood out to cause it. I wore a heart monitor for 24 hours. Talked to a cardiologist, nothing too out of the ordinary for a 51 year old woman, a little heart murmur from Rheumatic Fever—not new news, very common. As a rule, I try to avoid taking medication, I do most of my pain management in a mind-over-matter determination that is fueled by a “Fuck-it, I got shit to do” attitude, take an NSAID or two, chase it with a good drenching of water...
On April 3rd I sat with my sister at a friend’s funeral feeling out of sorts and fragile; I thought maybe I pulled a muscle in my right shoulder—that’s what it felt like. I was tired otherwise—no damn big surprise there, I’m always tired.
On the 15th day of April, I was at work sitting through a meeting, the skin around my ribcage and below my right shoulder blade started to tingle, then it burned—it ached, deep and clenching like a weird heart attack. As soon as the meeting finished, I ran to the ladies room to look myself over, as soon as I saw the rash I knew what was wrong with me all along. Shingles.
Hydrocodone and antivirals, days spent lying around, buzzing on strong medicine, feeling itchy, but not daring to scratch. Bathing in warm colloidal oatmeal baths; babying myself. Taking it easy, working on healing, getting well. Only problem is, when the rash finally cleared away, the PHN pain stayed for an extended visit. This is normal, so I’ve been told. It can go away in a few weeks—or linger for a year—I had a bad case, so it is possible that it can go on awhile. Awhile can be a mighty long time—something akin to forever.
More Hydrocodone with Gabapentin for a nighttime sleep aid—I waited to get better—accepting the latest version of normal. I didn’t feel much like doing anything. I didn’t paint, I struggled to write. No appetite, no drive, no desire—I only wanted to soak in hot baths reading books and sleeping—watching T.V. sometimes. I struggled to carry on life like normal, in spite of it—I often struggled to do the simplest things. It wasn’t like I had nothing. It wasn’t as if I was on disability, sitting on my ass doing nothing all day—I work full time, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week—I am paid to think. My writing books and making art is what I do outside of that 5/40 period that I’m paid to think about things that are not personally mine—but I take ownership of and I take pride in what I do, so screwing up because my brain chemistry is being rewired by prescription drugs is out of the question. Thinking was becoming a prime piece of mental real estate that I feared was starting to get out of my price range as I was functioning in a vague sort of normal that I adjusted to accept because of the fear of pain. I waited to feel better in awhile.
More Hydrocodone. Refill the Gabapentin.
Finally, over six months later, the Hydrocodone stopped working on Monday, November 3rd—I had just called for a refill the week before—personally walked to the doctor’s office to pick up the prescription and signed for it. Gabapentin became the replacement by the time I got home that night, I picked up my refill figuring, I’ve been taking it every night for six months, I should be “used to it” by now, right? Life went on, I stopped the 3-4 X’s a day Hydrocodone, and took Gabapentin 3X’s a day—problem is, by Thursday, I didn’t know my ass from my elbow—it was a struggle to think straight at work—keep in mind, I work a full time job—40 hours a week. By Thursday I was feeling scared that I might not be able to keep my job if I bumble around stoned off my ass on this shit. By Friday I stayed home from work because I was too sick, upset stomach, disgruntled bowels, dizzy head, heart-skipping, joints on fire, legs twitching, restlessly pacing, unable to land, I was tired, but barely able to sleep—the PHN pain burned, tingled, ached, and begged like a nagging pain will do—please give me something for this pain. If possible, the pain was worse. I wanted to die—or thought I might die—there was a fine line down the middle of how exactly I felt, my poor head was so muddled, tired. Who am I? What have I become? Is this how it’s going to be for the rest of my life?
It’s in black and white—
the side effects,
may go away
Oh, fuck-it, I’ve got shit to do.
Seven months too long.
I want my life back.
On Saturday morning 11/8, I carefully got out of bed and started a new day—I made a quality of life decision, put up with the pain and consequences to save my brain—my life.
I have felt better ever since. I have more energy. I feel like cooking dinner when I get home from work rather than immersing myself into a tub of hot water. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
Most important, I feel like living.
Yes, I still have the PHN pain, but the pain is SO MUCH LESS than when I was popping pills that stopped working. It’s as if the pills were engineered to beg for more—or promised more. Insidious shit. I got tired of waiting awhile longer because the side effects out-weigh the suffering. Fuck that noise—it’s a lie. Someone’s making money hand over fist peddling this crap to people patiently waiting for their pain to get better. Let me tell you this—it’s not engineered to cure you—there’s no magic bullet contained in that little brown bottle with the trendy feel good pink Breast Cancer awareness cap. Just like millions of other people, I fell for the damn snake oil lie.
Unfortunately, some people have no choice—but fortunately, I do.
I’ve been robbed—7 months of my life are gone because of pain killers.
I was robbed of me—
I was robbed of my creativity—
the things that made me
That’s seven months I will never get back.
Never trumps awhile.