Saturday, October 11, 2014
“Debilitating” is a perfect word. The very sound though not quite onomatopoeic, implies tiring, constant, unrelenting, and almost permanent. It is one of those unkind, unforgiving words, an un word, with no saving grace or silver lining.
For the past two weeks I have been in debilitating pain. I have developed Piriformis Syndrome, or maybe a Lumbar Radiculopathy, or perhaps a good old case of sciatica, depending on the physician of the moment. And it is incapacitating.
The pain begins at the top of my right buttock and radiates down the side of my thigh, past my knee, and into my calf. It is there, in some varying degree of intensity, 24 hours a day, and there is not a single position—standing, lying, sitting, squatting, or any combination thereof, that gives even a degree of relief.
It allows me to sleep only intermittently. It has, at times, made me into a babbling idiot, pleading with doctors for some form of release. I have been to five different healers in four days. I have been to the emergency room at 3 a.m., gotten injections, gobbled painkillers and tried without success to push, pull or stretch recalcitrant nerves and muscles back into correct alignment. I am now on a diminishing course of steroid medicine which, after four days, may, may, be doing some good. Or perhaps not. It’s frankly hard to tell. For the past five nights, the pain has roused me from half-sleep to full, agonizing wakefulness. The musculature of my right thigh is as dense as oak. I can press with one some areas with one finger and bring myself to tears.
There are other side-effects as well. I’ve become clumsier, sweeping tea cups off table tops and dropping a full plate of rice pasta on my lap. I can’t focus; my thoughts invariable migrate back to the discomfort I’m feeling; I am totally unable to concentrate on much of anything other than the ache. I’m occasionally nauseous. I have had suicidal thoughts. I can barely type. Every other word on the computer screen is misspelled. I’ve misspelled the word “misspelled” five times.
Almost worse than all of this is the certainty that somehow I will not get better. In fact, I will; I am catastrophizing, a not unusual trait of mine; I know my rationality has taken a serious hit but there’s no relief in that realization. I am in denial.
Incidentally, I have no idea how I put myself in this situation. I haven’t fallen, or strained, or bent my spine one way when it should’ve gone another.
I’ve dealt with pain the past, including a motorcycle accident that left every tendon and sinew overextended and strained, but this is worse. And so I decided to do something I haven’t allowed myself in 23 years—after the failure of massive doses of ibuprofen and other over-the-counter concoctions to diminish muscle and nerve swelling, I asked my doctor to prescribe an opioid painkiller, Vicodin. I had managed to avoid such drugs through seven cancer surgeries, but this agony was too much. The Vicodin has not worked. Neither did a couple of other controlled meds whose street prices are stupidly expensive. Now I’m taking a Percodan derivative, which seems to have limited effectiveness. It is not making me high or having any of the pleasant psychoactive effects associated with such drugs. It merely takes the edge off for an hour or two.
Right now it is close to midnight. I am resisting the urge to quadruple the amount of drugs I’ve been taking. My butt and right leg are in excruciating pain. Think sharp stick, a squeezing pressure on the muscles, a deep throbbing no massage can relieve.
My body, and more specifically my liver, is that of an addict who metabolizes drugs quickly as a survival mechanism. Unfortunately, my liver has doesn’t have the capability to recognize one drug from another, so be it cocaine and alcohol (bad) or diazepam and medical opioid (good), it reacts in the same way and strives to rid my body of the drug that might relieve the pain.
It’s hard to think clearly. Pain hurts.