- Mental Health
BRING ON THE PAIN
I heard a comment about pain. It was said that sometimes a person actually manifests physical pain because the psychological pain they have is too difficult to deal with. If that is the case, bring on the physical pain. Let’s get it over with. I thought I had searched every dark corner of my mind, sucked up the remnants of memories and brought them out into the harsh light of reality. I have spent time examining, putting in order, sorting and resorting and I still hurt. I have physical pain now and if it helps get rid of the pain in my mind, I say lets go a few rounds, see who can outlast the other. My own mind has turned on me like a flesh eating bacteria and left me lying in a heap of confusion, guilt, and emptiness. It has stolen my energy, my joy and my ability to function outside the walls of this self-imposed prison. I am sick to death of the irrational fear that grips me, preventing me from the most basic life experiences. What good am I if I can not even leave my home to keep an appointment with the doctor, shop for groceries, attend a birthday party? I am disgusted with what I’ve become, what this disease has cost me and those around me.
It’s not as if I don’t fight back. I keep a positive attitude most of the time hoping for even a short break in the madness. I fill my body with chemical concoctions that have caused rats to die slow deaths. I withstand electric zaps that attack my legs, arms, hands, head or back. Not electric shock therapy but an uncommon side effect of the medications. It feels as if there is a voodoo doll of me in the possession of a most cruel individual who stabs blunted end needles into it on a whim. My mouth is so dry my tongue often cracks and the deep fissures mimic the raw open place in my heart.
It’s not that my life, my experiences are so much more traumatic than anyone else has survived. I have examined the pain causing incidents, understood how they may have shaped my choices in life and then released them, forgiving the perpetrators, not dwelling on past issues. I feel I have read at least as much on the subjects of Depression, Anxiety and PTSD as most who have attained Master’s degrees for their learning. I not only did not gain a diploma for my studies but find knowing a lot about what causes this Hell does little to release me.
They say it is a chemical imbalance in my brain. A malfunction, as if a cog has lost one of its edges and no longer connects properly to turn the next in line of a necessary flow of transmitters and resistors. We add Serotonin and Norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, mix, stir and serve over ice cocktails along with this, or alone. There is too much of one, not enough of another and always, always the explanation. “This is a relatively new area of medicine in comparison to the other diseases.”
Then my mind travels into the conspiracy mode. “They” could fix this but there is entirely too much money to be made from the medications. “They” manage to get products onto the market after the smallest trials imaginable, yet hold back others until the right to manufacture a generic form of their best sellers comes into play and then suddenly the new drug passes through the FDA with flying colors. I held on by my very fingernails while it took more than a year to release the medication I am now taking. It was to be the last hope for me, a concoction we hadn’t tried. I was tapered off the anti-depressant I was on and went through withdrawal symptoms that rivaled that of the most hard core addict. For one day – one brief magical, incredible, bittersweet day before starting the new medication I was back! It was as if I had awakened from a tortuous nightmare and was in a world so excruciatingly beautiful I could barely comprehend its existence. I had unmeasured energy, everything fit and was right. I could laugh and sing. I could listen to music without it bringing back a flood of bad memories. I drove around the whole day going into shops, driving into old neighborhoods. I even ate lunch out in a crowded restaurant. I came home and spent the evening cleaning my poor neglected home, washing windows, cleaning out cupboards and finally, at bedtime took my new medication.
I awoke the next morning and felt pretty good. It didn’t compare with the day before but it wasn’t horrible. And as days went on, I started feeling the side effects. I dug in my heels and did my best to ignore the nausea, head pain – not headache, but my whole head hurt, down to the follicles of my hair. All the while I kept remembering this was the last chance, the one hope where other medications fell short, so I endured. For about three months I did fairly well. I had a little more energy after my body became accustomed to the chemicals. My Anxiety lessened a bit and I was able to leave the house on a more regular basis and my doctor was encouraged that I was moving back toward baseline, my personal best, my level of functioning. We watched for it to climb higher, to exceed what I experienced with the medication I had tapered off of because it had stopped being a beneficial symptom reliever. Well, that is putting it mildly. Actually it had joined the other team and was hell-bent on my destruction. I failed to progress so we added more of the new medication and more, finally surpassing the highest recommended dose. I wanted to feel better. I willed it with all of my strength. I counted every tiny improvement as a major victory and it was like knowing your lover is cheating on you but living in denial because you don’t want the relationship to end. Finally, forced into admitting that this medication was not keeping up with the symptoms, I went back to my doctor and we tried an old friend that had served me well for many years. Maybe it was time for a change in chemical combinations. Just in case, we later added another medication that had some success in boosting the main medication’s ability. Well, I had energy! I also found I could throw and shatter a favorite crystal vase, cuss at my dogs, get into altercations in the grocery store, alienate anyone I came into contact with and tell both of my kids I didn’t give a damn if they understood me or approved of me because I really didn’t like them very well in the first place. I had actually wanted to do that for some time, so it wasn’t a total loss.
All things considered, the new miracle drug seemed as if it had been the better idea. At least it kept me quiet and non-confrontational. So back I went to a lesser dose, hoping if we gave it more time I would reach baseline on the maximum recommended dose this time. We also discussed the obvious. My baseline may very well have changed. I might not ever reach the level of functioning I was once able to achieve. Well, as we get older, there are some things we can no longer accomplish so I try to take this in stride. Weeks turn into months and I find myself less able to leave the house again. My energy is gone and I watch as the house is not properly cleaned, my hair doesn’t get combed, sometimes it doesn’t even get washed. I sleep more and rest less. I have gained even more weight, for a total of sixty pounds added to my short frame over the course of the last fifteen years. I once wore a size three and I now wear Plus sizes and those that give and disguise. I avoid looking in the mirror and on the rare days I can manage to leave my home I feel sorry for inflicting my presence on the world outside. No one should have to look at me or be exposed to my inadequate self and disgusting invasion of their normal space.
By now, I can’t even keep the appointments with my psychiatrist and beg one more refill and make up lies about why I can’t be there. Until finally, there will be no more refills unless I can see her. So, last week I drove into town, wrinkled clothes, less than shiny hair and all, trying to disappear into the chair in the waiting room. She came out to greet me with the warm smile she always has for me and we walk the longest mile back to her office. She says it looks as if spring has arrived and I look out the window and agree, there does seem to be some evidence of that. We discuss the plant in her office that was planted in a coffee cup when I first saw it. It now towers over the file cabinets and threatens to take over the room. I don’t want to say it and neither does she, but she finally offers the only option available that hasn’t brought with it so many side effects my poor body can not withstand; the racing heart, increased blood pressure, sweats, dizziness, nausea, shakes, sleepiness, and the band plays on.
She smiles at me and with her eyes not quite meeting mine, asks if we should bump up the dosage to over the recommended level again and see if that will lessen some of the symptoms. I say,” Sure,” and leave with a brown paper bag of samples to get me by until hopefully my insurance will do a preapproved exception and pay for the increased dose, again, not for my Depression or Anxiety, but for the physical pain of fibromyalgia. Since the last time I was on that dose, it was decided that physical pain is worth the risks involved in taking so much of this medication, but not for the management of Depression.
Funny isn’t it, how “they” decide what is worth paying for and why. Meantime, I’m hoping this means the time is running out on this patent and there is a new miracle drug on its way through the twists and turns of the FDA. Who knows, my road to recovery might be just beyond the next hill.