Yesterday — partly because of my own stupidity and partly because the only pharmacy in Byron, Il closes at 7 p.m. — I had to go off hydrocodone cold turkey.
And it was hell.
I ran out on Wednesday evening and I immediately went over to the pharmacy to ask them to call in a refill. But, the doctor’s office was already closed. So they said they couldn’t refill it until the next day.
No big deal. I could make it through the night. And I didn’t want to make a big deal of it and come off like a crazy drug addict.
So, back home I went.
And normally going one night really wouldn’t be that bad, because I take a pretty strong drug to make me fall asleep every night.
But the thing is I had to go into the office the next day. On no pain drugs. And, because my office is two hours away, that meant I wouldn’t get home in time to pick up the prescription before the pharmacy closed for the night.
My mom ended up driving me into work because I have realized that the two-hour drive each way makes me suicidal.
Even with her help, going off the hydrocodone cold turkey was still enough to almost kill me.
When I got to work I headed right for the bathroom, because I had buckets of diarrhea shooting out of me.
My palms were sweating and my rib pain was intensifying.
I lived through that and went to a morning meeting.
After that, I had planned to go to lunch with my mom, but suddenly my boss decided she wanted to take our team out to lunch so all of a sudden I had to look professional for a two-hour business lunch while I was in opiate withdrawal.
I popped some Tylenol hoping they would help take the edge off.
After I got back from the lunch I told my editor that’d I be over to his office in a bit to talk after I finished up some work at my desk.
Then, I ran to the bathroom. More diarrhea.
I was so weak, and my muscles hurt so bad that I just sat on the toilet with my jeans around my ankles, leaned my head against the blue bathroom stall, and prayed to die.
I got myself together, pulled up my pants, washed my hands and made it back to my desk, where I laid on the floor, resting my head on my puffy pink coat, until I could find the will to stand up again.
When I finally walked over to my editor’s desk to talk about the newsletter, so much time had passed that he said, “Wow, you must have had a lot of work to do. I thought you might have left for the day.”
We chatted for a bit, and then I ran back to the bathroom. More diarrhea.
I wanted to go to the hospital so bad. My ribs hurt like hell. My body ached all over. And I just wanted to be dead.
I thought about laying on the floor by my desk in the fetal position and making my mom come up to the office to get me.
But I didn’t.
Instead, I gathered up all the strength inside me, and got my things together so I could go home for the day.
As I walked over to say goodbye to my boss, I thought maybe I had at least pulled off giving him the impression that everything was fine. But when I told him I was leaving, he said, “Wow, it looks like you barely made it through the day.”
I tried to sleep on the way home, while my mom drove, but I was in so much pain that I wouldn’t really call it sleeping. Needless to say we didn’t make it home in time to get to the stupid pharmacy before they closed at 7 p.m.
And so, I had a long night ahead of me.
I tried to go to sleep as soon as I walked in the door, but every single joint in my body hurt.
It felt like a knife was in my ribs, and pain was radiating through my bones. I kept having to run to the toilet because of the diarrhea, but there was nothing left inside of me to come out.
I prayed for relief.
I prayed with all my heart that God would let me die that night. That he would take my life. That I would finally get the true relief I’ve been seeking for months and I would get to go to heaven.
I begged God for this to end.
My ankles felt simultaneously swollen, sprained and twisted. It felt like I had full-on tendonitis in my wrists. My body felt broken — all over.
And I didn’t think I would make it through the night.
I tossed and turned all night.
I thought about suicide. I thought about how much I hate hydrocodone.
I thought that once it got out of my system I would never go back on it.
But even as I thought it, I immediately knew it was a lie.
I knew I would go back on it the very second I got a refill in the morning. I knew because while my whole body was attacking me, there were my right ribs, screeching at me, haunting me, reminding me that I needed the hydrocodone.
My amazing mom drove to the pharmacy this morning to get my refill, and when the new dosage kicked in, I finally felt like I could breathe again.
I don’t want to be on this stupid drug. I really, really don’t. I hate that half the doctors I see accuse me of being a drug addict. I hate the I have to constantly wonder if I am a drug addict.
But more than that, I hate living my life feeling like I’ve just been stabbed in the ribs.
Some people out there might choose to forego the hydrocodone so they could avoid being on an opiate. Some people out there might be strong enough to preserve through this horrible, horrible intercostal neuralgia pain without strong pain pills. And, some people out there might be able to live like that.
I am not one of those people.
Quality of life matters to me.
Having even a few hours a day when the pain is at a minimum is important to me. And if that means my body is physically dependent on a federally regulated opiate, then so be it.
All I can tell you is that the pain that stabs through my right ribs every single day of my life really is that bad.
My ribs still hurt.
Yesterday was awful. I was working from home and I managed to stay with my laptop until about 3:30 p.m., but then, after that, I just laid in bed and watched hours and hours of TV while I prayed for the Hydrocodone to work. But it never really did.
Today was sort of alright, so I took a shower. I know. Crazy, right? To be honest, I’m pretty much at a stage in my life where I only shower two or three times a week. All the effort and the moving my right arm to wash my hair just seems to make my ribs hurt more, and it’s just not worth it to put myself through that every single day. I used to at least put dry shampoo in my hair on the off days, but that stuff doesn’t really work that great, so I’ve pretty much given up on that now too. Instead, I just throw my hair up in a bun.
It’s called: Working from home.
I do shower the one day of the week I drive into the office, or when I’m traveling for business. Obviously. Gawd, people, I have some standards.
Speaking of work, I’m flying to Atlanta tomorrow to go to the National Convenience Store Show. It’s my third business trip in six weeks. After this though, I should be in Illinois for the rest of the year.
My boyfriend’s technically from Atlanta, although he only spent five years of his life there. I spent four years of my life in Macomb, Illinois going to WIU, but I barely even remember how to get there. He, however, still roots for the Atlanta Braves like they’re his hometown baseball team. I think it’s because the Cubs (his second favorite team) well, let’s just say they have problems winning and stuff.
Anyway, I miss my boyfriend. Lots. We are still managing to see each other at least once or twice a week, but the long distance thing sucks. Lots.
And my ribs still hurt. I think deep down he’s still hoping I’m going to get “cured” but that’s looking less and less likely.
I did get in to see a doctor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison recently.
It’s university-level care, so it should be top notch. He was pretty cool, and he didn’t seem overwhelmed by my case, so I’m going to stick with him for awhile.
He referred me to their pain specialty department, but they won’t even make an appointment to see me until they get all my medical records from Loyola. It’s been three weeks and Loyola still hasn’t sent the records though. So I’m basically in holding pattern.
And I’m spending my days trying to space out my hydrocodone waiting to see a pain doctor who hopefully won’t freak out about me being on opioids. The last two refills I got on that drug have been from primary care doctors and both of them have been super weary about giving it to me.
They’re all “You take four a day? EVERY day???!!” And I’m all, “Yes. When I said level 8 or 9 pain every day, I wasn’t joking.”
And let’s be honest. If only need four in a day, I’m having an AWESOME day.
On aside, my new doctor did say my symptoms were very severe for someone with intercostal neuralgia. He said he thought I might have Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) in my ribs, although he followed that up by saying that CRPS is usually only in your arms or legs. And everything I read online seems to confirm that, so I’m not sure how correct that was.
He also added a new medication to my list of prescriptions, but it doesn’t seem to be helping much. Although it’s one of those long-term meds, so it takes at least a month before you know if it’s working.
And, as of right now, the pain is still horrible.
I was having a hard time eating yesterday because I was in so much pain, and I turned to my mom and I said, “Well, I guess I have good days and I have bad days.”
And she said, “What’s a good day look like? I don’t think I’ve seen one of those.”
I’m having a pretty good day.
And by that, I mean, a pretty good “pain” day. That’s how my whole life is defined now.
Yesterday sucked though.
Yesterday I was in agony.
I think maybe it was because my birthday on Friday and my boyfriend came out to visit, and my whole family took me to Olive Garden for dinner, and maybe it was all too much for me and I was paying for it on Saturday. Or, maybe it was the weather. Or maybe it was because the fan in the living room was blowing at some crazy angle.
Or maybe God was just p*ssed off at me.
Whatever the reason, the pain was awful, and so, I ended up taking extra hydrocodone.
I’m supposed to take “one every six hours,” but I’ve been taking the stuff for months now, and many, many times “one every six hours” has the same effect as an M&M would.
Sometimes that means I end up taking “one every four hours.” Other times that means I end up taking “two every six hours.”
But then, every couple of days, I have to sit down and count out how many days I have left until I can get a refill, and then count out how many pills I have left and divide the two and start rationing it out.
As of right now, I have about three pills a day to get me to my next refill.
I already know that’s not going to be enough.
Here’s the thing, it’s not that I used to judge people who used excessive amounts of painkillers in the past. It’s more that, before I got sick, I just never even thought about them.
But now. Now, I sit down on Sunday mornings, open the orange prescription bottle, dump out the pile of powdery white pills, and count out each individual one, and by extension calculate how much pain I will have to endure over the next three weeks.
I already know that there is no way I can get through the next three weeks with three pills a day.
My plan right now involves one part prayer, and two parts new doctor, who I see Sept. 10.
But, my experience with medical professionals thus far though has been, “Oh well.” As in, “You better find a way, because as long as you’re not bleeding out, it’s not our problem.”
But that’s the thing, it really, really does feel like someone is stabbing me with a butcher knife.
I have endured the worst pain in my entire life over the last six months.
Pain that makes me consider suicide on a daily basis. As in, I seriously plan out how I can kill myself. As in, I was seeing a psychiatrist who specializes in helping people who deal with chronic pain because I was fantasizing about driving my car off the road or swallowing all my pills before I went to bed at night.
I am in that much pain on a regular basis. And I am not exaggerating when I tell that you that there are things in this world worse than death.
But because I am not visually bleeding out, because my blood work comes back normal, because nothing ever shows up on any MRIs, I get 120 hydrocodone a month, and no more.
If someone rushed into the ER with a gushing stab wound, they would never be denied the pain relief they need.
Or maybe they would. But that would be tragic.
Because pain eats at you. It messes with your head. And it changes you so much faster than you think it will.
And there is a pill out there that can take my pain away. And I don’t want to take it so I can get high. I don’t want to take it so I can feel like I don’t have any troubles, or like I’m floating or whatever.
I want to take it so that I can get some relief from the metal claw digging into my ribs and maybe think clearly enough to see into tomorrow and remember that I do want to keep on living.
It’s so, so easy to sit on the outside of pain and judge people though.
It’s easy to say things like,
“Well, you can’t just depend on the pain pills, because you’ll end up building a up a tolerance to them, and then where will you be?”
“You need to take the number of pills the doctor tells you to take because that’s what the doctor says and that must be right and he must know exactly how many pills it will take to take your pain away without giving you a drug addiction.”
But that’s all bullsh*t when you’re in so much pain you want to kill yourself.
When you seriously want to end your life because you cannot handle the amount of agony that has engulfed your right ribs, the very last thing you give a crap about is the possibility that “two hydrocodone every six hours” instead of “one hydrocodone every six hours” might lead you to a life of pain pill addiction.
Or maybe you are different.
Maybe you would have a clear head and think differently in that situation, and maybe you would be able to endure hours and hours of the worst pain you’ve ever experienced, while a bottle of hydrocodone pills that could give you the relief you need were sitting right there on your dresser, and maybe you wouldn’t reach for them.
But I doubt it.