Tag Archive: chronic pain

Gaining Weight While in Pain

I wish I could title this column, “How I Lost Weight While in Pain.”

I wish that’s what this was about. I wish I had already figured out how.

Unfortunately, all I have right now is the question. How the heck are you supposed to lose weight while dealing with chronic, excruciating pain on a daily basis?

See, the thing is, it’s not like the pain itself made me gain weight. I mean, yeah, soon after it started I gave up all physical activity unless I was running from zombies to save my life. But that alone didn’t equal a higher dress size. In fact, after about three months of laying on the couch in agony, I was pleasantly surprised to see on the scale at my neurologist’s office that my weight was only about four pounds higher than when everything started.

Alas, that’s also right around the time when I got put on every single nerve pain, opioid and regular pain medication that they make, all of which list “weight gain” as a possible side effect.

At first, I didn’t even notice that “weight gain” was right there on the list of possible things that could happen to me. And my silly doctors didn’t bother to take five seconds to say, “Hey, this might make you pack on the pounds.”

So I just started popping all the pills like candy and going about my business. And I swear to you, it was as if I woke up one day 50 pounds heavier.

I’m not even joking. That’s what happened. I gained 50 pounds in like five days. And suddenly none of my clothes fit, I hated how I looked in every photo, and on top of the whole horrible daily pain thing, I also suddenly had to deal with random crazy weight gain.

The problem is, the stupid pills actually do help me. I’m not going to go so far as to say they “work” because it’s not like I have my life back. But I will say that they allow me to live my life with an amount of pain that leaves me less suicidal than I was before I started taking the drugs. Plus, they allow me to continue working without crying in agony.

They do not, however, allow me to exercise in any way. Seriously. Even walking still makes me feel like I’m being stabbed. And don’t even start to say the word “yoga” because that crap might as well be called “twist and turn on a bed of nails” for what it does to my ribs.

The meds also make my feet swell up if I so much as walk a mile. Seriously. The doctor tried to tell me that was impossible, that my feet should only swell up if I’m eating a lot of salt or standing in one place, and it has nothing to do with the meds.

But I promise you that they swell up when I walk, even if I’m downing water and avoiding sodium. And it never happened even one time before I started taking six different prescription medications on a daily basis.

Of course, a lack of exercise alone isn’t enough to make me gain 50 pounds. For that, the medications have a special side effect: They induce hunger. And, now, despite the fact that I spent the first three decades of my life trying to eat only when I’m hungry, all that work is basically pointless. I’m always hungry.

Add to that the fact that I’m pretty sure the meds also slow down your metabolism — and it’s not just impossible for me to lose weight, it’s impossible for me to maintain my weight.

Of course, the world doesn’t know this. They don’t get the nuance. They have no idea that I’m struggling against all these factors and that I really do notice every single pound I gain. They just look at me, scan my body, see that I’m overweight, and judge away.

I can feel it in the eyes of friends and family. I constantly stress that everyone is talking about it the second I leave the room. And I wonder if the people I meet in my professional life are suddenly taking me less seriously.

Even doctors are guilty. I had one doctor who had no idea how to deal with my rib pain, but she did take my appointment as an opportunity to lecture me on my weight. Something about fruits and vegetables and finding an exercise that doesn’t hurt.

I wanted to scream, “IT WAS DOCTORS WHO MADE ME THIS WAY!’

I mean, yes, deep down, I know I’m not completely innocent in all of this. I know that the daily struggle to live through the chronic pain makes it that much more likely that I’ll reach for a chocolate bar or a can of Coke to cope.

But with so many other factors working against me, it’s like I’m doomed to see a higher number on the scale every week, regardless of whether I skip the pop or not.

So, here I am, 60 pounds heavier than I was before I got sick. I wear stretch leggings way too often, I focus in on my face for all my photos, and I have absolutely no idea what to do about it.

I will say though, that the only thing worse than gaining weight, is being in pain without pain pills.

So, alas, it looks like I’m stuck, at least for now.

 

  • Share/Bookmark

What it feels like to go off hydrocodone cold turkey (for me anyway)

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.

Hydrocodone

  • Share/Bookmark

Surviving the move: An ER visit, a shot of dilaudid and some steroids

So, ya, the move was pretty stressful.

I mean, I didn’t really think I was getting stressed out or anything, but I guess my body was stressed because on Friday night, just 12 hours before I was supposed to pick up the U-Haul, my “intercostal neuralgia” pain was seriously the worst it has ever been ever.

I’m talking stabbing pain that felt like a machete inside my right ribs, mixed with the feeling of being dropped off the side of a moving train and landing on a field of jagged rocks.

Horrible, horrible pain.

I was laying in my bed at about 10 p.m., trying to figure out how many hydrocodone I could take without running out before I was due for a refill, when I realized that all I really wanted to do was kill myself.

And then I started thinking that the pain that I was in, right then, was literally Hell.

That all I wanted it to do was end it. And that if dying was the only option, I was ok with that. In fact, I was sort of in favor of that.

So, I told my mom and my brother that I should probably go to the emergency room. And then I said  many, many swear words.

Pain does that to you.

They took me to some ER in Joliet.

I refused to go to the ER right by my house, because the doctor there was the one who originally misdiagnosed me with an ulcer and wasted a month of my life telling me I couldn’t eat tomatoes and giving me the wrong treatments, and what with all the pain I was currently experiencing, I thought I might punch him in the face if I saw him.

So we drove about 20 minutes south to go to the Joliet hospital.

As soon as I got there, they hooked me up with a wheelchair, which was awesome because standing up was killing me.

When they called me in though, they took me to some weird entrance exam area, where there was a whole bunch of patients sitting by computers getting their blood pressure checked and being asked how much they weighed.

I was in too much pain to fight them on that question, but I overheard some other lady tell the nurse, “Enough.” As in, “How much do you weight?” “Enough.”

And then the nurse was all, “I’m really sorry, but we need to know exactly how much you weight because we’re going to give you an antibiotic treatment, and the dosage is going to be based on your weight.”

And she was all, “Well I’m going not to tell you while he’s in the room.” I can only assume it was her boyfriend or her husband. But I suppose it could have been her son. Or maybe even her dad. Who knows.

And then the other nurse was all, “Why don’t you just write it down on a piece of paper and hand it to us?”

And then she grumbled and something else happened and then my pain continued to try and kill me and then somehow they ended up talking about her weight into kilograms and so I never did find out how much the lady weighed because MATH.

Anyway, after the initial check in, they didn’t even bother to put me in a room, they just had a doctor come over and examine me right there.

And she only sort of pulled the curtain back half way before she asked me to lift up my shirt so she could see my ribs.

I was in too much pain to care who I was flashing though.

I screamed in agony when she touched me. I’m pretty sure it was that and my large blue and purple medical binder full of my health information from the last six months that convinced her to give me a shot of dilaudid — a pain reliever the internet says is 6-8 times stronger than morphine.

Yes, it burned going in, but let me just tell you that shot was the best thing to happen to me since I first ate Taco Bell.

Seriously. I have not been that pain free since ever. Really, I cannot remember ever being that pain free.

I want that life back.

I know I had it at one point.

I have faint memories of living and doing things where I could function without horrible pain dominating everything I did all the time, but it’s been so, so long.

I was told the shot would last about 8 hours, but I got a solid 10 out of it.

When it wore off though, I thought I was going to die again.

It’s crazy how quickly the suicidal thoughts come back.

Seriously. It takes about three minutes of pure agony before I’m ready to quit life.

The pain is just insane, and nobody should ever have to endure such a thing. I took two hydrocodone and cried for the 45 minutes it took for them to kick in.

And then I prayed that Walgreens would fill the hydrocodone prescription I had in my wallet a day early.

And they did. That is how I know there is a God.

I used that and the effects of a 20-day low-dose steroid pack my neurologist had prescribed me over the phone Friday afternoon to make it through moving day.

But actually, I just ended up carrying things like pillows and blankets to the car every once in a while, and then feeling the pain of death cover my body whenever my medications would wear off. And then I would suddenly lay down wherever I happened to be, and wait for another dose of medications to kick in.

I spent a bunch of time on the kitchen floor and on the grass next to the U-Haul truck.

The ER doctor told me I need to have a conversation with my pain specialist about going on stronger medications, except of course, my former pain specialist was a horrible, horrible person, and I don’t have a new one yet.

So I’m just taking hydrocodone so that I can live through each day. And I’m relying on a few more than the 4 a day I’m supposed to take.

You can judge me all you want, but when you feel like your ribs are trying to stab you in your heart, you do what you gotta do.

Because it’s either that, or kill myself.

On the upside, we did end up making it to Byron. Sometime around 10 p.m. Saturday night.

At least it didn’t rain. Moving in the rain always sucks.

Uhaul

  • Share/Bookmark