a work in progress


It’s difficult to talk about chronic pain without the topic of pills arising, yet it appears no one wants to have an honest discussion. An exception is a loud group of people without chronic pain who seem to have strong opinions regarding what chronic pain patients should or shouldn’t take. Let’s face it, they “didn’t even fill the prescription after hernia surgery,” so they have it all figured out.

I’m not ashamed of taking pain medicine. I treat the issue just like I treat most things in life : I don’t hide it, but I’m not exactly forthcoming, either. If you ask, I’ll try to be honest. But those are usually the only circumstances under which I’ll discuss much of anything. I guess that goes with the territory of transforming into an introverted person these last few years. Or perhaps it’s just me.

While I’m not embarrassed about what I take, I also hate it. I never wanted to rely on pain medicine to get through the day, but the 50 milligrams of Tramadol increased little by little until grew into the dose I currently take, a whopping 300 milligrams of Extended Release Tramadol. At some point, there was an addition of 5 milligrams of Hydrocodone for breakthrough pain, or those really bad days for those of you who aren’t familiar with the term. Then Hydrocodone became something I needed every day, and eventually, the dose was doubled, and later replaced with the slightly stronger Oxycodone. Add 2 milligrams of Zanaflex in the evening to help ease my spasms ever so slightly so I can maybe fall asleep, and that’s pretty much my full arsenal. Gross, right?

The timing of these medications is everything. For example, working / driving and opioids don’t mix well, so I wait until I get home to start those. I take Tramadol while I’m at work {I function well on it}, and when it’s time to drive home at the end of the day the last dose has worn off so I’m nice and clear for the five-minute journey home. This convoluted method of timing medicines is nothing short of ordinary for someone with chronic pain or any other chronic condition. And, frankly, I’m one of the lucky few who still gets to work, and I’m grateful for the challenge.

So I’m not ashamed of my meds…and I kind of hate them…but if I’m being completely honest with you, I also love them. Because of those little pills, I have 30 minutes to an hour of each day, assuming I take everything at the proper time, when I feel significantly less pain. I’m still far from pain-free, but I have a little space to breathe. My appetite spikes and my muscles unclench a bit. And on the really bad days sometimes those pills are all that stand between me and desperation. They don’t ever kill the pain, they just make it bearable. As much as I hate them, they keep me going. I  know they aren’t the long term answer, but right now they’re the best {and worst} thing I have.

I’ve thought a lot about strategies to get off everything. Some are drastic, others are really expensive, but all have one major issue : how am I going to deal with this pain once I’m off of everything? It’s a showstopper, really. It’s quite a scary thought and a major bummer.

The question of how am I going to get off this train is always floating around my mind, and even the minds of those in my corner, least of which is my Physical Therapist. I started seeing Dr. T in 2007 and since then he has come to know me better than most…and I don’t mean most doctors, I mean most people. When he hears about a new treatment or notices a change in my pain I’m sent off to try something else. The most recent idea he had was for me to see a particular Interventional Pain Medicine Doctor.

Like most new physicians I encounter, this guy is sure he might definitely has the answer. He wants to be the person who finally “fixes me;” it really massages his God Complex, you know? I’m trying a relatively new procedure, nothing that will solve my orthopedic issues but rather how my brain communicates with my nerves. He also prescribed Lyrica, a medicine that isn’t an opioid and is, apparently, more appropriate for chronic pain.

If the procedure works, and the Lyrica works, I plan to wean off all the other medicines.

I’m not sure why, but I’m all gung-ho about this guy’s plan. One reason might be that I’m more desperate / anxious than I have ever been to get off the meds and start feeling better. A second reason is that I feel like the combination of the treatment and the change in medicine feels a little more like I’ve been thrown into the deep end with a small, but somewhat helpful flotation device. Now everything just needs to work. 😬

One Comment

  • linda maumus

    good God, Anne. I am praying for you. I think you are one awesome person to write about all of this. it made me sad because you are so young and I want you to marry and have children. I hope the Lyrica helps. I love your writing style which is humorous in spite of what you’re going through. I am happy you have the support of your awesome parents. I don’t now what else to say. I had no idea you were going through this until I read your 1st blog. Chuck didn’t even tell me-he who was in chronic pain for years. Maybe he didn’t know? I so want to fix everything for you. That’s my M.O.! for family and those I care about. sending you much love, linda

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