I know I’ve whined a lot about my health this year. I apologize. If you aren’t in the mood for any more thoughts about aging and pain and medications, then just stop right here and go back to your morning routine. I’ll be back tomorrow with something more cheerful, I promise.
I’ve always known about pain. I’ve said before that I was a clumsy child, so I was often wounded and bandaged. However, the pains of childhood are short-lived. Anything that is perceived as having an end is endurable. My attitude changed a bit as a young adult. Pain became something to eliminate rather than endure, so it didn’t interfere with daily life. There were years when our cabinet was filled with aspirin, Tylenol, Excedrin, and other remedies.
My first experience with unrelenting pain came with a back injury and subsequent years of nerve pain. Then there was the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis and an entirely different type of pain. Then more accidents and conditions. More pain. But a strange thing happened along this path. I’ve grown more tolerant of pain. I’ve stopped trying to eliminate it from my life, and instead I’ve just tried to manage it. I can function pretty well at a level 4 on the 1-10 pain scale, 24/7.
After all, no one dies from pain. We die either from the underlying cause of the pain, or from the consequences of the pain. The pain just exists. I’m not saying that excruciating pain doesn’t make us want to die! I’ve seen people at that level, and I thought I was near that level when I had a collapsed lung. However, the reality is that most of us just don’t want to feel any pain. That’s why so many people become addicted to drugs and alcohol. They are trying to eliminate ALL pain- either physical or emotional.
That is what I’ve been thinking about this week. If you watch television or read magazines or talk to people, you quickly realize that everyone is taking something that helps them avoid or eliminate pain. As stated earlier in the week, my current problem is restless leg syndrome- something I hadn’t even heard of until all those Requip ads appeared on television. In fact, I thought it was silly when I first heard the term. Now I know that the term comes from the fact that the solution to the intense burning pain and tingling is to move. From 2am to 4am I move my legs almost constantly, thus alleviating some of the pain, but also waking me up and waking up my husband. The sensation returns if I watch television or drive or do anything that requires sitting for more than thirty minutes.
My doctor’s solution to this was to give me a sample of Mirapex, with the promise that if it helps he will prescribe it. I took the sample home, read all of the accompanying brochures, looked it up online, and decided, “No Thanks!” The side effects and warnings are horrible! “Patients have reported falling asleep without perceived warning signs during activities of daily living, including operation of a motor vehicle, which sometimes resulted in accidents.” The forums concerning problems are frightening. “Caused impulse control disorders.” And the statistics on effectiveness are less than impressive. Many patients reported going from one daily dose to three, and still had symptoms. I’ll pass.
My doctor and I have an understanding that I’m not one of those people who accept anything and everything that is created by the pharmaceutical geniuses. He has spent much of his valuable time convincing me of the curative powers of the three medications I’m currently taking. And I’ve had some problems in the past that I’ve solved without taking the most popular “current cure”. I’m probably on record somewhere as a “difficult patient”, but I don’t care. My point is that I’m willing to accept the pain of my current condition while I seek alternative treatment that does not involve life-threatening medications. My goal is to manage the pain to the point that I get enough sleep to function safely during the day. There are things I can do, and I plan to do them.
For example- I’m fat. You know and I know that I’ve let myself go over the past two years. You can see that just in my profile photo. I can’t say exactly why it’s happened. But recently I’ve tried to improve my eating habits and get more exercise and just generally improve my health. My doctor feels that losing ten to twenty pounds may lessen my pain level because I just won’t be carrying so much weight on my little frame. That’s something that makes sense. That’s something I can do. But what I’m not going to do is think that I will ever be entirely pain-free again, at least not for more than a few hours at a time. That thought process just leads to self-pity and a desire to pop the next pill that advertises on television.
So…I’m managing my pain, enjoying my life, looking forward to vacation, and doing as much as I can for as long as I can. Praise God for the support of family and friends!