Relating to Pain

Five things I’m discovering about myself and pain:

  1. I used to think I was a pain wimp, but the truth is that I have been living with a certain amount of foot pain for more than a decade, and I now find myself living steadily in zone 4  with regular peak between 6 and 8. I ought to have designed my own pain chart prior to yesterday as it would have been quite useful over the past 5 weeks.
  2. Sometimes my motto of “better living through chemicals” has problems, such as when I am no longer allowed to take a certain needed medication, or when one medication reduces the effects of another and/or has side effects of its own that make daily living more challenging.
  3. I’m getting used to blurry vision (and occasionally double vision), but it has become apparent that one of the side effects of Dilaudid is an amazing ability to burst into tears at just about anything — especially annoyances and frustrations. There are quite a few annoyances and frustrations in my life right now.
  4. There is a hazy no-man’s-land between the need for pain medication and the desire to not take narcotics for the relief of pain. While I have spent much of the past 10 years on significant amounts of anti-inflammatories (e.g., 800-2,400 mg per day of Ibuprofen — usually closer to the minimum but occasionally the maximum), I have rarely worried or reconsidered the ramifications of ingesting all of those chemicals. Yes, I know they can truly mess with your digestive system, especially at those high levels of doctor-approved dosage, but the pain relief has been worth it for my toe, feet, and knees. However, as I find myself in need for much stronger pain medications that include narcotics with nasty side effects, I struggle to find the place where I can live with the pain. (See number 3, above, and also consider nausea, possible addiction, and the sad scenario where the longer you take them, the more you need to get relief from pain at the same exact time when you should start weaning off the damn things which truly is a twisted bit of cruelty here.)  My surgeon has already broached the subject of beginning to wean off the Dilaudid, although he was purposefully hazy on the details of when and how, or what might take its place. Not being allowed to take my usual anti-inflammatory drugs (Who knew that Ibuprofen interferes with bone growth? Not me!) leaves me in two types of pain: stiff, aching knees from osteoarthritis and stabby waves of pain emanating from my left ankle. And that is while I’m still taking the Dilaudid!
  5. Despite all of the above — or possibly because of all of the above — I find myself constantly apologizing to my husband for having to take care of me. One friend shared this wisdom: that we are raised from birth to become independent and not need the assistance of others to perform basic, daily tasks. The situation in which I find myself now causes me to rely upon others — particularly my life partner — for such basic needs as food, cleanliness (assistance in and out of shower, clean clothes provided), transportation (I cannot drive now and need assistance just to get in and out of a wheelchair). I cannot safely reach to open and close the window coverings, or cook, or insert a DVD into the machine to watch a movie (although that one might be because of our particular set-up here). Also beyond my capabilities are things like watering houseplants and making a pot of coffee; heck, I can’t carry a cup of coffee! It is painful to recognize that I am really quite helpless at this point in time. So I’m here juggling all sorts of feelings (gratitude, sorrow, frustration, loneliness, thankfulness, helplessness) along with physical pain, all while trying to keep a cheerful countenance so that my family does not keep their distance in fear of being yelled at or chastised. So far, so good.