Tuesday, September 29, 2009

When medicine becomes your enemy.

After two major back surgeries in a span of three weeks I was in excruciating pain that only "heavy duty" medicine could push down to a level that I could endure. With this medicine I experienced side effects that caused me to rethink whether pain would be better than what I was left feeling.

First of all the depression hit me and with it the feeling that even holding my cell phone took too much effort. I have always loved to talk on the phone, but my family and friends would call and I honestly couldn't hold my tiny phone to my ear longer than a minute or two. Switching to the speaker part proved to be frustrating as well, since the person on the other end couldn't hear me. This isolation from the outside world fueled my depression and I sank even lower.

My physical therapy taxed what little strength I had and after the sessions I would escape in a nap. My world consisted of showering, physical therapy twice a day, meals (which I was too tired to eat) and precious naps. Sleep became an escape from my arduous life of pain and weakness. Everyone kept encouraging me to push through the weakness and depression and being the good soldier that I am, I did not stop. Honestly, I was basically on "auto-pilot" and did what I was told to do with a smile on my face. Someone once had told me that when I found myself in situations that seem to be overwhelming to just keep breathing and keep on keeping on. And so I kept on keeping on.

Towards the end of my stay in physical rehab I was hit with a new problem that most people won't even discuss because of the embarrassment of the topic. I lost all bladder control. I was sure that something had gone terribly wrong with my surgery. A stop at the doctor's office on the way home confirmed through an x-ray that the surgery wasn't the culprit for this new hurdle.

My husband went to the store and bought me adult diapers and I began to realize that now I was crippled (had to use a walker), in pain, incontinent, and on top of everything else, depressed. Just a few short weeks earlier I had been so hopeful and now I was wondering if this would be me for the rest of my life. Not a very pretty picture. Can't do anything without pain and peeing my pants without even knowing when it would happen.

My handwriting vanished and was replaced by a scrawl that even I couldn't read and my thinking skills became like someone whose head is filled with jello. Television shows couldn't entertain me, books didn't make sense any more (I have always been an avid reader), talking to friends took too much energy, food tasted horrible (which is WAY NOT me), and depression had gathered a dense curtain across my mind's eye where NO ONE was welcome.

One day after watching the clock to make sure that I knew when I could have my next medication dose I decided that I couldn't become a sad shadow of my former self. So, instead of taking my medication, I didn't. What difference would it make? I wasn't going anywhere and my husband would be home to make lunch soon enough. Not only didn't I take that dose, but the evening time came and I went without the medicine to cut the pain. I refused to give up who I was to the medication that was stealing my life.

Everything went okay for the first skipped dose and by the time the next scheduled time arrive I was feeling more hopeful about regaining my essence. However, here's the clincher, by the third scheduled time I wasn't feeling too good. I thought maybe I had come down with the flu. I was throwing up, shaking with chills and ached as if I had been snowplowed onto a bed of nails. My skin crawled and I begged my husband to take me to the ER. After talking to me (he didn't know I had stopped my pain medicine) he told me that he could do anything at home that I would receive at the ER. I didn't have the flu; in fact I was going through drug withdrawal.

When I think about the forty-eight hours of that drug withdrawal, I remember watching the clock and timing my throwing up to see if I could go longer than twenty minutes in between times (took a long time to do that.) Couldn't keep anything down, but I kept trying with chipped ice and sometimes just holding the wet, cold glass next to my mouth made me feel better. I was hot, then I was cold, I couldn't really sleep, but when I could doze I had horrible dreams and I remember begging my husband to give me a pill. He said that I shouldn't start up and we called the doctor who prescribed something for the nausea and a different pain pill that wouldn't cause such drastic effect when stopped. I then understood why drug-addicted people keep on their drugs, because deciding to quit HURTS so very much. Without support of family and friends, I believe that I might still be bed-ridden on that drug that stole my life.

Now, I don't take any strong pain medication and the best part of all, my bladder control returned to its previous state of function. At first, I thought maybe it was because I was dehydrated, but after a week of having bladder control without the pain medication, I realized that the medication was screwing up the signals from my bladder to my brain. Leftover adult diapers are in my bathroom closet as a gentle reminder of the journey that I not only survived, but where I rescued my life from a dark,deep and isolated place.


  1. This is scary! I cannot imagine what it takes to deal with something like this, but I do know you are one amazing woman to suffer though and come out onthe brighter side.

    I guess you can handle anything, right?

  2. Hey, thanks for the nice comments. My momma didn't raise a "sissy" that's for sure.