One of the hardest parts of living with an Invisible Illness such as Fibromyalgia, MS, Ehlers Danlos, etc. is that you quite often look just fine on the outside, while your insides are screaming in pain. This leads many people to wonder if you truly are ill, or how serious your illness actually is. How do you handle this, as a Person with Chronic Pain (PwCP)?
For one thing, you should never have to make excuses for your pain to anyone. What you feel is what you feel, and there is never a reason to justify it or prove it, not even to your doctors. For years, people with Fibromyalgia went undiagnosed or misdiagnosed because Pain was often the only symptom a patient could describe. There are no other outward symptoms and nothing comes back in the blood tests or x-rays that a doctor might order. It’s only through using the 18 Tender Points and determining how many of them you have that a definitive diagnosis can be made for Fibro.
Other diseases often come with outward symptoms – the “butterfly rash” of lupus, the enlarged joints of Rheumatoid Arthritis, the dislocating joints of Ehler Danlos, the varying symptoms of MS – all of them a visual reminder that there is something wrong with a person. Fibro doesn’t present itself that way, and so a person can often look “normal” like everyone else, yet be in a flare up.
So how do you handle it when the people who are closest to you don’t believe you are ill or doubt the severity of your illness. The first step is to educate them on what Fibromyalgia is: a disorder characterized by widespread pain, which causes many symptoms like extreme fatigue, sleep issues, memory loss and mood issues. It is essentially a very painful, exhausting disease, for which there is no cure and few treatments.” It is becoming much more recognized in the Medical field, unlike in the past, and is well accepted as a legitimate condition, just like arthritis, Lupus, MS, etc.
Basically, your brain miscommunicates with the nerves in the spinal cord and sends out the wrong messages to your body, resulting in an overload of symptoms. This graphic may be helpful in showing you just some of what you can experience:
And this is the reason it’s such a hard disease to diagnose because these symptoms are often looked at just on their own, and not seen as part of the bigger picture. It’s no wonder people look at us and think we’re crazy. To have all these symptoms and yet still look perfectly normal on the outside…well, I’d wonder too perhaps. That’s where the education comes in. The more we teach people about Fibromyalgia and how it mimics so many other diseases, the more people will realize just how huge a burden we are carrying every day.
Nobody wants to be told they look awful though, so how do you break this Catch-22? You want people to see you as you really are, but you don’t necessarily want to look ill at the same time. Are you obligated to dress up and put on makeup everytime you go out, just to look “good” for strangers? Of course not, but I am advocating that you do it for yourself if you’re able. Run a brush through your hair, throw some lipstick on, go for a trendier haircut or a manicure. Never do it for someone else though and never let a stranger’s comments get to you. Only you know how you’re feeling at any point and sometimes it’s just not possible to do these sorts of things. Pain may get in the way, or finances or depression…in these times, just do the best you can with what you have in the way of energy and time and desire.
Remember…you are perfect just the way you are…everything else you do is a bonus.
Education of others is key, and I truly believe that the more we can share about Fibromyalgia and other Invisible Illnesses with them, the more they will understand what we are going through, and the more compassionate they will become. Perhaps then they will stop commenting on how “fine” we look, and will start seeing us in a true light. Maybe they will see our struggles, our problems, our symptoms and what we have to go through on a daily basis just to survive and finally understand how difficult our lives truly are. Then and only then will come the appreciation and admiration we’ve been waiting for.
If you’ve been to my blog before, you know that I live with Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Invisible Illness. If this is your first visit, you now know something about me. I want it made very clear that YES…Fibromyalgia IS REAL.
Here are just some of the MANY symptoms that people with Fibro have reported experiencing:
Walk a mile in my very painful shoes and you will know exactly how painful it is to live with Fibro. Every one of my muscles feels like it’s being dragged in concrete and every joint feels like it’s been twisted, then put into a mechanical vise and clamped as tightly as possible. I get shooting pains in parts of my body that I didn’t even know existed, for no reason at all. My arms burn and my hands and feet tingle or go numb.
The brain fog is awful…forgetting what you’re saying in the middle of a conversation is so embarrassing. I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast. I can’t remember if I ATE breakfast. I take medications that cause horrible side effects like weight gain and shaking hands and brain zaps…a sensation like an electrical shock that runs across your brain and where you can feel AND hear a literal buzz. I am constantly exhausted by the lack of sleep that comes with Fibro. It’s never refreshing and it’s never enough.
Yet, with all of this that I and my fellow Fibromites go through, there are still doctors who say “it’s all in your head” and “it doesn’t exist”. Well, tell me then…what DO I have wrong? All my tests come back negative for everything you tested me for…but I have all
18 of the 18 tender points that indicate Fibromyalgia is what I have.
Here are things I’ve had to say to friends and to DOCTORS who have questioned me about Fibro and Chronic Pain at various times over the last 10 years:
1. This is not “just in my head”. My pain is real.
2. I wish Fibro came with bruises, that way, you could see how much pain I’m feeling just so you could believe me.
3. It never goes away. My pain is always there, even when I’m acting “normal”. Don’t let my smile fool you, I am always in pain. Always.
4. There is no standard day or week or month with Fibromyalgia, It changes from hour to hour sometimes. Some days are better than others. Some days I think I want to die (this one always gets me in trouble).
5. Staying home instead of working or doing something fun isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
6. You think I’m faking being sick, but really I’m faking being well.
7. The Brain Fog is terrifying. You try forgetting what you’re saying in the middle of a sentence and see how it makes you feel – you feel stupid and old and easy to dismiss. I lose things easily and am easily distracted. It’s so frustrating.
8. Day to day activities are exhausting. Heck, getting out of bed is exhausting.
9. Even if there were drugs that worked well, I am not a drug seeker and my history will show that. I have ONE Family Doctor and use ONE Pharmacy! I just want relief from the pain.
10. What part of “chronic condition” are you having a hard time understanding? I am not going to get better. I am going to live with this for the rest of my life. I hope to get better but it’s never going to go away. Don’t give me false hope.
11. I’m willing to try just about anything, but just because something worked for some Aunt’s friend’s cousin’s sister doesn’t mean it’s going to work for me. We’re all different and treatment isn’t a one size fits all option. But, whatever…I’m willing to listen.
12. Sometimes, I have to cancel my plans at the last minute. Sometimes, I cancel my plans with the same friend 2 or 3 times in a row. It’s not a reflection on the friend. It’s my body.
13. I wish more doctors understood Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain and took us more seriously. Do you see me as a drug seeker too? What about when my x-rays show a body filled with arthritis? How do you deny my pain then? I just want you to help me find answers and relief.
14. Some days, even my hair hurts
15. There are days when the most I can accomplish is moving from the bed to the couch, and that’s okay. At least I did something.
16. On the days I feel good, I push myself too hard to get things done, even though I know I’m going to pay for it later. I hate being thought of as lazy. When my husband comes home, I can honestly say to him, “honey, today I cleaned up, did the dishes, vacuumed the house, did the laundry, baked cookies and scrubbed the bathroom”. And then I know I’ll be bed-bound for the rest of the week.
17. What you see on the outside doesn’t necessarily reflect how I feel on the inside.
18. My chronic fatigue is at times overwhelming and I can’t push past it. It’s exhausting to be this exhausted.
19. I wish a simple nap would help to relieve my pain, but it will not disappear if I lay down and have a rest.
20. I’m a real person with real pain. I didn’t ask for this but I’m being forced to live with it. I didn’t do anything to get this, but sometimes I feel like I’m being punished.
Research has now shown that Fibromyalgia is NOT an inflammatory condition like so many doctors first thought. It is technically NOT an autoimmune disease. What Fibro IS, is a NERVE disease where the brain misreads the pain signals going to the body through the spinal cord. This causes widespread pain throughout the body that can be felt in many different ways, and these include the various symptoms shown in the chart above.
Oh, it can be so frustrating having an Invisible Illness like Fibro. I truly do wish there were outward signs of this illness so that people could see that you’re ill. Something like bruises or a rash, or big F’s showing up on your body would be perfect (“oh look…she has F’s all over her…poor thing, she has Fibromyalgia…go get the door for her”). I truly wouldn’t mind that if it would help a doctor believe in what I’m going through, trust me.
As a person living with Chronic Pain from Fibromyalgia and a host of other conditions, I tend to live with a lot of shame. I blame myself for not being able to keep up with the chores around the house that I should be able to do. I blame myself for not being able to work as an Administrative Specialist, a job I adored. I had a pity party about a lot of things as I stared at the dust on the TV stand. That’s right…I should upon myself today. I do it often. Too often.
Most people with Chronic Pain do the same thing. When we lose the ability to stay on top of the chores we used to do easily before, we start to feel guilty and ashamed. Dishes pile up, laundry goes unwashed, showering and personal grooming falls by the wayside and moving from bed to couch often becomes our biggest accomplishment. It’s not that we want to feel this way, but pain and the side effects of medication often make us this way. Most of the medications we are given include fatigue as one of the side effects. Others include weight gain, which can slow us down tremendously, nausea, constipation and/or diarrhea, dizziness, and other unpleasant things.
And that brings up another issue. All of these side effects do little to help us feel pretty. In addition to feeling pain and fatigue, we’re often left carrying extra weight so now we feel even less attractive than before. It’s a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation.
So how do we get over “shoulding” on ourselves. We feel like we should be able to keep up with the chores around the house, while we’re still taking care of making dinner and watching the kids and staying on top of their activities and doing everything else expected of us, plus making sure our spouse’s needs are met.
What happens when you live with a spouse who expects you to manage everything exactly like you did before you became sick? A spouse who doesn’t believe that you’re really ill and who thinks it’s all in your head? What if you live without a spouse – if you’re a single parent with no support? Who takes care of you?
In order to find victory in the midst of this shame, try answering some of these questions*, being as honest as you can.
What three words/phrases best describe you in a POSITIVE way? Don’t settle for neutral or slightly positive words to describe yourself. Be bold.
What do you do best? Everyone has unique talents and abilities — find yours by taking an accurate inventory of your life.
What is your biggest accomplishment in the last year? If fibro and depression have been a longstanding part of your life, you likely feel that the last year has been void of any accomplishments. Look deeper — achievements come in all shapes and sizes. Depression works to minimize your triumphs, but shedding light on them magnifies their impact.
What are three successes in your life? When you look at your lifetime successes, you begin to see how effective and valuable you can be. You understand your value and build your self-esteem.
What are you working on? Having goals and direction in life limits depression. Completing those goals adds another accomplishment to your list and boosts esteem.
Fibromyalgia may change many things in our lives, so it’s important that we remember to find the positives and celebrate them. No more shoulding on ourselves!
So, I’ve decided to give up the guilt about what I’m NOT able to do around the house. I’ve even found new hobbies and activities that I’m passionate about and that I’m actually good at! I’ve become a volunteer for an organization in BC, my home province in Canada, that uses Patient Partners to work with Health Care organizations to help make real change in how health care is delivered. The Patient Voices Network has given me opportunties to speak in front of large crowds, attend educational events and become part of several committees. I’m careful to choose to become engaged according to how I’m feeling and I don’t take on engagements that require weekly participation. Most of what I do involves 3-4 hours of my time per month which is manageable. Twice I’ve had to regretfully pull out of engagements that became too involved for me to manage. Even at the last conference I attended which lasted for 3 days, I was able to build rest time into the daily schedules. I wouldn’t have been able to manage otherwise.
That being said, I don’t want anyone to think that I’m underestimating how awfully painful it is to be forced to change yourself or how hard it is to find new passions to give you a sense of purpose. These are not simple to apply or instant fixes. Please don’t think I’m minimizing the pain of the loss. I want you to know that I think you’re incredible because of the fact that you’ve survived those things and have continued moving forward, no matter how slow. That is victory!
Even when you’re sick and you haven’t found new activities or even if you can’t get out of bed, what I just said about you being incredible is still true. You’ve survived so much and you’re still here fighting! I mention finding new things to do as a way to better self-esteem because I know it’s something helpful when possible, but there are so many things I feel are more important and that have been more fulfilling for me.
Being sick has forced me to learn a lot of lessons that other people might not ever learn – lessons about patience, how to deal with pain and difficulties with grace, good humour and empathy. I’ve learned that the little things are often the big things in life.
All That Matters
It’s the Little Things That Matter
They’re the things that mean a lot
They’re the things that I can count on
When I’m giving things a thought
Oh there’s lots of big grand gestures
That are meant to mean big things
But in the end, they aren’t the ones
That tug at my heartstrings
I prefer the smaller hidden ones
The things that seem quite shy
The little acts that are given out
Not meant to catch your eye
It’s the little things that matter
That make a quiet sound
I love them best from all the rest
They make the world go round
Also, I think I understand more about pain and can truly empathize with others who are hurting. I feel like I can truly help people because of the pain I’ve experienced. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty darn cool. And I feel like it takes immense strength to not only survive chronic illness, but to continue appreciating life and showing love to others when in constant pain. It’s also taken strength to rebuild myself and my self-esteem. I have to give myself credit for that. And finally, as much as I wish I was healthy, I fight for my life every day and I’ve won every single time. If that’s not victory then I don’t know what is! And the last thing I know is that if I’m capable of all this…you are too.
I belong to a Facebook group called the Fibro Blogger Directory and we’ve been challenged to send in and answer questions relating to Fibromyalgia in the month of November. I wanted to share this question and then answer it:
What is a typical day like in your life?
From Pamela in Langford, BC Canada
It’s 2:30 in the morning and the house is quiet. I’m sitting in my recliner with Dorie, my cat on my lap, and the TV on the CatTV channel on YouTube. I went to bed at midnight but I only managed a couple of hours of sleep before I woke up, so here I am again, back on the computer in a quiet dark house. The only sound I hear is snoring – from both husband and cat, and I shake my head, not quite laughing as I listen to them both. I wish it was me, but once again, this means Wakefulness has won this battle and persists in keeping me away from Dreamland. I hurt all over, every muscle is aching and Painsomnia wins again.
So starts a typical day in my life. I live with the Chronic Pain of Fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis and several other conditions and it’s often the painsomnia from these conditions the keeps me awake at night. At this point, I’ll probably just stay awake until Ray wakes up in the morning at 4:30. There’s no sense trying to sleep now because I’m too awake. So I do what I always do; I surf the Internet, I go on Facebook and I write; either on my blog or for one of the various articles I’ll be submitting to other publications. I often find it easiest to write in the middle of the night; my thoughts flow freely and things come to the surface that are easier to write about, whether they be memories or new subject matter.
At 4:30am the alarm in our bedroom goes off and Ray wakes up. I head to the kitchen and put the dishes away from last night and make a cup of coffee for myself before heading back to my recliner while he finishes showering. I stay here until he leaves for work, so I’m out of the way. He finishes his shower and comes to kiss me good morning, then makes his breakfast while I stay out of the way. I am busy updating my Facebook page and morning Devotionals. We exchange kisses and he heads out, and then I force myself up from the comfort of my recliner. I have some cereal or yogurt for breakfast and enjoy another cup of coffee before I get serious about doing some work. Much of my day is spent on the computer generally taking care of blogging, moderating a forum I belong to, checking my email and visiting Facebook. No real change from the wee hours of the night!
At 7am, I take my first dose of medications for the day. Every hour, I make myself get up and do some stretching. My body screams back in pain, but if I don’t do this my muscles will atrophy. I also try to get one major chore done around the house, whether that be sweeping the floors, scrubbing the bathroom, vacuuming, etc.
Lately, I’ve been dealing with back pain and spasms in my SI Joint on the left side and an area around the left facet joint in my lower back. The pain has lasted for 2 weeks and I’m off to see my Pain Specialist on the day of writing this (Oct. 22nd) as well as my family doctor, plus I’m meeting a friend for lunch. It’s a much busier day than usual. Normally I would eat lunch around noon, and then check the mail at 2pm – the highlight of my day!
While most days are spent at home, I do have doctor appointments on a fairly regular basis. I also have work that I do for my volunteer positions, including conference calls that happen in person and online. As part of my health journey, I go for regular massages as well, and there will probably be some physiotherapy appointments coming up too so my calendar will start getting busier. My rule of thumb is to keep an open day after every day that has something planned so I can rest, otherwise, I become too fatigued to manage.
At 3pm, my alarm goes off to take my afternoon medication.
I often lay down for a nap at this point and can usually sleep for about an hour. When I wake up, I’ll read for a while, or watch something on Netflix, and if I have the energy, I’ll start prepping dinner. We do a lot of prepared food in our house as I don’t always have the energy to do a lot of cooking. M&M Food Stores get a lot of business from us! Tonight though it will be leftover Chinese food, so no worries about having to cook! I’ll get back on the computer until Ray is home, and then we’ll sit down for dinner and talk about our days.
The evening is quiet. Ray plays a game on his computer and I continue to work on blog posts and hang out on Facebook, etc. or read a book or magazine. Dorie, our cat curls up with me and it’s a comfortable place to be. I take my evening medications at 7pm and by 8:30pm, Ray is heading to bed. I’m tired, but I know I’m not ready to sleep, so I tuck him in with a goodnight kiss and head back to my recliner. I’ll do up the dinner dishes shortly and then spend the rest of the evening on the computer, chatting with friends, reading magazines, and unwinding. I take my final medications at 11pm and turn off the computer. Sometimes I read, and sometimes I just listen to relaxing music until midnight. That’s the end of the day for me. I crawl into bed, my body aching all over, and pray that sleep will come. I drift off, finally and start dreaming…
It’s 2:30 in the morning and the house is quiet. I’ve just woken up…and there will be no more sleep tonight.
I’m so tired, I’m repeating a post from the past!!!
Have you ever felt exhausted? So exhausted you could barely move? The kind of exhausted that leaves you feeling almost helpless? Guess what…I have a new word for you!!!
Actually, I think there are many people in my life who this word could apply to…the warriors who struggle along every day despite the illnesses that try to hold them back. My friends and fellow Warriors…you are simply Quanked!!!!!!
Taken from Grandiloquent Words:
-Overpowered by fatigue.
-To have the strength reduced or exhausted, as by labour or exertion; become fatigued; be sleepy. Origin uncertain Used in a sentence:
“After sprunting all weekend, then frooncing to get my chores done, I’m well quanked.”Quanked is a condition in which one’s energy and vitality have been consumed. One who is quanked has used up his or her bodily or mental resources, usually because of arduous or long-sustained effort. To feel quanked at the end of the day; quanked after a hard run; feeling rather quanked; quanked by a long vigil.-See forswunke
Now, in all seriousness, I think the word is an excellent one to describe how it feels to be exhausted when you live with an Invisible Illness. It’s beyond any type of tiredness you’ve ever felt before. It’s sleeping for 12 hours and waking up just as tired as you were before you fell asleep. It’s like climbing a mountain when all you did was go up one flight of stairs. When sleeping on the couch is easier than trying to get up to go to bed.
Now add in being in pain constantly and what do you get? You get you. You get me. You get people like us, who have been living in varying stages of agony for varying periods of time. I’ve talked with several friends who live with Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue plus various other Invisible Illnesses and they’ve described their fatigue and pain like this:
It’s like swimming through concrete while being on fire at the same time (this was mine).
It’s like constantly having a “pins and needles” sensation that never goes away
I feel like I’m being randomly stabbed by a crazed maniac, but that crazed maniac is inside my body and I can’t stop it.
There are parts of my body that are numb and parts of my body that are burning and other parts of my body are throbbing and it all happens at the same time.
My brain is foggy and I can’t remember things like I used to. I hurt everywhere all the time and I’m always tired, no matter how much sleep I get. I don’t like this me that I am anymore.
I feel like I’ve been in a war, but you can’t see my wounds
Do you remember when you were young and you could stay up for hours and hours at night and never feel old? Yeah, well I can’t do that anymore. I’m lucky if I can stay up past 7pm and I don’t even have kids. I’m too tired and achy and sore.
There are ways you can try to improve your sleep with Fibro and Chronic Pain and the key is consistency:
Sleep in a quiet dark room with a slightly cooler temperature than normal. Wear a sleep mask if necessary.
Power down the electronics (TV, computer, Smartphone, etc.) one hour before bedtime. The light from your bedside clock is also enough to disrupt your sleep, so check and see if there is a dim light setting, or face the clock away from you at night.
Set a regular bedtime and wake up time. Establishing a schedule can help the body recognize good sleep habits.
Consider downloading and listening to “sleep music”. There are many recordings that are free, including delta wave music which works with your brainwaves to help lull you into a natural sleep. A “white noise” machine may do the trick for you. These can be found in almost any electronics store and come with various sounds and settings, designed to help your body relax and let go.
Limit Alcohol before bed. You know you’ve read this before but for good reason. Alcohol may make you “feel” tired but actually will wake you up more often.
Eat a healthy snack 45 minutes before bed. This would be something with protein in it like half a turkey sandwich, a small bowl of whole-grain low-sugar cereal, milk or yogurt or a banana. Eating like this before bed helps stave off the “midnight munchies” where you wake up starving in the wee hours of the night.
Get some exercise! Regular exercise like walking or swimming can help the body to rest well in the evening. Start slow and build up over time. Work with a personal trainer if possible who can help you set up a routine tailored to your specific needs and abilities.
Check with your Doctor to ensure there are no other underlying health issues that could be causing your fatigue (i.e.: thyroid issues, anemia, etc.).
Don’t just lay there – get up! If you haven’t been able to fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up and leave the bedroom. Read or do something that doesn’t involve your TV or computer/Smartphone until you feel sleepy and then try again. The bedroom should be for sleep and sex only. The longer you lay awake in bed for, the more used to being awake in bed your body becomes. You need to break that cycle so getting out of bed and moving to a different room is the smart choice.
Medications should be the last resort but are available to help if needed. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for information about over the counter medications to try first.
If you tend to be a worrier at night, with a million things running through your head, allow yourself 10 minutes of this. Set an alarm and let your thoughts go wild. At the end of those 10 minutes, it’s time to stop. It takes practice but it gives you the opportunity to get all those worries out without mulling them over for hours. This isn’t the time for solutions, just the time to acknowledge that they’re there. In the end, say something like “I’m glad I had this time to worry about everything, but now I’m going to sleep on them. I’ll deal with them in the morning”. It tells your brain you’ve acknowledged the worries, and you’ll do something about them later. And off to sleep you go.
Another way to sleep better at night is to be organized during the day. The less you leave to chance during the daytime, the less you need to stress at night. “Did I sign Johnny’s papers for camp?” “Where did I put the chequebook?” “When is the next Book Club meeting?” Whether you use your smartphone, an organizer or the calendar at home, by having a regular system for keeping track of appointments, meetings and paperwork, you’ll stress less knowing you have it all in one place and you’ll sleep better at night.
Sleeping better isn’t always about being in less pain. It’s about doing all the things you can to make your environment as sleep-conducive as possible which may result in less pain. Removing as much stress as possible from your sleeping area is one of the biggest and best things you can do, so try and think of all the things that will make your bedroom area the most comfortable it can be. The key is, whatever you do, do it with consistency. None of us wants to feel quanked.
Who Was I Kidding?
I’m mad. I’m mad at my body, I’m mad at the way I’ve been let down, and I’m mad that I’ve lost my freedom, once again. What am I talking about?
For those who don’t know, I used to sing in a women’s barbershop chorus as well as in a quartet. I love to sing but I haven’t done it since 2007. Recently, I heard about an opportunity to join a group called the South Island Care Choir, made up of Doctors, Nurses, other Health Care practitioners and Patient Partners from Patient Voices Network, the group I volunteer with. I immediately jumped in and said YES!! I would love to join this group, not even thinking how unrealistic this might be for me healthwise.
Well, I’ve just made the unfortunate realization that it’s not going to be feasible for me to do this, and I am totally pissed. The main reason why I won’t be able to sing? My stupid left foot and it’s stupid Haglund’s Deformity that we’ve just confirmed. I literally can’t walk on this foot for more than 10 minutes without being in agony, let alone stand on it for 90 minutes to sing. I would have to walk to the bus stop there and back to where we would rehearse, and I am NOT paying the $50 it would cost for a taxi each way. Even using my walker or my crutches wouldn’t make a big difference…I would still have to be on my feet to sing properly and I just can’t manage it right not. Plus, the only way that this Haglund’s Deformity can be managed is with surgery. I’ve already tried the other measures to treat it…ice, elevation, anti-inflammatories, rest…everything.
I am so mad at myself for getting my hopes up and then realizing that this just isn’t going to work. I wanted so badly to be able to sing again because I miss it so much…the camaraderie of being in a group environment, creating harmony together, performing for people…just everything. Singing in the past brought me so much joy…I really wanted to re-create those feelings again. Unfortunately, if I’m totally honest with myself, I would end up being in too much pain and too tired to really enjoy myself and now is just not a good time to do this.
I’m going to send a note to the director and ask if it’s okay to put this off until the Spring and then perhaps re-join at that time. Hopefully my foot will be dealt with by then and I’ll be recovered from surgery and no longer in pain. My regular pain I can manage, but if I can’t stand on my own two feet with just my cane, then there’s no sense in pretending. I don’t want special accommodations, I just want to be like everyone else on the risers; a regular singer.
From my Sweet Adeline Barbershop days – the link below is my quartet Quintessence singing Marshmallow World. It’s from the Christmas CD “Jingle Belles” that my chorus Rhythm Of The Rockies put out, I believe in 2004. This was when I was living in Calgary where I was a founding member of the chorus.
In 2005, Quintessence competed in Sweet Adelines Region 26 (the All Canadian Region!) composed of choruses and quartets in BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan. Every year there would be Regional Competitions held to pick winners to go to International Competitions. Out of 16 Quartets, we placed 10th overall in the competition and we won Novice Quartet of the Year which was a real honour – the best of all the new quartets!! One of my favourite memories was when we entered the theatre after coming off stage, people were applauding as they did for all the competitors, and the reigning Quartet Champions stood and applauded for us – again, as they did for each quartet, but it made me feel so special, like our quartet was so amazing. I’ve never forgotten that feeling, something likely so insignificant to them, but has had a lasting impact on me all these years later.
And that was another reason I wanted to sing. I wanted to be able to influence other singers who maybe were in a choir for the first time. I wanted to be able to encourage and inspire someone who was trying something new for the very first time. But no…my stoopid body refuses to cooperate and so once again, that freedom to do what I want when I want is gone.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy our version of Marshmallow World. I realize it’s not Christmas yet, but the weather is changing and some people Edmonton have already had snow so it’s not totally inappropriate either. Marshmallow World
And as for me, like I said, I guess I’ll revisit singing in the Spring and see how things are at that point. Hopefully I’ll be in a better place physically to be able to sing without pain and I’ll enjoy the experience even more.
there is always hope
Mental Health Advocates Share How To Prevent Suicide in 60 Seconds
What would you say if you had 60 seconds to talk a stranger out of taking his or her life?
I was flipping through my new SoulPancake book when this question jumped off the page.
What would you say if you had 60 seconds to talk a stranger out of taking his or her life?
I froze and my mind went blank. This can happen in my lifetime and I didn’t know what I would say.
So for this National Suicide Awareness Week, I’ve asked some mental health advocates to answer this question.
I hope you will never need the suggested responses and tips below. But if it happens, may they help you save a life.
Here’s What They Shared
“The pain you are feeling must feel overwhelming but If you live another day I will show you that life can be better than what you are living.” — Saaim Ali
“I can’t promise you it gets better. I won’t tell you sunny platitudes or promise you rainbows.
What I will do is ask you stay, because you’ll never know what’s ahead if you don’t.
I will do my best to help you look for the rainbows and walk in the rain with you until you can, because I’ve been there, too.” — Selena Marie Wilson
“What you’re considering doing is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Whatever it is — I promise to help you to resolve it — but we can’t do that if you’re dead.” — Kathy Reagan Young
“ I have been where you are. I know it feels like there is no other way out, but there is hope. People care, I care. Take my hand, I will walk with you through this. Your loved one will be lost without you. One step at a time, one minute at a time. We can do this together. You are not alone.” — Crystal Fretz
“I’ve been there, and I just want you to know that even though it doesn’t seem like it right now, at this very moment, there is hope. You are loved. If you can’t think of a single person who loves you, know that God loves you. I love you because you are a beautiful creation of God. I’ll go with you to find help. I’ll stay with you until you feel safe. You are not alone.” (coupled with questions about the person and things they like/dislike, points we may have in common, and non-threatening body language — adopt the same gestures they use, sit and or stand in the same posture — mirror them so that they can feel the empathy and love). — Anita Ojeda
“There’s a whole bright, beautiful world that needs your spirit in it. It feels dark, lonely, and hopeless right now, but it’s not. There’s help for you, there are people who care about you, and you are so, so much more valuable than you realize. Let’s talk about what resources are available and which one you think will work for you, and I’ll help you make the call if you want. You’re not alone. I’m here to help you. It will get better.” — Olivia Sod
“Trust me I understand how you feel, I’ve been there myself. But hang in there. Sometimes it doesn’t make any sense, but just hang on. Hang on. Hang onto life.” — Sheryl
“A lot of times, people who commit suicide believe the people in their lives would be better off without them, so I’d tell them they wouldn’t and I know. My brother committed suicide and it was the worst thing I have ever experienced. I’d tell them there would be way more people than they realized that would be impacted by this choice and there were more people that cared about them and wanted to help than they realized.” — Rosanne
“As worthless and hopeless and terrible and dark as you feel, this isn’t the end of your story. You can have light and hope and worth and joy. Don’t make a permanent choice that will affect your family and friends long after you’re gone. They need you, whether you think they do or not. You need them, too. Cling to the life God’s given you, even if you have to hold on by your fingernails and it feels too hard. This isn’t the end of your story.” — Anna Huckabee
“Keep them talking basically. When it came down to it and my friend threatened to jump off a multi-storey car park, I told him that if needed I was going to rugby tackle him and sit on him until the police arrived and could restrain him properly (they were already on the way anyway). Probably not the most official way to deal with it but while doing it, it kept him focused on me and talking to me rather than the other things that were going on. My friend has since been diagnosed with a version of Bipolar rather than depression. Unfortunately, it took a number of years to get past the diagnosis of depression or stress.” — Hannah
“What can I do to help you? (And I would start to tell them about my mother and ex-boyfriend and how they took their own life and that it’s okay to ask for help.) Everyone needs some kind of help throughout life. Just let me try to help you.” — Chasa Fulkerson
“The pain you feel right now? If you allow it to end your life, the same pain will attack your family and closest friends because they will miss you. After you are gone, the pain will be allowed to grow bigger and bigger! Let’s fight this together now and end the pain, but keep your life. You DON’T want to suffer through all this darkness for nothing, do you? Because on the other side of this darkness, this grief, this pain is something worth living for joy and hope. Let’s find some of that for you! I have a list of great resources!” — Chris Moss
“Listen, I’ve been there too. Right where you are. 10 years ago. So much can change in the next year for you. Don’t convince yourself that there’s no hope. That’s a lie from the pit. You have a gift and worth and value, and the devil is trying to keep you from giving it to the world. God cares about you and loves you, and has plans for you for a purpose and good. It doesn’t matter what you’ve been through or done, there is hope for a happy and joyful life! Come with me. Please let me tell you my story.” — Abby Karbon
“This may be hard to hear right now but you are worth so much, just by being the only you in the world. You will be making a decision that you can not take back while going through emotions that will very well pass, even if it takes a little work. You are not alone, even if you feel like it. There are millions of people who feel just like you. Talk to me. I’m here to listen. I’ll never shut you down. You can trust me. I know what it’s like to feel like the world would be better off without you. Don’t listen to those negative thoughts. You are worthy and you will get through this.” — Cortney Kaczmarek
“You are needed. You are necessary. You are loved.” — Barbara Moore
“That life will be good again soon and that it’s an illness causing all the pain. They can get better and they can enjoy life once more they just need some help.” — Hazel Jackson
“Hey there, I know you don’t know me but I’m here and I care. Please just come, talk to me, let’s get a coffee and restart. You won’t be able to take this back. I get it but I also just want to know your story, I don’t want this to be an end to our conversation. All the things you are feeling must be overwhelming so let’s just calm down and breathe. We can talk when you’re ready.” — Emerson
“Being on the other end of it, I was told ‘it’s not worth it. This will pass and I will stay by your side and be there always.’ And that person to this day is still always by my side making sure I’m okay. And this was a few years ago. — Hailey Giambelluca
“You are loved. You are taking an easy way out, but what about the ones that love you? What about the ones that fight for/with you? We would be slowly dying inside if you were not here!” — Angel
“I can’t tell you what to do but I see you and I care. You’ll leave a hole in the universe that no one else can fill. This world is more meaningful with you in it. Please sit with me and tell me where it hurts. I’m listening.” — Emma Frances
“There is help out there. This solution you are considering is permanent. There is no coming back. You may feel you’ve tried everything, but there are specialists that can ease your suffering. There are many options available to you, and I will help you each step of the way. The symptom of suicidal ideation leads you to believe there’s no other hope. I can attest as someone who’s been in your shoes there is. And I’m glad I didn’t make that permanent choice. So please come with me and we can find help right now.” — Ben Barrett
“Give me your hand. Come closer. *if okay I’d give them a hug* I truly do understand this feels like the only way — I’ve had the same thoughts and experienced it with a loved one. I’m not going to tell you the usual things …the things you know. Just, remember that there is hope. I’ll come with you. I’ll help however I can, even if it’s just to listen…I will not judge you for your experience is yours and must be heard. Give me your hand.” — Eleanor Catalina Stevens
“Up close it’s hard to see a way out or the greater plan, but everything always works out in the end. So many people find times in their lives hard, but keep going and when you look back, you will see that it was all part of a greater plan.” — Laura P
“Let’s get you help! Who knows, you can overcome your depression and help others who are struggling, one thing is certain we need people who understand us, come with me, we’ll get you help, we’ll keep trying until you find a therapist you are satisfied with.” (this is just a note that I will help him/her get the help they need even though I don’t know them and they don’t know me). — Jazz Williams
“Things do get better. There are brighter days ahead but you have to stay here to see them. The world needs what you have.” — Wrae Sanders
“It’s okay to not be okay. And it gets better. Just stay. Use your voice to breathe life into a conversation that must be had. You are worth more than making a permanent decision based on a temporary emotion or thought. You are loved, and you can rise up once again.” — Maria Thomas
“You matter. You have people who care for you and will miss you. Your death will not relieve anyone else of a burden or make someone else’s life easier. Hold my hand. I am here for you and the journey ahead. It will get better.” — Teresa Colón
“Choosing to live, even though you are in deep pain, is courageous. That choice will help you take a step out of the darkness and into the light. That choice will prove to the world that you are stronger than your pain. That choice will prove to your pain that you are ready to fight back. That choice will begin your path to the help and support you need. I am here, talking to you, which proves to you that I care. I want to help you. And I will lead you to another person who will help you. And that person will lead you to another person who will help you. And another. And another. That path of people will be there for you as long as you need them. That path of people who care about you will lead you to safety, kindness, strength, and love. Take my hand right now, and let me help you start that path toward love.” — Kate Johnston
“Life is full of challenges, but that’s what teaches us to appreciate the good stuff. Today might be a challenge, but we’ll figure out a way to make tomorrow better. You matter in this world, and you are loved.” — Christalle Bodiford
“Think of those who love you and how it will destroy them to see you go my friend come with me to a better life.” — Robin Tomlin
“I would say that this is a very permanent decision for a temporary problem and ask them to talk to me, no matter how long it takes until they realize that someone cares. I would also tell them that there is always hope, that things can get better and that I will support them in getting the help they need to find their happy again.” — Pamela Jessen
“I know you think this is the only way to make the pain end. I don’t think you want to die. I think you’re just tired of living I’ve been there. I UNDERSTAND. I think you want to end the pain and suffering. I understand. But, don’t make a lifetime decision on today’s emotions. Emotions are fleeting. You might feel worthless. I bet you think you’re a burden or nobody will notice you’re gone. I would. I noticed one of my best friends every day is gone. I will be here for you. Keep talking to me. I will talk to you as long as you need to talk. I will be here for as long if you need me to be. We will get you through this together. The world needs your story to continue. You are destined for greatness.” — Jamie
“I would answer that ‘Hi this is Roger’ and if they said ‘I want to kill myself’ I would ask why and let them answer — then depending on what they said and how they said it — I would either ask them a few more questions or engage in a conversation letting them know that I was there and would listen and that I wanted to help — then let God be the Guiding Force while letting them know that I cared and they were precious and worthwhile.” — Roger Potter
How about you? What would you say if you had 60 seconds to talk a stranger out of taking his or her life? Let us know in the comments below.
What a powerful post, Mary!!! Thank you for allowing me to share it on my blog. As I always say:
There Is Always Hope.
Oh boy…do you ever get those loaded questions? I do and as much as I appreciate that people care and want to know how I am, I also wonder if these are “polite” questions, or do these people genuinely want to know how I am. It’s so hard to know how to answer.
So, generally, I respond with, “I’m doing okay thanks”.
But what if I told the truth?
The truth is, I’m struggling right now. I’m struggling physically with pain and exhaustion and I’m struggling with my blogging and I’m struggling with feeling lonely and housebound, but I’m pretty sure no one really wants to hear about all that when they ask me how I’m doing so I don’t tell them.
But I’m going to tell you.
I’m averaging about 2-3 hours of sleep a night right now. I manage about 45-60 minutes at a time and then I wake up. I feel like I’ve slept for hours, but I look at the clock and barely any time has passed at all. I’ve always struggled with insomnia and I’m going to be trying some new meditation music, but it’s frustrating to not be able to get decent rest. It doesn’t allow my body to heal, which contributes to my overall pain. As I type this, I can feel my hands and legs and feet throbbing with pain. It’s almost like a drumbeat – thump THUMP thump thump, thump THUMP thump thump, thump THUMP thump thump, over and over again. My legs muscles feel tight and almost crampy and my fingers and toes feel swollen. My back is tight and tense and I can also feel the tension in my jaw and neck. My vision is blurry and I can feel the spot just under my cheekbone where my Trigeminal Neuralgia flares up – it’s gently pulsing, almost like it’s teasing me.
Now, I don’t tell you this to ask for sympathy. It’s just stating the facts. The same as I’m struggling right now to come up with various subject matter to blog about. With two blogs on the go now, I’m working at how to monetize one of them, and keep this one for posting on. I’m taking some courses about how to make money blogging and I’ve signed up to review a couple of courses as well. In the midst of that, I’m also taking a general writing course, plus I’ve applied for a new volunteer position – another committee that I’d like to be a part of. I’ll be back to work on one of my current committee assignments soon, which I’ll write about, but it still leaves me struggling with core subjects to blog about. It’s not for a lack of writing prompts, that’s for sure. Generally, what happens is I get an idea in the wee hours of the morning and then I write like crazy and bang out a post in about 30 minutes. It happens when I write poetry too. It just comes to me, I don’t plan it. When I wrote Wistful Thinking, I literally had the idea and the concept and completed poem done in 10 minutes.
The other issue is that I’m housebound for the most part. It’s because I don’t do enough to get out and about, because of pain and exhaustion (and because I’m busy blogging). Well, no more excuses for that. I just bought a new walker/rollator to get me out moving again. She’s a pretty silver/blue Xpresso and I’ve named her Bluebird:
Isn’t she lovely!! So much nicer than my old one, as there are no exposed cables, the basket is deeper, the seat is thicker and so is the backrest, and the wheels are designed to go over gravel and other rough surfaces. The handle area is large and smooth and she rolls beautifully, plus it’s still a one-handed close…I just pull up on the handle in the middle of the seat and voila! she folds sideways, so easy to transport when needed on the bus!! Hopefully, this will be the incentive to get me out and about more often…there is a gorgeous lake just 15 minutes from my house with a perfect walking path around it and I’m making it my goal to get down there at least once a week.
I also plan on getting back in the pool, and Bluebird will be great for walking to the bus and back. I’ll be speaking with my new doctor in the next week about taking an Aqua Therapy course at our local Pool and Fitness Centre. It’s a specialized one-on-one program for People with Chronic Pain, working with a registered Kinesiologist to help with rehabilitation in the pool, so it’s easy on the joints and muscles. By getting my doctor’s approval, there’s a good chance I can have the costs paid by my Long Term Disability provider. I’m excited about it and even though I have to take a bus to get there, it’s only a 20-minute ride. I’m sure there’s parking available for Bluebird as I’m not the only one who takes these types of classes.
I’ve also been trying to be more physical at home, and not just sitting in my recliner all day (although it is rather molded to my butt shape). I’ve been doing wall push-ups and bicep curls and was trying to do squats as well, but those became too painful for my knees and ankles. I’m going to start doing planks to see if those work and maybe some gentle lunges with no bouncing. Everything hurts my joints so much, but I need to become more flexible. I think my Achilles Tendon is ultimately going to need surgery as it’s responded to nothing else we’ve tried – no physio, no stretching, no taping. I’m not sure what else is left, but I see Dr Winston soon, my Physiatrist and we’ll talk about options. It’s slowing me down and affecting how I walk and causing my left hip to have even more pain than necessary, which is going to increase the time before needing a hip replacement on that side as well. I’ve also developed some painful Neuropathy in the left foot, on the top and into the big toe, that might be related to my Type 2 Diabetes, so more to talk to my new doctor about. This just came on in the last few days, while on the motorcycle trip.
Mentally, I’m worried because I think I’m going to have to come off the drug I take for my Bipolar Disorder and it’s the med that has given me all the energy I’ve had lately, Abilify. It’s causing me some major side effects; brain zaps, tongue trembling, handshaking, vision blurring and an uncomfortable amount of weight gain. I’m only 5’2″ tall, so any weight gain over 145lbs is too much and I’m up to 160lbs. It’s the brain zaps that are the worst though…I can actually feel them…they’re like an electric shock in the brain, but in high speed, and you can both feel them and hear them – a lightning bolt that goes right through the head from one side to the other. If I had to describe them based on something we physically have, I’d say it’s like one of those electronic fly killers that buzzes when it kills a fly…same sound, that bzz-zap!
There are good things happening in my life though. Ever since we bought our new motorcycle, I’ve been able to get out for more and longer rides with my husband Ray, which is a real treat for me. Our new bike is a 2007 Yamaha Venture and more of a cruiser than the sports bike we had before, a Kawasaki Concours.
The Venture is super comfortable for me and I’ve been able to go for longer rides each time we’ve been out, including a very recent Grand Adventure! Ray and I took the bike and went to Mt. Vernon, Washington to visit an online friend of mine named Maura so I could hang out with her and binge watch the second season of This Is Us, a tv show that I started watching on Netflix, but is no longer being carried there. Maura is a huge fan as well, so I spent 2 days with her watching the show while Ray went off exploring on the bike, then we hung out with her and her hubby Paul for dinner the first night (and with their daughter Anna – their son Matthew was out), and on the second night, we took them out for dinner at a local pub. On Saturday morning, Ray and I left at 5am to head for home, taking the I-5 freeway to the Blaine border crossing and then the Tsawwassen ferry home to get back to our cat Dorie at just after 9am.
Altogether, I’d say I spent 2 hours in the saddle but every second was great!! I know I can go for longer now and be comfortable. I can get on and off the bike easily, and it just feels good to ride. As an added bonus, I have a new leather jacket and gloves! Ray bought them for me on Saturday, August 25th here at a leather shop close to home. I really wanted pink, but decided this black jacket was too sexy to pass up! It has just enough detail on it to make it look sharp without being tacky. The leather is buttery soft with black stitching up the sides on the back, and on the back of the arms from the wrists to the elbows. Ray will have to put a new snap in at the wrists to make them tighter (I have short arms and tiny wrists) but it fits beautifully everywhere else and I’m delighted to have it. I also bought proper bike gloves – I got gauntlets, the kind that goes over the jacket sleeves to protect me from bees flying into my sleeves, etc.
I’m still keeping busy with my volunteer work and have applied to sit on a new committee for Island Health’s Laboratory Services Quality Council. I access Lab Services every three months for blood work, so thought it might be fitting to be a part of their quality control council. I’m also waiting to hear back on a couple of other opportunities I had my name in for so it could be an exciting fall!
So there you have it…a bit more about me and what’s been going on in my life and how I’ve been truthfully feeling. The next time someone asks you “how are you doing”, how will you answer them? With a short predictable answer? Or will you tell the truth?
I went to bed around 9:50pm feeling pleasantly tired. I was yawning after a long day and having been up since 4:30 am. I followed my nightly routine, got into bed, got comfy and drifted off to sleep.
When I woke up to pee, it was no big deal…I’m not a great sleeper and I figured this was my usual “90 minutes later” wake up call.
I’d slept for 72 minutes. I think that’s a record for shortest time at night. And the worst part was I was wide awake. Like…wide awake. There was no chance I was going back to sleep.
I hate having insomnia. I don’t know if it’s Fibromyalgia induced, or if it’s because of my sleep apnea or if it’s because of the medications I take, but I haven’t slept for more than 2-3 hours a night in over 5 years now. And once I wake up at 4am-ish, that’s it, I’m up for the day. I get the house ready for the day before my hubby gets up for work – the blinds open, the kettle ready, last nights dishes put away, the cat fed…those sorts of things. I make a coffee, come sit in my recliner and then hubby is up and I’m out of his way while he starts his morning routine. It works for us, and nobody gets hurt! Once he leaves for work, I have my breakfast and then I look at the long day ahead of me and figure out what I’m going to do to fill it.
Do I go back to bed after that? No, because as tired as I am, the best I’ll do is sleep for an hour and what’s the point? If I’m going to nap, I’d rather try to save it for later in the day, when there’s a chance I might sleep longer. That’s my hope anyways, Besides, if I sleep in the morning, I might miss the hummingbirds who come to the feeder on my back deck
Sleep, or the lack of it, is a major side effect of having Fibromyalgia. Statistics show that people who have Fibro never make it into the deep REM sleep the way they need to so they miss the restorative sleep phase so necessary to feel rested:
It’s no wonder I can never feel rested! I never get to the restorative stage! I also know I have sleep apnea. I have a CPAP machine and I have tried so many times to use it but I just can’t get used to the mask. I’ve tried a few different ones too, including over the face, and the current choice of the nasal style, but the longest I’ve lasted with wearing them is 4 hours before I wake up ripping them off of me. The worst part is that I am a side sleeper and trying to keep the damn things in place while on your side is next to impossible. Okay, maybe I’m just complaining because I don’t want to use the machine…how incredibly unsexy is that thing! but Hubby should be using one too and he refuses so part of the problem is also resentment.
So, after waking up after my glorious 72 minutes of sleep, and in the interest of good sleep habits I got up. At least I know better than to lay in bed, just hoping I’ll fall back asleep again. Here are some of those good sleep habits I’ve learned about over time:
Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Get up at the same time every day, even on weekends or during vacations (hello 4am!)
Set a bedtime that is early enough for you to get at least 7 hours of sleep (does 5pm count?).
Don’t go to bed unless you are sleepy (I could be there 24 hours a day)
If you don’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed (but I’m sleeping!)
Establish a relaxing bedtime routine (I do this part well)
Use your bed only for sleep and sex (well, the sex part at least works)
Make your bedroom quiet and relaxing. Keep the room at a comfortable, cool temperature (no problem here)
Limit exposure to bright light in the evenings (no problem here either)
Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime. (oops, big problem here!!!)
Don’t eat a large meal before bedtime. If you are hungry at night, eat a light, healthy snack. (I’m okay with this one)
Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet. (I do okay with this too)
Avoid consuming caffeine in the late afternoon or evening. (I sometimes mess up with chocolate)
Avoid consuming alcohol before bedtime. (I don’t drink)
Reduce your fluid intake before bedtime. (usually not a problem)
One thing I have been trying lately is listening to sleep meditation music. There are some really relaxing ones out there that work on the Delta Waves of the brain and you can also find good Apps for your phone. I have an iPhone and one app in particular that is receiving great reviews is CALM by Apple. The other is Spotify which has wonderful playlists of calming music already set up or you can create your own from the many tracks available. I love listening to sounds…the rain falling, trains in the distance, things like that, so I love that option with Spotify. YouTube also has many videos of sleep meditations and if you use a YouTube to MP3 converter, you can also download these to listen to on your phone, whether it’s an iPhone or Android.
Hopefully some of these suggestions will be helpful. I don’t want to be sleepless in any city, anymore. I have slept, it’s happened a few times…I’d just like it to be more:
There is an Opioid Crisis in North America and it’s affecting two factions of people – the ones who take and use opioids illegally and the ones who use and take opioids legally as prescribed by their doctors. I want to focus on the second group because we’re not being given our due in the news. First though, let’s look at some numbers.
*Every day, more than 115 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids.1 The misuse of an addiction to opioids—including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl—is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total “economic burden” of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.2
**Canada isn’t far behind. “This is a major public health crisis in Canada,” says Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer. “Tragically, in 2016, there were more than 2,800 apparent opioid-related deaths in Canada, which is greater than the number of Canadians who died at the height of the HIV epidemic in 1995.” New data from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) shows that from January to March 2017, there were at least 602 apparent opioid-related deaths across the country; it is expected that this count will rise as additional data becomes available.
Pressure is being put on physicians in both countries to stop prescribing opioid medications or to cut down on the number of prescriptions they write, and many are complying. So where does that leave us, the People with Chronic Pain (PwCP) who depend on opioid medication to manage their pain in order to have any semblance of quality of life?
Physicians and Pain Doctors are now more likely to offer Pain Management Programs and techniques in place of opioids. These programs use a combination of non-opioid medications such as over-the-counter or prescription ibuprofen (Motrin), acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin (Bayer) and steroids, plus various therapies, including:
Physical therapy – A physical therapist or physician who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation may be able to create an exercise program that helps you improve your ability to function and decreases your pain. Whirlpools, ultrasound and deep-muscle massages may also help.
Acupuncture – You may find relief from acupuncture, in which very thin needles are inserted at different places in your skin to interrupt pain signals.
Massage Therapy – can help to relax the muscles that may be causing you pain
Injections or nerve blocks – If you are having a muscle spasm or nerve pain, injections with local anaesthetics or other medications can help short-circuit your pain.
Biofeedback – where you learn to control involuntary functions such as your heart rate.
Surgery – When other treatments aren’t effective, surgery can be performed to correct abnormalities in your body that may be responsible for your pain.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) – can change the thoughts, emotions, and behaviours related to pain, improve coping strategies, and put the discomfort in a better context
Are these programs helpful? Do they work? Do they relieve pain? Well, from my own personal experience, the answer is no, they don’t take your pain away. They do give you the tools to manage your pain more effectively as long as you employ the tools on a daily basis, but when your entire body is wracked with a deep aching, burning sensation that NEVER GOES AWAY, it’s almost impossible to manage that. When my legs feel like bricks and my arms are burning like fire and I can’t move my shoulder to brush my hair and my knee is collapsing when I walk and my spine feels like it’s going to collapse any second from now from the intensity of the stabbing I feel…it’s hard to be motivated that today is going to be a good day.
Now, I have to be honest and admit that I am still taking opioid medication. I have been, for the last 10 years. I have weaned down my dosage, but I still take it. Right now, I take a Slow Release dosage of OxyNeo (Oxycodone) in a dosage of 30mg, 3 times a day. Each dose is to last me 8 hours. Does it work? Somewhat…it keeps my pain at a 4-5 on the pain scale which I can manage with other techniques. If I didn’t have the medication, I would be at a steady 8 on the scale, all the time. Now, what would happen if my Doctor decided to stop my drugs? I would be hard pressed to manage without them, especially after so many years of taking them. Am I an addict? No, I’m not and here’s why. When you have legitimate pain, it’s impossible to become addicted to a pain medication. It’s when you take a medication that you don’t need that you become addicted to it.
I want to share a conversation I had in a chat with a couple of friends who’ve allowed me to share their thoughts and first names. Read what happened to Lindsay and our replies:
What Lindsay said:
I just had a run in with a pharmacist yesterday. I suffer from interstitial cystitis, endometriosis, chronic ovarian cysts, degenerative disc disease, fibromyalgia and arthritis. Since January I’ve had 9 kidney infections, one or two a month. I have an appointment with an infectious disease specialist at the end of this month, and I have my normal team of Drs and specialists that I already see along with my pain management dr. Well every time I have a kidney infection it causes my IC to flare and my pain because so out of control that I end up in the ER, so my PM gives me extra pain meds to help me get through the infection. Well my normal pharmacy had a pharmacist who’s been snippy with me before and when I handed her the extra script, she blew up on me. She said pain meds don’t help with my kind of pain, it’s only a bandage treatment, I shouldn’t be allowed to take pain meds this long, my regular pain meds should be enough, I’ll OD, my dr is an idiot, I’m not really in that much pain and she wrote a bunch of notes on my account barring me from ever getting extra meds again, including for surgeries etc. I started crying, she used an aggressive tone and lectured me in front of a line of other patients and threatened not to fill my prescription, then did after slamming her hands down and furiously writing on my prescription paper then on my account about how I’m not allowed to do this anymore. I was so so embarrassed and now I’m terrified to have anymore prescriptions or anymore acute pain issues. I hate that this is my life now. I didn’t ask for this!
What I said:
It’s been said to me by my Doctor that it’s impossible to become an addict to opioids when you actually, truly need them. I don’t get high, and I function completely normally. I could be tested by the police and while the drug would show in my system, I wouldn’t show as impaired. It’s the people who abuse the drug and who take it in a manner it’s not meant to be taken in that ruin it for the rest of us. I would have reported your pharmacist to her association. That was uncalled for and completely unprofessional. She can NOT refuse you unless she refuses to serve you completely. Can you transfer to a different pharmacy for the future? Honestly, if she had done that to me, I would have raked her over the coals….no one, and I mean NO ONE talks to me like that. EVER. I live in Canada and we are facing our own Opioid Crisis here as well. The College of Physicians and Surgeons is cracking down on Doctors who over prescribe or who prescribe too high of a dosage of narcotics to patients. I have been on Oxycodone for almost 10 years now, going from a dose of Slow Release OxyNeo 90mg 3 times a day to 30mgs 3 times a day. plus other meds I take for Fibro, Osteoarthritis, D.I.S.H., Trigeminal Neuralgia, Bipolar Disorder, Diabetes Type 2 and Hypothyroidism, amongst other issues. Three of my drugs clash and shouldn’t be taken together, but I have no choice. I hope you’re able to find a pharmacy that treats you with respect and dignity just like you deserve. Before you give them your business, shop around and ask them what their policy is for opioid customers. Tell them of the experience you had and ask them how they treat that type of situation. Good luck to you and I wish you better, pain-free days ahead. oxoxo
what Angela said:
I fight this as well and also have issues with my body metabolizing my meds too quickly. The dosages i am on would probably put someone into an overdose but unless you know what i am on, you’d never know i was on anything. Trying to advocate for myself constantly is a huge struggle and mentally draining. The thing is, i am also a nurse and still trying to remain independent through the 9 surgeries ive had in the last 5 years alone. Not only is it a struggle to advocate for myself but i also advocate for my patients the best i can as well. I am constantly fearful that i am going to be cut off from my meds and end up in a pain crisis, in massive withdrawal and become completely unable to support myself. I am also a single mom, so losing my income is a big deal. I am so sick of taking heat because of people who abuse the system. Of every person i know who has chronic pain and take medication, none take them incorrectly, nor do they get high from them. Even if i do take more than usual, i just get sick so if my pain is out of control, i really have to weigh that consequence. I am now in dread because i have to see a new pain management PA next month and my surgeon is moving. Just this thought is really stressing me out.
These are the things we have to deal with as PwCP. It’s not just the doctors we fight with about our medications – it’s the pharmacists as well.
Yes, my friends, there IS a crisis regarding opioid medication and it’s affecting the people who need the drugs the most. The patients. The people with chronic pain. Us.