eruthros: Delenn building the crystal machine in season 1  of B5, captioned "foreshadowing" (B5 - Delenn incredible foreshadowing)
eruthros ([personal profile] eruthros) wrote2012-03-24 05:57 pm

vicodin and me

This is a post I started writing a while ago, and put off finishing for ages because describing bodies is hard. A lot of things have changed since I wrote this, but the basic premise hasn't.

The whole post is full of ableism (including internalized ableism). The fourth part also contains cultural appropriation + racist exoticizing.

1. My back aches. There's an icepick going right through my right scapula, and it's not going away. I can feel the pain shooting down along my nerves, zinging into my hand and my hip and up my neck, meeting up with other pain in my joints and doing strange things. No matter how much I try to relax, or how I arrange my body, muscle tightness is following that zing: I'm tensing up everywhere, trying to hold myself in just the right position, even though there is no right position and nothing makes the zing go away. I ask [personal profile] thingswithwings to bring me water and food. I hook my cane up behind the sofa and lean on it when I get up. My eyes water when I stand up to go to the bathroom and when I lean forward and when I pick things up and when I bend over.

I take NSAIDs, even though I know they won't work. I take a muscle relaxant, even though I know it won't work. I try heat on the tense muscles - that will at least make it a little better, right?

I don't take any vicodin.

I don't need it.

It will go away. It's just temporary. It won't last. Tomorrow I'll be fine.

I've already had NSAIDs. Liver failure is a serious issue.

I only have so much vicodin. What if my doctor wants to know how much I've used? What if it's a test? I'd better not use it all. I'd better be able to tell him I've only used it a few times, only when I really, really needed it.

I'll have some vodka instead.

My vicodin prescription is pretty strong, it's overkill for this, really.

It makes me nauseated.

I don't like the way it makes me feel.

I don't need it.


2. The first thing my mom said to me when I mentioned vicodin was:

"But that's addictive!"

She said it in a sort of astonished and confused and betrayed voice, something like they way she might've said "but that's illegal!"

As if there's any way I might not know that. As if I needed to have that conversation again, just to make sure, you know, that I had really considered it thoroughly.


3. It takes me thirty minutes to get into bed. Not thirty minutes to brush my teeth and do bedtime tasks: thirty minutes to get into the bed. I grit my teeth and try all different angles of attack: if I could just bend - no. If I shift my weight so - no. Maybe if I sort of roll - no. No, really really no. I end up on my knees, on the floor next to the mattress, leaning my chest forward to rest on the bed.

I stop for a while and put my face on the sheets and think about just sleeping like that.

Eventually I get up on my knees, push myself forward and shift my weight and finally get my torso onto the mattress. It takes another five minutes to lift my legs up.

I don't take any vicodin.

I don't need it.

It's bedtime; my evening meds will knock me out so it doesn't matter how I feel.

It's not that bad. Not compared to other people's pain.

If it's not better in the morning, I'll take some then.

Really.

I will.


4. My mom's boss ran into me in a cafe. "Oh! [personal profile] eruthros! It's so lovely to see you!"

She sat down between me and the only exit. She smiled widely and gestured vaguely towards my cane and the pill case on the table with her chin. "I hear you've been having some sort of chronic pain medical problems."

I kept eating my bagel. "Yes." I said. "I don't want to -"

"Do you think it might be lyme disease? Because I've heard a lot about chronic lyme disease."

"No."

"Listen, I really just wanted to recommend homeopathy, which is so great for that sort of systemic problem where, you know, Western doctors just don't know what to do. It really can fix all kinds of problems."

"Mmmmm." She's my mom's boss, and I don't want to piss her off, but I'm so sick of this shit, so I just sit there and make noises. I don't mention the history of homeopathic medicine. I don't tell her about the treatments I've tried. I don't say anything.

"Or other kinds of holistic medicine, really! Do you have an alternative medicine doctor where you live? You should find one and go see him. Especially if he does homeopathy or acupuncture."

"Mmmm."

"Acupuncture is just - oh, it's wonderful. I had shingles a few years ago, all over my body, even under my hair. The pain was so bad I thought I was having a stroke. And I went in to the emergency room, and they said it was shingles, and they wanted to keep me in the hospital and give me morphine and things, and I said no way, I just checked myself out of there."

"Mmmm."

"And then I got home, and I threw out all the narcotics - just threw them out! And I went to an acupuncturist instead. It's just such a pure feeling, acupuncture. It makes you really aware of the electrical currents running under your skin, which all of us have forgotten, and it's just a mystical and transformative experience."

"Mmmm."

"The first time I went to acupuncture I lay there in the dark sobbing. Not because of the pain, it doesn't hurt at all, just because I felt so connected to the universe in a way that nobody still feels anymore, you know?"

"Mmmm."

"Anyway, do go see a homeopathic doctor. Or an acupuncturist."

"I'll look into it," I said. And I stood up and juggled my bags and my water bottle and my pill case and my cane before I walked out.


5. I wake up the next morning and I feel a little bit better. See? No big deal! I can get out of bed and walk to the sofa, no problem.

I try to bend over to pet Rorschach good morning and I can't do it. It hurts too much. He wags his tail and wags his tail and looks up at me; I can't reach down that far. He clearly thinks I'm mad at him, and he keeps coming over to me once I sit down on the sofa and going wag, wag, wag, why won't you pet me?

I can't reach him.

When he jostles me I groan.

But I'm feeling better now than I did last night. It'll probably get better over the course of the day. Probably pretty quickly, even. I'll just take my morning meds and that'll take care of it. I'll zone out on some flash games. I'll zone out on tv. I'll get drunk this evening.

I'll give it another few hours, you know, just in case.

I only have so much vicodin.

The pain isn't that bad. Really.

I don't really need it.

Maybe later.


6. The day I got a prescription for vicodin was one of those days dedicated to doctors. I saw my primary care doctor in the morning, and we talked about pain for a while, and then he said, just out of the blue, "would you mind trying vicodin instead?" I blinked in astonishment, because I'd heard so much about people's difficulty getting opiate painkillers, and then I said "sure?" We talked a bit about spacing around my other meds and about how many pills I could take at a time and about using it for migraines. ("Sure, try it for migraines too," he said, "because the prophylaxis options are limited once you're on X and Y.")

So I took my prescriptions and got on the bus and headed out towards my other appointment of the day - a one-time referral to a physiatrist, who was, in theory, going to advise my physical therapists on how to avoid doing harm. I'd filled out a heap of introductory paperwork and mailed it in a week ago, I'd brought all of the various braces and straps and tapes given to me by various physical therapists and the ones I'd bought myself, I had a list of exercises-we-have-tried from my PT, I had the imaging results on CDs in my going-to-see-doctors-folder. I checked in at the front desk, and I read my book for a while, and then I finally got in to see the doctor. She had all of my paperwork and half of my file from my primary care doctor spread out over the table.

"So all of this is an accurate picture of your current medications and physical therapy?" she said.

"Oh, no, actually, I just got a new prescription." I pulled the sheet out of my going-to-see-doctors folder. "For hydrocodone/acetaminophen. I haven't taken any yet."

"I should hope not!" she said. "That's vicodin."

"Yes?" I said.

"Why isn't it in your paperwork that you're taking vicodin?"

"I just got the prescription today -"

"You need to tell me whenever you get a prescription for opiates!"

I thought, but didn't say to her, that I just did tell her.

She stomped over to her desk and pulled out an Opiate Agreement. "Sign this," she said. "Read it and take it seriously."

I read it. It said she'd need to be notified immediately of any change in my opiate prescription. It said she would have access to my pharmacy records to check up on me. It used the word "addictive" a lot. Sometimes it was underlined. I was only seeing her once - could only see her once, that's how the referral worked. She wasn't my doctor. She had no input into my treatment except for PT, she had no input into my diagnosis, she had no input into my medications - in fact, she could not prescribe me meds according to my insurance company.

I needed her to refer me on to physical therapy. I signed it.


7. I'll take some tomorrow. But right now I'm fine, really, as long as I don't move, and anyway soon I'll be going to bed again, and I'll sleep no matter what, and anyway I already had NSAIDs and gin and tonics and fucking tylenol, and I need to tell my doctor how much I took this month, and what if something worse happens next week, and other people can live with this kind of pain, and it's just because I'm a wimp, and it's really no big deal, and I don't need to take vicodin, and anyway it makes me feel shitty, and I shouldn't need it, and I know as I'm repeating them that none of those reasons make any sense, that they're not real reasons at all, that I have this drug for a reason, that it doesn't fucking matter what people say about it, that I need it. I know I'm taking tylenol so I have an excuse not to take the vicodin, but I still take the tylenol.

And even though I know it's bullshit, it's still there in my head, and I can't do it. There are all these other ways to manage pain: I should be doing them instead. I should be doing something different, something better, I shouldn't need it.

But if it still hurts this much, I'll take some tomorrow. Really. I will. Tomorrow.


8. There's a free clinic in town that I walk past when I go to the grocery store. They do all sorts of free health care for people without insurance - they have doctors and nurses and acupuncturists and massage therapists and other kinds of medicine as well. They put up a sign about being wanting to be welcoming to everyone.

They also put up a different sign: "This clinic does not prescribe narcotics for any reason."

I always hope there's a legal reason for it, but the thing is, it doesn't really matter why that sign is there. It says the same thing either way: it is more important to prevent some people from accessing narcotics that they're addicted to than it is for other (poor) people in pain to be able to control that pain.

If I had no health insurance, they wouldn't be welcoming to me.


9. I get up. I feel awful. It's just the same as it was yesterday and the day before. It hasn't gone away.

"Tell me it's okay to take vicodin right now," I say to [personal profile] thingswithwings

"It's okay to take vicodin right now," she says, and she goes and gets me my pills.

I take vicodin.

I feel better.
petra: A girl kissing a woman's cheek while she smiles (Lucrezia Borgia & Giulia - Promise)

[personal profile] petra 2012-03-24 10:18 pm (UTC)(link)
I do not have chronic pain, but when I get cramps or migraines, nothing will knock them out except the oxycodone + acetaminophen, sometimes in conjunction with NSAIDS. I can relate to "But that's *Percocet!*"--in case I didn't know and as if that's supposed to shame me into not needing it anymore, somehow.

So, telling you what you already know, but what I need to hear sometimes, too, when I have woken myself and my SO up every fifteen minutes whimpering in pain and it's 3AM: It is okay to take vicodin when you need it. No one, especially you, will let you forget that you need to watch out for its dastardly addictive nature.

I don't belong to a faith that believes that we get gold stars from the universe for being in pain. That's certainly an undercurrent in a lot of cultural narratives, including the one that goes "Other people have it worse, so my pain doesn't count enough."

I hate the thought of your being in any pain when you have the possibility of lessening it. Please reread this post when you're fighting taking the nausea-inducing, pain-relieving drugs, but you know they will help more than they hurt.
dirty_diana: colored pencils sit in an empty latte cup. (teacups)

[personal profile] dirty_diana 2012-03-24 10:30 pm (UTC)(link)
A+. The half-informed, judgmental way that people talk about opiates is one of my major soapboxes. I've had doctors refuse to treat my pain symptoms adequately and babble on about pathology instead, even though if you look up my illness in a medical textbook it says exactly one thing: TREAT THE DAMN PAIN. But they won't even follow accepted protocol because oh no opiates are bad. And I get that certain things are making it to the streets in large quantities, but criminals will always figure out a way around laws and scary signs. Honest folks in pain, not so much.

(Also? One or two vicodin is actually not a *lot* of hydrocodone, relative to what some folks have to take daily to get by. Not that the fear mongers will ever tell you this.)

link re: #4, cure evangelism.

(Anonymous) 2012-03-24 10:36 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm not signing in to say this because I'm technically a criminal (you don't know me anyway) but WORD. I get grilled all the time on how much lorazepam have you taken, how much codeine have you taken, don't you know IT'S ADDICTIVE?!? and even when my family are all telling me "you really need to take this, it's okay to need this, please stop hurting yourself by not taking your medicine" I CAN'T because they'll be mad at me and maybe they'll take it away and when I swallow it I know I'm weak (I'm not) and an junkie (I'm not) and they make me hate myself.

I'm right near the bottom of the carfully chilled bottle of morphine I got two years ago from my dying grandmother, bless her, and I don't know what I'll do on the really really bad nights without it.

*friendly gestures*
secondsilk: Xander hugging Buffy warmly (Hugs)

[personal profile] secondsilk 2012-03-24 10:36 pm (UTC)(link)
There is a weird sense of cognitive disconnect between knowing that world is screwed up and prevents people from living whole lives for no other reason than ability (or race or gender or sexuality, etc), and being aware of the how that looks in concrete terms for real people.

Thank you very much for sharing. I hope that it is something that helps for you as well. It's okay to take Vicodin if you're in pain. (Is there any comfort in the thought that if your doctor is concerned about how many you've taken, he'll reduce the prescription or not renew it?)

It does amaze me that people not related to your medication or even your health care at all would voice opinions about your medication. (Also as though a prescription for Vicodin says anything more about you than the fact that you have a certain sort of chronic pain that needs to be managed. (And maybe that your Doctor trusts your self awareness, knowledge of your own pain.))
sasha_feather: Doctor House looking serious (Dr House)

[personal profile] sasha_feather 2012-03-24 10:51 pm (UTC)(link)
I hear you, and I love you.

These thoughts and experiences, well, variations upon them, are one of the reasons I'm afraid to ask for a prescription for narcotics, which I need.
chagrined: A brain superimposed on a bunch of pills (brain on drugs)

[personal profile] chagrined 2012-03-24 10:52 pm (UTC)(link)
I will tell you to take your vicodin over IM any time you need me, buddy. ♥
meloukhia: Willow from 'Buffy,' looking skeptical. (Willow)

[personal profile] meloukhia 2012-03-24 11:13 pm (UTC)(link)
This is a really great piece! Which feels like a weird thing to say...but there are so many busted social attitudes around pain management in general and with narcotics in particular, I can't even.

I don't understand what point people are even trying to make with the shaming, I really don't.

Seconding the offer to be a back-up on IM/Twitter any time you need one.
hekaterine: (DC)

[personal profile] hekaterine 2012-03-24 11:17 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm sorry you feel so much pain. *hugs*
isagel: Lex and Clark of Smalllville, a black and white manip of them naked and embracing, with the text 'Isagel'. (Default)

[personal profile] isagel 2012-03-24 11:30 pm (UTC)(link)
I take codein for my occasional migraines/tension headaches. I would never tell my mom this, because she would be so freaked out by the possible addictiveness. One box of the things lasts me a year, a year and a half, and yet I hide them like something I'm ashamed of. The whole mental process is so weird.
monanotlisa: Steve Rogers jumping down against a bright blue sky with clouds, his shield centering the eye. (Default)

[personal profile] monanotlisa 2012-03-25 01:21 am (UTC)(link)
So much fucking love to you. This, I hear this. Not every word, but every other one, and the message in-between and the bottom line too. <3
toft: astronaut lady (misc_astronautlady)

[personal profile] toft 2012-03-25 01:52 am (UTC)(link)
<3 this is such a great post. Thanks for making it; I hope it and the comments help. I respect you a lot.
some_stars: (Default)

[personal profile] some_stars 2012-03-25 05:15 am (UTC)(link)
The whole system of pain medication and the culture around it are so messed up and hateful, and I'm sorry you're caught in it.
vi: (princess tutu: looking back)

[personal profile] vi 2012-03-25 07:05 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you for this post; I hear you. <3
commodorified: A woman's leg, in shorts. Her partially visible hand points to the joint of her hip, which is circled in red. (badonkaklonk)

[personal profile] commodorified 2012-03-25 08:34 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you for this. I read it and then I took my Tramadol.

may I link?
kore: (Default)

[personal profile] kore 2012-03-25 01:21 pm (UTC)(link)
Here via network - wow, great post.

Also, as an actual recovering addict and someone who has chronic pain (including migraines), there is SUCH A HUGE DIFFERENCE between someone who takes narcotics for pain and someone who takes them to get high, I can't even. I actually knew one addict who refused any and all painkillers while he was dying of cancer because he was so terrified of somehow getting addicted again. It was awful. IMHO it's absolutely criminal how the "Just Say No" bullshit has fucked up pain management treatment in the US.
runpunkrun: illustration of numbered sheep jumping over a sleeping figure, text: runpunkrun (and then she woke up)

[personal profile] runpunkrun 2012-03-25 04:05 pm (UTC)(link)
I really value the way you write about your body and pain and pain management, in passing reference or longer posts like this, because I can't, or won't, one of those. Mostly because of reactions like #4. And of course the feeling that I'm whining, that it's really not that bad. But when you talk about it, all I feel is empathy. I don't know why I can't be that nice to myself.

I've had a similar relationship to many of the pills I take or have taken. If I take one, I feel weak, like I've failed because I shouldn't have needed to take it. Even though they help.
livrelibre: DW barcode (Default)

[personal profile] livrelibre 2012-03-25 06:45 pm (UTC)(link)
This is a great post and if you ever want vicodin taking encouragement I'm available. <3
cathalin: credit to weesta (Default)

[personal profile] cathalin 2012-03-25 10:29 pm (UTC)(link)
Fantastic post. I've been dealing with chronic migraine for a long long time, and have these kinds of issues even with non narcotic forms of medication at times. Helping a child of mine with psychiatric issues through the maze of those meds has been mind opening as well; it's so weird to see what things are heavily heavily regulated and what things aren't.

The number of people who, unsolicited, give medical advice, is just mind boggling to me. This was true when I was pregnant, by the way. And if I had a dollar for every time someone has been like, "hey, migraines, you should try xyz it will fix it!" just, lol. As if I haven't tried or considered everything.

The one piece of ~advice at you, though, is that your primary care doctor is the only one who truly sees and deals with the whole picture, and guess what? He's totally on board with narcotics and in fact SUGGESTED them!!! There is no way that a primary care doctor in today's world would do that if he had any doubts about your ability to handle them. It's a prescription and he means you to use it. <333 Fuck everyone else, seriously. Why even respond. Just sign the freaking things you have to and let them talk at you. (Easier said than done, I get that... just being a cheerleader here).

I hear you on the fear, though -- that something will happen and it'll be taken away. Hence, the way we all stash things like that against a rainy day.:(((
blushingflower: (pizza and a lay)

[personal profile] blushingflower 2012-03-26 01:11 am (UTC)(link)
There is no shame in taking pain medicine. You do not get a gold star for suffering. Your pain is not less real or less meaningful or less worthy of relief than other people's pain.

I happen to think that if you *can* find other ways that work, you should use them, because I think it is good to have as many things in your toolkit as possible, especially if the meds make you feel icky (which is probably better than in pain, but sometimes that's a trade off and you have to decide which is worse, the pain or the nausea). Also, of course, from the "working the system" angle, it is always better to be able to say "I have tried X and Y and Z and none of them worked, here's what happened." Like when you call tech support and you say "yes, I turned it off and unplugged it and then restarted, it's still frelled". My metamour is an acupuncturist, and she believes that she helps people, but I would never ever say "oh, just do acupuncture, you don't need opiates" (which are also a "traditional medicine" if you think about the fact that people were probably using them long before we could make them into pills). Fuck that. Sometimes you need the heavy-duty stuff.
cesare: a mermaid's tail (underwater)

[personal profile] cesare 2012-03-26 01:28 am (UTC)(link)
I don't get these people who react with kneejerk "THAT drug???" I'm sorry you have pain so serious that sometimes it requires vicodin, and I'm glad that the vicodin helps (and then sorry again that it's imperfect and side-effecty.) I hope you feel better.
ryca: (Default)

[personal profile] ryca 2012-03-26 02:14 am (UTC)(link)
First: I'm really sorry that you have to deal with this kind of pain, and this kind of stress over your attempts to deal with the pain.

Then: A friend of mine (K) actually lost a friendship a few years back after getting a text that essentially said "All of your friends are worried about your vicodin use". She has migraines. Only thing that helps is vicodin. End of story, but somehow this friend (A) felt that it was HER business, and somehow felt comfortable speaking for "all" of the friends, and threw so much random shaming on to my friend K that she ended up in pain for ages, going back and counting her pills and checking her prescription history online just to make sure that she didn't really "have a problem" (yes, she does have a problem - it's called "migraines", but anyhow). Fortunately, my friend K let A the text-sender float on out of her life, but it was still a horrible thing to do, in my opinion.

Last: I ended up in the emergency room with pleurisy a month or so ago - chest pains that stabbed like a lance every time I breathed. I could barely walk. I told the ER doctor "the last time I had this, in 2007, they gave my hydromorphone, but I hated it because it made my arms itch and tingle. Vicodin screws up my stomach and a bunch of other stuff, too. I'm really just here to make sure that it's not a heart attack." They asked if I'd taken any advil, and I said that my neurologist had warned me that analgesic overuse could lead to a rebound headache (which is what I typically take it for), and since I'd taken advil the day before for a headache, I hadn't had any that day for the pleurisy.

The ER doc told me that only narcotics give rebound headaches (?). Then she made a point of telling me about five times that they didn't feel the need to give me narcotics.

I hadn't asked for narcotics. I had listed two narcotics that I'd been given in the past and why I didn't want them. And asked if advil would do the trick, or if they had any painkillers that wouldn't get me high. So she kept talking about narcotics. I wanted to scream at her. "I am in PAIN. I am not here to get HIGH. I am not asking for DRUGS. I am seeking MEDICATION. Shut your moralizing mouth and give me something that makes it feel like I'm not having a heart attack".

She gave me a shot in the butt of liquid advil, as far as I can tell. It mostly worked. Except that it's been more than a month, and I'm still in frequent pain, and still pacing out my advil usage.

In other words, the system is ridiculously broken, and pain sucks, and I'm sorry for all of the judgemental, panicky people who feel the need to tell you how to take care of yourself. Also, I completely don't understand the people who tell you that getting to the point of "no pain" is somehow unnecessary or undesireable. The hell? Since "no pain" is kind of my goal on an all-the-time basis, I'm not sure why it shouldn't be an option for you, as well.

It's more than OK to take the vicodin.
sothcweden: birds flying high at sunset/dawn (Default)

[personal profile] sothcweden 2012-03-26 03:24 am (UTC)(link)
You don't know me, but I wanted to tell you that I wish you weren't in pain, and that it sounds like the system you're dealing with is messed up. I hope you can be gentle with yourself in future, and it's good you have someone who can tell you to just take the things.