Narcotics: The Digestive Nightmare

1 02 2012

At some point, the pain that prompts you to ask loved ones to kill you will drive you to seek hardcore pain solutions. Rather, your loved ones will recoil in horror after you explain your carefully worded plan to make it look like an accident, then demand you seek additional pain control methods.

One of the methods I was not expecting my GP to recommend was Vicodin. I had been given Vicdoin before, for a ruptured ovarian cyst that was so damned bad it was initially believed to be appendicitis. During my first foray into narcotic pain amelioration, I discovered Teletubbies & Pokemon & never looked back. It was at that point that I decided I hated Vicodin (aka hydrocodone, aka “the pill that gives me The Stupid”).

Keep in mind my GP did not “believe in” fibromyalgia, like chronic conditions are akin to Santa or faeries. She had ordered a series of x-rays & discovered that I have degenerative discs & some arthritis in my hip (at the tender age of 29, I was), so she said “Imma give you Vicodin.”

“NO!” I protested. I made a drowned kitten face. She laughed. “Fill the rx. Take it if you need it. It’s like 5 bucks. You’ll thank me later.”

She gave me the lowest dose possible. One day, while writhing in pain on the couch & crying, I decided to take one. I promptly projectile vomited all down my carpeted hallway, which is a pleasure to clean up when your back feels like small tractor trailers have been ramming into it all day.

It was then that I read the side effects.

You will need and want your narcotics, & that’s ok. But you will need to learn to take them so that you don’t make yourself miserable in the process. I’ve found it is horrific to take hydrocodone at night, as night terrors are a common side effect. I used to keep foster kittens for the SPCA, & the first night I had Vicodin, I dreamt I found them all chopped up around my house. That was heinous. So I know not to do that again.

As for the projectile vomiting, I knew I had to break em in half. Any time a health care provider tells me to take a whole one, I nod, then go home & break them in half (or even fourths). Drink a ton of water.

You’ll need the hydration because of the monster constipation. The last thing you want after fibroflare is to then pass what feels like a granite cantaloupe through your anus. You may want to take a stool softener every day you are on narcotic treatment.

So then there’s the “Do I really need narcotics?” question. Or rather, your acquaintances who don’t know what it’s like to feel like you’ve been beaten to a pulp will ask “OhMiGod, you take narcotics? For fibro? Isn’t that, like, addictive?”

Like booze & French silk cake, you can become addicted to narcotics. Studies do show (Google it) that people with true chronic pain don’t actually feel the euphoria that Norms get when they abuse narcotics, however. For people with fibro, the purpose of narcotics isn’t so much to relieve pain as to make you not care about the pain, causing your muscles to finally RELAX. They cannot come out of flare without relaxing, which is why your doctor has probably also given you a muscle relaxant. Narcotics have dissociative properties, which is why some folks who have crappy lives & want to forget become addicted.

People with severe fibro are sometimes habituated on narcotics, which is not the same as addiction. It’s an essential low level functioning for folks who are so sensitized to pain that they can no longer work or operate a vehicle.

And that’s another important part of narcotics use. Do not screw up your life further by driving or making huge life decisions on narcotic pain meds. You could be charged with DUI, hit someone, kill yourself or kill others. If you need narcotics, you’re in flare & shouldn’t be driving, anyhow. Also do not shop online, pay bills, or answer the phone on narcotics unless it’s your friend who loves how very honest and funny you are on drugs. And that friend can keep it to themselves.

What if your doctor is a paranoid psychotic who barely prescribes narcotics to people with concomitant fractures? We all know those. This leads to the phenomenon of “narcohoarding” in which fibropeeps become experts. Dental work? Pah, the pain of a root canal is nothing compared to flare, so we save our meds for when we really need em.

I’ve done it, too, inadvertently. Thanks to super tightness in my calf (yay fibro!), I tore my right ankle in my sleep July 5, 2006. I remember the date vividly because I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced such blinding white hot pain in my life. It was ridiculous. I stood to get out of bed, fell immediately, & couldn’t put weight on my right foot at all.

Four doctors couldn’t agree on what had happened to me. I was asymptomatic when I first presented at the ER. My bloodwork was weird, showing the kind of platelet activity for someone with a severe injury, but I didn’t (yet) have swelling. They did a lower extremity venous scan in case of DVT, & that came up clear. Then they gave me five OxyContin & sent me home. No crutches (that would come a month later), just drugs.

That first day, I freakin’ needed it. I broke one in half & elevated the leg & prayed for death. Eventually, I wanted to watch my Pokemon tapes. The next day, I went back to naproxen sodium.

“Why aren’t you taking your Oxy?” my sig oth at the time asked me.

“Eh, it’s better today. I’d rather save the Oxy for flare.”

He blinked. One of the surgeons I worked for & my neurologist had since decided I tore a ligament. They explained to my sig oth how painful that is. He said, “Do you mean to tell me that flare hurts worse than that?”

I looked at him like he just asked if water was wet. “Well, yeah.”

He wasn’t sure what to do with me after that. What’s fun is my ankle started popping out regularly for years after. I’m not sure how to describe it…whatever doodads hold in your bones in the front of your ankle fail, & there’s this bulge with crepitus. It hurts, & it makes walking not work. After my ex saw that with his own eyes, he figured flare must truly suck.

Which, as you know, it does.

Some docs also like to give out phenergran with hydrocodone syrup when you have bronchitis. I have hoarded that, too. Syrup seems to have less side effects than pills. Sometimes I’d have a teaspoon with flare.

Narcotics of course are a last resort, but don’t torment yourself. If you’re crawling to the bathroom on your stomach, you’ve waited too long. Narcotics can mean the difference between being in flare for a day & being in flare for a week. You will need them less as you recover your health. But if you need em, use em. Don’t torture yourself.

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Fierce With Fibro

1 02 2012

So your neurologist has finally given you a diagnosis & your first thought is, “Great. Swell. That’s fantastic, Doc, but how do I get back to who I was?”

Because you were that bitch at the club, at the bottle table looking fly. Right? But for the past two years you’ve been dragging your raggedy ass outta bed, wondering what happened to all your “friends” & if you’ll ever be fantabulous again.

Bitch, please. You’ve got this. No, you’re not going to be at the club three nights a week until 4 AM. But you can go again. Sometimes. And in between, you’re going to have dinner with friends & show up to work looking like a lukewarm mess, right? So what’s a girl to do when repetitive motions are needed to look fantastic?

Modify.

You are not going to give up make up & hair. There will be days when it’s fine to forego, but many days you may be feeling kinda meh, but want to look pretty “Oh hell yeah!” So here’s some quickie tips for looking like you made an effort without putting your achy self into flare.

1. Take your hair type into account & get a cut that can air dry. As you can tell from my home page, I cut my own hair into a bob for reasons I am now questioning. This doesn’t air dry well at all, since I have wavy, fine hair. It does curl very quickly, but I have to use a curling iron, & sometimes that hurts. Don’t be like me.

Ponies are not always a good idea. As you already know from experience, you can get pony headache. With fibro, you will get pony headache, neckache, shouldersheer & Please Dear God Put Me In Traction Ache. If you’ve gotta do a pony, go low, or do a loose braid & fasten it at the bottom only. If you can handle a spin pin or clip on your head, that may hurt slightly less. When you’re feeling a flare coming on, though, less crap touching your scalp or pulling on your hair is better. Air dry.

2. Ok, so it’s 80 below outside (or feels like it to you, thankyoyverymuch), so you HAVE to blow dry. I learned this tip watching Anna Nicole Smith, who had lupus. You know our lupine sisters feel pain, too. She laid on her back on her bed with her head over the edge & blew dry that way. Yeah, your arms are still up, but there’s less neck strain than standing or sitting, your arms don’t go as high, & you still get a bit of lift. If you’re super sensitive, use Warm instead of Hot. Always finish on cold to set the shine.

3. Have a neutral all-over eye shade for days when you just can’t master the 3 & 4 shadow smoky eye. With my skin tone, I like to use a very pale shimmery silver or white. I also have a pale golden tawny colour. Do a wash of your whole lid when the hand-eye coordination has deserted you for some healthier bitch.

4. Speaking of eyes, some days, eyeliner is a hazard. Or a disaster, even w/out blinding yourself. I tried to do a 50s cat eye once when I was heading for a flare, & I looked like someone had punched a hooker. If you CANNOT function without smoke, get a dark shadow & gently sweep a little in the lash line. Put away the liquid liner when you have the shakes. Your eyesight is more important than your signature tick.

5. Lip gloss, not lip liner & certainly no Mac Russian Red on days when you could spasm & end up looking like the Joker.

6. To save wiggy arms, do your SPF 40 moisturizer & SPF 40 foundation together. Pour a little foundation on to the blob of moisturizer in your palm, mix, & apply. I’ve been doing that all since my last flare last week. Doing it twice just hurts too much. No, it doesn’t give full coverage, but it covers enough. If you have the energy to dot a concealer brush over bad spots, that’s enough.

7. Remember, when you’re heading into flare, all the make-up you put on will have to come off. Get some make-off wipes if you can’t scrub. I’m a huge fan of flannels (washcloths to Yanks) because they do the scrubbing for me.

8. If you have to be somewhere but cannot get up the strength to wash, dry, & style your hair, do not be afraid of dry shampoo. Oscar Blandi’s is nice & lemony. If your arms are very squiggly, though, go easy on it because you have to massage it into your roots. If you spill a lot on there, you will look like a high school kid playing an old lady role on stage. And that powdered wig look doesn’t go away unless you brush the crap out of your hair. If your arms are bad, brushing hurts. So be careful.

And here’s the reality check: if you’re going into flare, cancel your plans. You wouldn’t go clubbing with the flu, so why would you go in flare? Your friends will make do without you. Remember, when you are in flare, you are sick. It’s ok to tell people you are sick. Your body is mad at you; it will stay mad at you until you apologize to it.

I know I have a thousand other little short cuts for achy times, & will post them in future as I think of them. If you have any, please share below!





Deja Vu All Over Pain

1 02 2012

I’m starting to believe that fibromyalgia flare is the memory of pains past. Many neurologists & even rheumatologists believe that FMS is triggered by past trauma, as is evidence by many abuse survivors developing it, as well as those in car accidents and soldiers returning injured from combat.

More & more my flares are starting to feel like things that have already happened to me. Today, when I managed to get up for a hot shower, I noticed my left knee was inexplicably twisted in addition to the neck, shoulder, hip, & ribs aching, plus the palms of my hands burning. So that was like the time I tripped in a pot hole & went flying to the pavement.

People ask me from time to time what it feels like. I’ve said it’s like someone has a voodoo doll of you, but most people can’t relate to that. I’ll try to relate my pain to you in terms of what I’ve experienced, since I’ve never actually been hit by a train. I hope you cannot relate.

Sometimes it’s the mild pain & fatigue of the flu. In that case, I get up, have a hot shower, & go to work.

Sometimes it’s like when you were six, climbed to the top of an armoire, & fell off on to your back & couldn’t walk for days.

Sometimes it’s like when you were 13 & someone picked you up & hurled you against a wall, then dragged you up some stairs.

Sometimes it’s like when you were nine and rolled down a steep hill & sprained your wrist and your ankle.

Sometimes it’s like when you got in a car accident going 15 mph & ached for days after. I can’t imagine what people at higher velocities suffer.

Sometimes it’s like when you were 16 & someone beat the crap out of you for several minutes.

Sometimes it’s like when someone picks you up & drops you from over their shoulders.

Sometimes it’s like being punched hard in the gut.

Sometimes it’s like when you were three & went tumbling down a full flight of concrete stairs.

And sometimes I wonder how I ended up with fibromyalgia. Hah!

These are just the most relatable snippets for those who wanted to understand what it feels like. Why did I go into flare this time? Well, sir, I went to Ikea, and then to Trader Joes. I carried in everything by myself. Yup, my body has become THAT stupid.

Of course I went to work Tuesday on wobbly legs & made myself worse. C’est la vie.

In happier news, fibromyalgia has never killed anyone. It’s not like MS or ALS or MD; it is not degenerative that anyone can tell. It’s kind of like a pain seizure, which is why seizure meds work on some of us. Most of us can manage with diet & mild exercise, plus occasional narcotics & relaxants. Some are on 24/7 narcotics. Some are on disability.

Me, I have more good days than bad now. But sometimes I wake up & it’s like past events have happened to me all over again, like today. Today I am naming Pothole Redux. Which, incidentally, is a great name for a Cars cover band.

Originally posted March 16, 2011 to my personal blog.





The Bright Side of Pain

1 02 2012

The really fantastic thing about physical pain & disability is that you find out who your real friends are real fast & how to prioritize.

Will the world end if you don’t vacuum? No. Is the person who only seems to enjoy talking to you when you’re “on” someone you’d call when you’ve fallen & can’t get up? No.

You find out who is your friend & who is your therapy client. Your audience. You find out that certain people are more grown up than you gave them credit for, & some far less.

You realize you’ve been pushing someone away because you didn’t understand what they were offering. You resolve to accept it now. You learn that Doritos are not food. You learn to talk in plain English. You exasperate of games. And, as Kurt Schlichter might say, your tolerance for morons wears ever thinner.

You admit that even the smallest help is help.

You concentrate on the people who really matter.

You remember you have a body, & to accept that “mind over matter” is mostly a figure of speech.

You learn to say to no. You give yourself permission to ignore people who want too much of your energy.

You figure out what love actually is. It demands nothing but gives selflessly. There’s more than that, but that’s the first way to recognize it. And love sustains. It does not merely maintain.

Thank you, Lord, for teaching me to use fibromyalgia for good. I wouldn’t have sorted that out on my own.

Originally posted 12/12/2010 on my personal blog.





What Is 101?! Fun With Flares!

1 02 2012

Today, I wound up on Arroyo, utterly convinced I was going home despite the fact that the 110 had ended I was now in Pasadena, signs for the Rose Bowl all around me. Depeche Mode fans are probably slick with giddy anticipation, but no. I wasn’t supposed to be in Pasadena. You see, I live in Encino. Off the 101.

You’d think I’d remember that, yes? No. In fact although I know intellectually that I live off the 101, which I can actually hear from my bedroom, I am convinced mind, body & soul that I live on the 110.

I am in fibroflare.

Some of you are groaning. My long time readers who recall my MySpace whinging of yore are so over this. The rest of you think I’ve discovered some scintillating new L.A. night spot where they bump Kei$ha next to Kajagoogoo, but no. Fibroflare is no club, & if it were, the only people who got in would be pummeled by the bouncers first, & the only drink served would be paint thinner with an Everclear chaser.

I have a condition called fibromyalgia, or FMS for short. It is a neuromuscular disorder characterized by widespread pain in all four quadrants, fatigue, cognitive discombobulation & motor dysfunction. The cog discombob is colloquially referred to as fibrofog, as your brain might as well have been vaporized into a mist, & flares of symptoms are exciting for friends & family alike. Congrats! You now live with an achy, stabby, crampy, electrical-shooty zombie voodoo doll. Yay you!

I am lucky enough to have been nearly symptom-free for several months, but not today. Today I am chronicalling this bastard for you normal folk from my iPhone in bed with an electric blanket turned up to Equator. I can’t sit up to use the lap top & only two fingers sorta work. But many of you don’t know about FMS, & seem curious, so now you’ve opened the flood gate for whinging. Go Team Aww Crap!

Here’s how it started. As many of you know, I’ve been kind of failing to sleep. This spells doom for the fibrowad (my name for how we feel when we’re like this, because it’s akin to being chewed gum). FMS is best combatted with decent sleep, as it allows our bodies to heal & our neurotransmitters to stop being drama queens. However, if you fail to sleep repeatedly, as I have, your body doesn’t repair itself & all those little microtears we all get during the day send pain signals to the fibrobrain, which then responds with all the drama & histrionics of a Southern Belle on PCP.

So yesterday I was walking to the kitchen & just kind of stopped being able to walk (it’s kind of like MS in that regard, which is what the doctor originally thought I had). I had to grip a wall for a minute & then I was ok. I thought nothing of it; I mean, I used to fall down crossing the street for God’s sake. Losing containment in my own kitchen? Not a big deal.

I then realized that I had somehow pulled a calf muscle, probably from the cramp I got Sunday night, the origin of which I decline to explain. Today, while doing a spot of acting for Tab’s mock trial at law school today (a very small, dim spot) I realized my shoulders & arms kind of were trying to kill me a little bit. The muscles feel like they’ve split up with the bones, told them to pack their things, & get the HELL out.

Then I tried to drive home. On the 110. I live on the 101. Allegedly. I still don’t quite believe it.

I also said “substicuting”.

I was not going to get home in time to eat & get to work on time, so I drove straight to work. I totally forgot the details of a client I’d spoken to 2 days earlier. That is VERY unlike me.

I then came home & hugged my roommate. Again, very unlike me.

My teeth are chattering. I’m in an electric blanket that is probably causing global warming somehow. Yes, it’s all my fault.

I’ve been preventing further flares with diet (keeping my Celiac disease in check) & movement, which is essential to fibrowads even though lots of us protest. Sleep & not eating regularly appear to be the triggers. Oh, & possibly denial.

I am currently reading Sue Ingebretsen’s ‘FibroWHYalgia’, which is awesome & is an inspiration for anyone with a chronic illness. It’s funny, which is essential, & hopeful, which is unheard of in books about FMS. Obviously I need to hurry up & get to the bit about flares…

So if I go really stupid on you (more than usual), please ask me what is 101? If I answer “Denzel Washington”, tell me I need more sleep. And stop asking me to do things.

Ok, I love you, buh bye!

Originally posted 4/16/2010 at my personal blog.





Face It; Flare Sucks

1 02 2012

I’m in flare, so of course my natural inclination is to start a fibro blog. Yeah, that’s slightly sorta really nuts, but WordPress has an app, & I can add posts from the comfort of my bed & the convenience of my iPhone. With fibro, you have to figure out how to do more with less. You get better than Norms at what might be termed Apocalypse Living.

Even though, technically, there’d be no Internet, probably, during the Apocalypse. Whatevs, people. MY BODY IS AN APOCALYPSE.

So here’s my super quick, flarebrained tips for dealing with flare.

1. You may have to work. If you can take the time off, for the love of God, do it & take care of yourself. If you can’t today, arrange for a short day. If you can’t do that, ask for the soonest day off. My appointment book had no one on it yet for tomorrow, but was nearly full today. I rescheduled my last client with another consultant, marked myself out tomorrow, & went home. Just do it. Don’t be a martyr. Martyrs end up on disability. Avoid that as long as you can (& you most likely can).

2. Eat clean. You know you shouldn’t be having MSG & high sugar anyway, but when you are on a flare you’ll only prolong it reaching for most prepared foods. If you don’t have something prepped & frozen, it’s ok to order out or have a spouse, boy/girlfriend or friend bring you something. You’ve got to eat, & it has to be wholesome food with some fat & fiber. Luckily I’d had the good sense to have a beef stew in the crockpot today.

3. Stay warm & hydrated.

4. Don’t stay completely immobile. If all you do today is shuffle around the house on crutches for five minutes, just do that. Immobility will make it worse, but obviously don’t over do it. If you can add some very light yoga stretches in bed (child’s pose, downward facing dog, cat pose), your body will thank you later.

5. Someone else can scoop the catbox & unload the dishwasher. If you live alone, ok, the catbox can’t go for too long. But the dishwasher? Meh. It’ll still be there when you can lift you arms.

6. Don’t drive. Please try not to, anyhow. In fibro fog, you have no idea where you’ll end up. If your arms & shoulder sockets hurt & are weak, you could have issues parking or even steering. And if your legs and ankles are freezing up, you could have acceleration & breaking issues. Get a ride or don’t go anywhere. Now is not the time to rush to a massage appointment.

7. If you’re too weak to brush your teeth or stay up in the shower, it’ll keep for a day. A quick hot shower when you’re stronger might help. Don’t fuss with the bath unless you can get help getting out, & you don’t mind that person seeing you nekkid.

As you can see, my sense of humour kinda died with the flare, but don’t get all serious on yourself either. If you can hold up a book or e-book, amuse yourself. Make a Twitter list of comedians & funny friends for days when politics & flame wars over your favorite TV shows aren’t working for you. Watch a wacky marathon on TV or your favorite movies or shows on DVD. Don’t go to drama town; make yourself as happy as possible.

If you have developed a flare coping mechanism, please share below!





Face It; Flare Sucks

1 02 2012

I’m in flare, so of course my natural inclination is to start a fibro blog. Yeah, that’s slightly sorta really nuts, but WordPress has an app, & I can add posts from the comfort of my bed & the convenience of my iPhone. With fibro, you have to figure out how to do more with less. You get better than Norms at what might be termed Apocalypse Living.

Even though, technically, there’d be no Internet, probably, during the Apocalypse. Whatevs, people. MY BODY IS AN APOCALYPSE.

So here’s my super quick, flarebrained tips for dealing with flare.

1. You may have to work. If you can take the time off, for the love of God, do it & take care of yourself. If you can’t today, arrange for a short day. If you can’t do that, ask for the soonest day off. My appointment book had no one on it yet for tomorrow, but was nearly full today. I rescheduled my last client with another consultant, marked myself out tomorrow, & went home. Just do it. Don’t be a martyr. Martyrs end up on disability. Avoid that as long as you can (& you most likely can).

2. Eat clean. You know you shouldn’t be having MSG & high sugar anyway, but when you are on a flare you’ll only prolong it reaching for most prepared foods. If you don’t have something prepped & frozen, it’s ok to order out or have a spouse, boy/girlfriend or friend bring you something. You’ve got to eat, & it has to be wholesome food with some fat & fiber. Luckily I’d had the good sense to have a beef stew in the crockpot today.

3. Stay warm & hydrated.

4. Don’t stay completely immobile. If all you do today is shuffle around the house on crutches for five minutes, just do that. Immobility will make it worse, but obviously don’t over do it. If you can add some very light yoga stretches in bed (child’s pose, downward facing dog, cat pose), your body will thank you later.

5. Someone else can scoop the catbox & unload the dishwasher. If you live alone, ok, the catbox can’t go for too long. But the dishwasher? Meh. It’ll still be there when you can lift you arms.

6. Don’t drive. Please try not to, anyhow. In fibro fog, you have no idea where you’ll end up. If your arms & shoulder sockets hurt & are weak, you could have issues parking or even steering. And if your legs and ankles are freezing up, you could have acceleration & breaking issues. Get a ride or don’t go anywhere. Now is not the time to rush to a massage appointment.

7. If you’re too weak to brush your teeth or stay up in the shower, it’ll keep for a day. A quick hot shower when you’re stronger might help. Don’t fuss with the bath unless you can get help getting out, & you don’t mind that person seeing you nekkid.

As you can see, my sense of humour kinda died with the flare, but don’t get all serious on yourself either. If you can hold up a book or e-book, amuse yourself. Make a Twitter list of comedians & funny friends for days when politics & flame wars over your favorite TV shows aren’t working for you. Watch a wacky marathon on TV or your favorite movies or shows on DVD. Don’t go to drama town; make yourself as happy as possible.

If you have developed a flare coping mechanism, please share below!