Hello, my name is Tammy and I live with chronic pain. In 2003 I experienced a work-place injury. I thought my injury was simple enough that I would be returning to work in no time. I attended various therapy programs including chiropractic, physiotherapy, as well as a work hardening program in the attempt to be able to return to work and keep my job. I experienced another injury in 2005 while on an accommodation return to work program.
While trying to recover from my injuries, as well as during my accommodation, and after my dismissal, my doctor tried many different medications along with additional therapies to help me. I attended a hydrotherapy program, acupuncture and another round of physiotherapy. I have endured many tests, some of which were incredibly painful. I would often hope that the next “new” treatment or test would finally be the key. The key to unlocking and understanding the pain in my body and mind. It was an endless search for something I would never find.
My doctor would often tell me that I wasn't broken, that there was nothing wrong with me and that I should just get over it. I was even called an angry, depressed little person. Although I knew I wasn't broken, I knew something wasn't right any more either. I began to question my own sanity when she would say this. I couldn't understand how my body could be in such pain if there wasn't something wrong.
I begged, pleaded and grovelled for years to my doctor to find out what was wrong with me, why was I always in so much pain. In 2008 I began to find answers. When I started to learn what was wrong, I couldn't handle it. I cracked, The more I learned, the more I didn't want to know. Learning meant being informed and educated. I didn't want that. I wanted to be blissfully unaware again but I also wanted my life back. I started to think everything was hopeless, that the likelihood of me returning to work seemed further than ever.
I was now unemployed and on welfare. I felt so out of control. I was experiencing emotions I had never felt before. I didn't like who I was becoming. My anger about my seemingly helplessness and life in general began to affect every other facet of my life. I began to withdraw from my family, friends and life in general.
I stopped going out unless absolutely necessary. If I could talk someone into doing my grocery shopping for me to avoid going out I would. The pain kept me from leaving my home. I am embarrassed to say that even having a shower every day became a huge task for me. I didn't get dressed unless I was going somewhere and once home would change back into my pj's. As much as I loved food, I wasn't eating. My daughter would tell me every morning before leaving for school, “make sure you eat something today okay Mom? I don't like it when you don't eat”.
I rode this roller coaster for what seemed to be forever. Up and down, round and round. I can't forget the wicked curves or the loops that spun me further into a spiral only to shoot me up so I could fall again. I would often yell and beg God why he had done this to me. What had I done that was so bad that I deserved to live a life with pain? If pain was going to be in my life forever, I didn't want that life. I wanted my old life back darn it! I was so busy being negative that I began to forget life. I just didn't care any more.
Some days I could be so “up” I thought I was manic. And some days I was so down and depressed suicide seemed like the only option. I certainly wasn't happy. I didn't seem to be getting any better. I felt like I was only getting worse. I began abusing my prescription medications taking more than I should have and in ways that were not safe. The pain was so bad I just couldn't take it. But all of the pills (and there were a lot!), really never seemed to help. So then I would just add more and more.
I am ashamed to admit how low I had sunk, but for me to get better I have to acknowledge the good, the bad, and the ugly of what I have done. I would even scope out my parents medication cupboards without their knowledge to see if they had pain medications or anything I could take. Their medications were just better and mine weren't working. I could justify stealing them with no problems.
Also around this time my home was broken into and I was assaulted. Dealing with the emotional impact of this event only seemed to add to my load. I was already having difficulty sleeping due to my pain, now I wasn't sleeping at all. I couldn't sleep at night because I was afraid he would come back and I couldn't sleep during the day because I had a child at home that needed me to be able to function and be able to go and go. The only way I could manage this was to increase the pills.
I began to see a psychiatrist at the hospital and yep you guessed it! More pills!! Then came the extra turns and loops with all of the new medications this doctor now wanted to try. I thought I was taking a lot of pills before. Whew!, now I was taking almost doubled the amount of pills. Almost every two weeks meant a new pill. I wasn't even done experiencing the negative reactions and side effects from one drug before being switched to a new one. I went through withdrawal and introduction effects constantly.
I lost almost eight weeks that summer from all of the reactions I experienced. I lost a lot of weight and I also lost my mind. Good thing I was keeping a diary. It's what helped me finally find my mind again and my way back when I was ready. But at that point? I was crackers!
I can admit it now. I cracked. Went bonkers. Around the bend and couldn't find the on ramp to get back on again. I called my doctor and left a message with her nurse that I was done! I'd had enough and I wasn't taking any more pills. The nurse called my doctor on her day off who then called the police. Two officers arrived at my door and they came to visit with me for almost three hours until she could get to my home.
I denied that I was suicidal, that I wasn't giving up on myself, just the darn pills. I was tired of feeling out of control, feeling like I was losing my mind. I just couldn't admit that I, myself, was also included in what I was done with. I couldn't live a life of pain any more.
I was most fearful that I would be put in the hospital and not be let out. As irrational as that sounds to me now, it terrified me then. So I lied. I lied to my doctor, to the two police officers who had babysat me for what turned out to be almost four hours in total. And I also lied to myself. I said I didn't need to go the hospital. But I did. I did need to go.
I can admit that now. I should have went. I needed the help. I was sick from all of the different medications I had taken over such a short period. I was exhausted mentally, physically, and emotionally. I was too weak to care for myself or my child. But like always, I was stubborn, and refused to go for help. Nothing was wrong that I couldn't take care of on my own.
Well now I realize that if I could have taken care of things on my own I wouldn't have ended up so bloody messed up in the first damn place. Oops! sorry! I was trying to keep the language clean (my mother hates it when we swear), but I really think damn is the only word I can aptly use right now. I am sorry if this offends you. It is not meant to, but don't forget.... there was that warning.
I was then sent to a pain specialist who began a new series of pills and also injections. Again for a while the pills seemed liked they were working. Although I continued to have side effects and we continued to try different ones hoping to find the “right combination” the pain was always there. I went through the same thing with this doctor that I did with my family doctor and psychiatrist. If one pill didn't work he would give another until he found “the one”. This was a just another roller-coaster of sorts it seemed and it took it's own toll on my body and mind.
When we found “the one” it again worked for awhile but eventually with it too, the suicidal thoughts returned. My depression worsened and my ability to cope with day to day life was gone. The medication was beginning to have a paradoxical affect on me and I was in trouble.
The intrusive thoughts that came to me during this time were scary. I would be stopped at a street light and see a transport truck coming and without warning the thought “I wonder if I were to pull out in front of that truck, would it hurt?” would come crashing through my head. WELL DUH!! Of course it would hurt! I was able to see that, know that, and understand that, but I couldn't stop myself from having these thoughts unbidden pop into my head on a daily basis. There were many thoughts and I was shaken to my core with each and every one of them.
One night the thoughts became so bad that I sent my daughter away and got the pills ready. I had already decided on a nice clean ending. I certainly had enough pills in the house that would have been more than enough to do the trick. I didn't want anyone to have to clean up after me and any mess I may have made.
I was so scared. I was torn. I didn't really want to end my life. But I didn't have the courage to live my life either. All that I really knew was that I wanted to see my daughter grow up and become a woman. I wanted to see who she was becoming. I wanted to see her get married and bring me grand-babies when she was 40. (HA HA Em).
I had never felt emotions so strongly as I did that day and frankly they scared the crap out of me. Intellectually I knew better. I had gone to college to learn to help people with things like this. I had spent my professional career caring for people. Teaching, training and supporting people is what I did best. But now the shoe was on the other foot so to speak. I was the one who needed help. I was the one struggling. I was the one who couldn't cope with life. I was the one hurting myself physically. I had hit bottom.
I felt like I had failed my family and let my little girl down. I wasn't the same person any more. I didn't want a life I couldn't fully participate in. I was angry that my body had given up on me and wasn't able to do the things I wanted it to do any more. My relationships with my family and friends continued to deteriorate. I would leave early from gatherings or would just make excuses not to go, I thought if I didn't go then I didn't have to listen to the nagging opinions of everyone telling me what to do with my life. As if I didn't have enough of that already. I certainly wasn't going to voluntarily submit myself to it. Self-isolation had became my saving grace.
While wallowing in my own pity party, I came to some conclusions of my own. I decided NO MORE! I finally decided that I didn't want to live like this any more. That I was just going to have to learn to take things more in hand and start being pro-actively involved instead of re-actively involved in my own life and where it was going. I had some choices and decisions to make.
The first thing that went were the pills! Yep! Every one of them gone! Some were eased off and some were cold turkey. What a nightmare! But eventually I was clear headed. Swamped in pain, but clear headed and able to think for the first time in a long time. I continued with my injections as they did help. Even if only for a few days each month I could feel “normal” again, the needles were worth the pain of getting them.
I began to see a counsellor who challenged my thought processes and encouraged me to think and see things differently. She challenged every negative I could throw at her and most often she caught every one and challenged me again. Slowly things started to change.
I had some hard work to do on myself. I realized I had hit rock bottom and no one was going to come pick me up and dust me off. My parents weren't going to save me like they did when I was a kid. I had to be strong enough to pick my own butt up off the ground. I started talking to God again. This time I was a little nicer, but still often begged and pleaded with him. I couldn't understand what this was supposed to teach me. People would often tell me “God only gives you what He thinks you can handle”. My sharp response was always “well then God has too high of an opinion of me cause I can't handle this”.
I was still writing in my day to day book. Every entry made me cry, yell and get angry all over again. One of the benefits of putting everything down on paper was that it gave me the opportunity to go back later when I wasn't so stressed and read what I had written in the heat of the moment. Sometimes I was very surprised to see and read all of the negativity. When I would read through my book I would also stop and ask myself what had made me feel that way in the first place.
Understanding and acknowledging how I had played a part in whatever I was ranting about at that given moment was not easy. I had to take some of the blame too. I used to be a multi-tasker but now I was finding I was a a multi-complainer. Man! Everything seemed to be pushing my buttons. No one seemed to be able to make me happy. I noticed that as much as I was complaining, I was also doing some of the causing. Understanding how my pain was now playing a part in my relationships with others was a very hard thing for me to look at.
When the pain would get too much for me to handle, I was often mad at myself for having given up on the drugs. Some had actually worked if I could have stomached the gut rot, hallucinations, blurred and doubled vision, the sensation of bugs crawling on and in my body, and all the other reactions I had tolerated in the hopes of of being pain free. Eventually I began to see that for me, medications weren't going to be my “keys” to unlocking the pain in my mind and body. That if I was going to get better mentally and emotionally, I had to reach further and deeper to find the strength to deal with this.
I needed new and different coping skills to help me through this. With the support of my counsellor and doctor I attended a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) support group in an effort to learn the skills I needed and I began a journey of a different sort.
I turned my book of negative rants and raves into a working tool for myself. Something I could use to help me through my struggles. I began writing this paper in 2008 adding topics over the years as I encountered challenges or barriers that I needed help with. Each topic comes from my personal experiences, whether it is my education, profession, or even my own personal journey through what I lovingly refer to as my personal hell.
Picking myself up and dusting myself off has been easier said than done. Each day is a new day, with new struggles, and some old ones tossed in for good measure. But I am coping better now. There are still the odd down days too. Days when I'm still sick of being in pain everyday and wishing things were different. I'm finding that there are less downs days that I can't handle. And if there are, at least I'm better educated and better prepared to deal with them now.
I wish you only the best for your health and your life. Each persons journey is different and the experiences we will have are different still. The thing that links us, is the desire to make the changes in our lives to better ourselves.
God Bless You