Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Waiting For the Drugs to Kick In

Yes, I have been spending a lot of time blogging. And yes, I am aware that too much of a good thing often spoils the fun. How many kids have begged and pleaded their parents for one more go only to projectile vomit over the back of mum's head on the journey home with a mixture of candy floss, hot dogs and excitement?

Obviously, not everybody is going to read everything I write about. looking at the stats to my blog, it appears I am most popular when I am in Victor Meldrew mode - having a rant against fuckwittedness, bureaucracy, arseholes and people who don't deserve even a thoroughly nasty death. This, I am sure, would concern some people - a sort of car crash blogging phenomena, where only the most popular are the ones that rage against the machine of modern wankiness. I suppose that's human nature, or at least one facet of it.

For people who read my blog, my rants are considerably more interesting than my wibblings about my health. That's totally understandable; no one really wants to read about someone else's woes when their own lives are bordering on shit. Oh well...

After the day I had yesterday, today is calm, cold and slightly unwell. I woke up after a surprisingly long night's sleep; I was in bed just after midnight - pretty much a rare thing for me on a school night. Perhaps I was feeling the beginnings of a reappearance of the virus that has, for a few weeks now, been banging at the door, but has never quite stepped over the threshold? I decided, before I really woke up and realised how fucking awful I felt, that I would have a bath - soaking my back in hot water helps me move around better during the first couple of hours of doing my daily 100-year-old man impersonation.

It wasn't until after the bath that I realised I was feeling a bit shit. The wife has a way of describing it, which is almost impossible to put into words, because she doesn't use words or even gesticulations to infer how she feels - she just sort of bobs her head. She'd say, "I feel a bit..." and then bob her head in a 'not quite sure this is reality' way. The thing is, as an ex-stoner, this makes a lot of sense to me, which is why it has stayed a staple form of description in the house for 25 years. I once said to a mate, a long time ago, that being stoned was a little like being ill - your temperature rises, you get a bit insular and if it wasn't for the pleasant feeling, you'd feel like a bag of shit. Hardly a ringing endorsement for taking drugs...

In the last year, since the explosion of my spine into a ball of rage and hate, I have had a fair few drugs to ease the pain - everything from morphine based Bastard Pills™ to things Michael Jackson had a penchant for to bog standard over the counter rubbish. I think they all work to varying degrees - things like Ibuprofen, paracetamol and codeine probably do take the edge off the pain - from unbearable to almost unbearable - not a massive distinction, but trust me, better than nothing at all. The stronger the drugs have got the more adverse reactions they have on me. The Oxycodone (Google it and be frightened) fucked me up so badly I might as well just gone and scored some skag from 16 Stone's husband; Tramadol don't appear to do anything until you stop taking them; then all of a sudden the craving for a cigarette becomes as insignificant as a retarded housefly and both of them deliver an unwanted punch - they make you feel a bit stoned, but without the pleasant bits. When I came off Oxy, I had the drug withdrawal equivalent of the flu (or Cold Turkey as it is referred to in certain circles). Having what amounted to a week of being really ill, coupled with a prolapsed disc was possibly one of the worst weeks of my life. I'm not suicidal, never have been, but Jesus Horatio Christ I could understand why some people throw themselves off of Beachy Head. There is also the plain and simple fact that the stronger the drug the less of a shit you give about anything. I'd contest that drugs that fuck you up don't actually ease the pain, they just make you care less about it!

Tomorrow is D Day - or rather Doc Day. I go to see my doctor with a continually morphing spiel; do I focus on my back and risk my elbow becoming an after thought that gets forgotten in everything else (I rarely talk about my elbow because I don't want people thinking I'm either a hypochondriac or a wuss) and when do I mention the conversation with my employment adviser, the one that starts, 'Do you realise that I've had 187 days off sick during the last two years I was at work?'. It would be a real pisser if I turned up there with a cold.

The reason I bring this up is because over the last few weeks I've had this virus creeping around the edges, but sitting here this morning feeling slightly disembodied, I realised that even if I do have a runny nose sometimes and I'm coughing a wee bit more; it's no more than you would expect at this odd time of the year. I tried to work out if there was any pattern to this; because I started to believe that it wasn't a virus at all. By the time I finish this I will have convinced myself it isn't - the reason is because in the time it has taken me to write to this point, I've started to feel human again...

Now, they say unemployment is a downer and can make people feel ill; it's all psychosomatic innit? But I don't think that's the case; yes I worry about not having any money and starving to death, but I have an iota of confidence in my ability left and know that whoever gives me a job will ultimately get their money's worth. Plus, there have been times when I've actually enjoyed having the freedom I've had for the last six months. I have spent my second summer out of three off work and had the weather been better I probably would be complaining about melanoma now rather than a bad back. No, I think the dodginess I have been feeling could be something a lot more insidious...

I stopped taking the painkillers back in February. I had already thrown the walking stick away and as I've chronicled on these pages, I started to feel bloody good again. Yes, I had the after effects of the prolapse - bad sciatica at times and that dull ache at the base of my spine that finally made me understand what my dad was going on about for years - the one that seems to hang around like an unwanted party guest. I did stuff with my posture; did more walking and generally by the time July came around I was feeling like I could do all the things I used to be able to do before my back rebelled against the rest of my body. Then during that month my elbow started to play up. At first I thought it was just a case of Tennis Elbow, even though I don't play tennis. It made perfect sense; I'd spent two years barely using my left arm, to the point where you could actually see the difference because of the muscle wastage. Once the op sorted it out everything went back to normal, but my right arm had taken most of the strain and it could well be the problems with my elbow could be down to those old chestnuts Mr Wear and Mrs Tear.

It wasn't that bad at first, just a tenderness around the elbow joint, but by the end of August it had begun to inveigle its way into my everyday life. In the cupboard in the conservatory was a big bag of Tramadol; like a said I'd given up the painkillers months earlier, but didn't see any point in getting rid of 400 strong painkillers when my subconscious was continually worrying about slipping another disc. I also didn't see the point in taking them for my elbow; yes it was very painful, but was it bad enough to warrant a bandage rather than a band aid? I dug out my old prescriptions, found one that had a repeat for Solpadol - the 30mg of codeine infused paracetamol which were the last medium strength pills I had taken before being put on the horse pills and got it filled. I decided to take them supplemented with Ibuprofen. Then about a week later I probably had another prolapse and in the last month that 400 tablets of Tramadol has become two.

I was down to less than 10 by the weekend, and the Solpadol was down to the last dozen or so (there might be a few lying around somewhere). Fortunately the pain had decreased from a 9 to about a 6 and there was the doctor's looming ever closer on the horizon; so I've been very careful with the Tramadol; taking them first thing in the morning, supplemented by various other drugs and relying on my dwindling stock of Solpadol to take main strain. And it's been since I've decreased consumption of Michael Jackson's favourite painkiller that I've noticed the days where I've felt like complete and utter pooh. Ooh, can you see a correlation there? I can.

I think I've become as dependent on my daily concoction of painkillers as I have with drinking at least 9 cups of coffee between the hours of 9am and 4pm. If I haven't had a coffee by midday, I start to get a caffeine headache. Neither of these things can be doing me a lot of good, but what are the alternatives? A spine transplant is not possible; even if I get to have an MRI scan and see a consultant, the conclusions were all a bit meh and they all opted for time to be the healer. Perhaps the NHS's new policy is the make people believe something is being done about their problems, when nothing is?

I've been doing this an hour now; the last two Tramadol have been taken and I've had 4 cups of coffee. I still feel a bit fuzzy, but that's probably the effects of the drugs rather the effects of not having them. That leaves me with even more of a doctor's dilemma. I need both my back and elbow dealing with; I need her to acknowledge that 187 days sick through this 'wear and tear' problem - 172 of those days were certified - isn't a good advert and suggests that my problem is a disability; even if she thinks it's a temporary thing, it's a disability for me at this present moment in time and it doesn't appear to be in any hurry to move along. And, I need her to understand that the small pharmaceutical firm I have consumed since May 2009 isn't doing me any favours. You can't have the chicken without the egg; but when the egg is always bad, it's the chicken you have to start being concerned about.

I hate going to the doctor with more than one problem - for a multitude of reasons from psychological to the fear that I will be branded an attention seeking hypochondriac. The thing is, I wasn't even going to see the doctor this time - I'm that confident in her abilities, I was just going to let nature take its course; after all, that's all she'd eventually do.

If you'd asked me a year ago if I wanted an operation, I would have bitten your hand off. By April, when I was offered one, I was recuperating so well that it seemed to be something that was no longer really needed. I actually said to the surgeon, 'I hope I don't rue this decision.' He said that we understand our bodies better than any expert and only I could ultimately decide that. I'm ruing it.

It's now 1pm and I'm virtually back to how I feel most days. I'm a fucking prescription drug addict!

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