I was awake at 4.30am. That’s not exactly a good sign these days, because it means that the pain is poking through the otherwise-blanketing effect of the Tramadol I picked up Thursday night.
I made the mistake of trying to tilt my head back, ever so slightly. Even though it’s better for me than tilting my chin to my chest, it feels worse. Why, oh why, is that? The position that feels better is worse for me and vice versa. That’s hardly fair (lol).
My last few days have consisted of a few foreign themes: mild narcotics for pain relief and needing help with every little thing. Oh, and I’ve been restless and frustrated.
Let’s start with that: the restlessness and frustration. It all boils down to pain. I can’t quite find a comfortable position, so I’m distracted by the pain, unable to engage in most of the activities that bring me pleasure and add richness to my life. I weigh my options, trying to improvise, to find something I can do.
My normal couch routine and relaxing positions are totally off-limits, due to the pain and the risk of further injury. Laying down, sitting, and standing are hit-and-miss, and even if they’re going to help, it’s probably going to take 10 minutes for the pain to die down enough for me to tell if it’s going to be a “go” or not.
Let me back up and start at the beginning…
When I first wake up, I may be in pain already, or I may not be. If I’m in pain, I need my partner to bring me a quick snack and a Tramadol (a mild opioid painkiller), and it’ll take me another half hour for the medicine to kick in enough for me to be able to move.
If I’m not in pain, that’s awesome! But I can’t get too excited, because experience has taught me that my bliss is probably not going to last much longer. Using my legs and abdominal muscles, I turn over on my side and slowly drop my legs over the side of the bed. I brace my affected arm in a protective curled up position to minimize the effect of changing gravitational forces. Using my good arm (the one I turned onto), I push myself up to a sitting position on the side of the bed. It’s crucial not to do this too fast!
Eventually I’ll stand up and make my way around, usually to the restroom. This is the moment of truth in terms of the pain; if there’s pain to be had, it’ll reveal itself then.
If I’m lucky, I’ll make it to the restroom pretty well, and I might (TMI Warning) be able to tear off my own toilet paper. If not, I’m stuck asking my partner to do it for me. He’s very gracious about helping in any way I ask him to. ❤
Eating breakfast is a potentially slow and arduous process as well. Tilting my head in just the right way, so as to balance the coexisting needs to manage to get the spoonfuls into my mouth and keep the pain down to a dull roar, is more of an art than I ever imagined. Positions, in terms of what’s comfortable and what’s not, are hit and miss, and the whole body is involved.
The name of the game, the ultimate goal of the day, is to remain as immobile as possible, and do the least amount of work possible, so that I strain my neck as little as possible. The good news is, I have full “permission” (and in fact, “doctor’s orders”) from my partner to do exactly that; now the only obstacle is myself. I often stand in my own way–or in this case, serve as my own drill instructor.
That’s where the restlessness comes in. I’ve always been on the move, doing something. And I’ve always resented anything (or anyone) that got in my way or slowed me down. I always hated pain and physical illness for that reason (other than the other, more obvious reasons, such as the fact that they suck).
I tend to have so much (too much?) energy, and that energy has to go somewhere. It must be sunk into something, some activity or subject of interest that I can sink my proverbial teeth into. But pain is a huge distraction; if I can’t get comfortable, then I can’t concentrate. And god(dess) knows I need to concentrate. Otherwise my brain is all dressed up with nowhere to go (lol).
I have to have my partner get and carry practically everything for me. This includes my Pyrex cup of chicken and rice soup. Carrying a half-gallon (2-liter) carton of chocolate almond milk is out of the question. My 17-pound weighted blanket might as well weigh a hundred pounds; my roller luggage with my laptop (which must be carried when going up or down the stairs) might as well clock in at a healthy metric tonne.
Not gonna happen.
But hey–at least I can laugh without causing further damage! I make liberal use of this capability.
There is no such thing as bending over in my world; if I need to pick up a wrapper or if I want to pet the cat, I kneel down to do so, in the interest of keeping my neck straighter.
On Thursday night after work, I picked up my 2-week prescription for 50mg Tramadol, a narcotic painkiller on the lighter side of the strength spectrum. It doesn’t make me high or anything. It doesn’t even make all the discomfort disappear, but that’s OK. I don’t necessarily want all the pain to be dulled out; I want to know if I’m doing something stupid so that I can stop doing it. It does sometimes make me drowsy, but not always. Much of the time, I’m coherent and alert and all that. I would, however, question my ability to drive with 100% of my normal vigilance. (TMI Warning: it does essentially bring my bowels to a full stop, although surprisingly, this has not caused discomfort or other problems at this time. There is, however, plenty of gas, although not problematically so, which tells me there’s no evidence of a more serious intestinal issue, such as a blockage or a complete ceasing to function or anything. Not even vaping is enough to stimulate bowel action; when pitted against Tramadol, Tramadol wins.)
I probably would be able to work, since my daily office life consists mostly of sitting at a desk. But therein lies a problem: this isn’t entirely good for my neck, to be on a computer all the time. My partner, who can be a straightforward critic, even said that at this point, it’s best if I rest and do as little as possible. He’s not one to say, “milk it, baby”, so I take him seriously when he says stuff like this.
My appetite is very diminished on the Tramadol, but maybe that’s a good thing.
My sensory functions are all over the place. My sense of smell is a little strange. My sense of taste is definitely stronger than usual. My hearing is, temporarily, greatly diminished. I am more prone to internal overheating. And I can get dizzy and sometimes nauseated.
So, I try to stretch the Tramadol doses out to much longer than the recommendations allow. The instructions say that I can take one tablet every six hours, after I’ve eaten. When they say “after meals”, they mean it. I try to push the timing longer than six hours, though; if I don’t, then I am much more prone to the dizziness, overheating, and nausea. And if I’m not in pain that I can’t handle, I don’t take it at all. A mild discomfort is par for my course right now, and it’s not enough to necessitate a Tramadol dose.
I’m biding my time, counting the days until our new traction table arrives and I can start my program of conservative treatment. I recognize writing on the wall when I see it, and all odds are stacked in favor of my having to have neck surgery eventually.
The best case scenario is that my conservative treatment will fix this disc herniation entirely. The worst case scenario is that it will do nothing. I’m placing my bets on an outcome that lies somewhere in between. Of course, I’m hoping for the best. But the realistic side of me has no choice but to prepare for the worst.
I’ve been very lucky so far to have a straight-up absence of histamine. I think the universe is going easy on me; it knows that any sneezing at all would completely do me in.
Meanwhile, I’ve begun the process of trying to obtain major medical health insurance, to cover the surgery should I need it, and to have it in place for any other catastrophe that would otherwise bankrupt us. That’s actually the trickiest part of my entire situation.
Wish me luck! 🙂