I Am Not The Problem!

On Tuesday, a twenty-three-year-old Sarasota, Florida man (and I use that term loosely) gave his nine-month pregnant girlfriend, also twenty-three, a fatal dose of Fentanyl. He now faces two counts of manslaughter. His cry, while his pregnant girlfriend lay unconscious on the floor, was “I went too far.” The local newspaper reported that this young man had no legal access to pain medication and that his girlfriend ‘nagged’ him about her pain from the pregnancy. His first instinct, unbelievably, was to seek illegal, extremely powerful drugs. He allegedly purchased one pill which he split in half. He took one half and gave the rest to her. 

It’s astounding to me that this young man’s first thought was illegal drugs. Not going to the nearest Walgreens or CVS to pick up acetaminophen or ibuprofen, something, ANYTHING but illegal drugs. Something safer for her and the baby. And herein lies the problem with the so-called ‘opioid crisis.’ It’s a mindset. It’s a behavior. This young man is the problem.

Yesterday, I sat in the office of my interventional pain specialist waiting to see my doctor. It was one of the urine drug screenings that is required by law to get the pain medication upon which I rely to keep my pain to a low roar. An easel held a welcome sign for a new doctor in the practice. Under his picture and the list of his rather impressive credentials, a sentence was printed: “Stop opioid dependence before it becomes an addiction.” 

Really? Really?

The sweet lady sitting to my left overheard me talking to Hubby, and she nudged me when she heard me say, “I suppose this is next.” We talked extensively about the injustice that chronic pain patients have been facing since the government has declared war on opioids, and on us by extension. Her story isn’t unlike others I have heard, either from friends or just reading various articles online. And that this is happening to the innocent among us is infuriating. We are NOT the problem.

When I got the inspiration for this column a quick Internet search turned up article after article about overdose deaths from fentanyl in one form or another. Another quick search for ‘hydrocodone overdose deaths’ only turned up information on what dose of it is lethal. The hard truth is that the majority of opioid overdose deaths are from illicit drugs, most of the time laced or cut with fentanyl. 

In 2017, seventy-eight percent of the states had an increase in overdose deaths, and of those states, fifty-nine percent were considered ‘statistically significant’ increases. The CDC released its revised guidelines for opioid prescribing in 2016 so that being the case, why is the rate of overdose increasing? In the meantime, an incredible 18 million Americans who suffer from chronic pain illnesses are undertreated or have been totally denied medically necessary prescription pain medications. Could it be that criminals and addicts never obey the law? When will lawmakers realize or recognize that they cannot legislate morality? We are not the problem!

Where the number of prescription medications that cause overdoses gets confused is in the numbers of people who obtain those prescriptions illegally, either by stealing from, buying from or just being given the drugs by a friend or family member. This pie chart, from SAMHSA (pg22), illustrates the breakdown of where illegal prescriptions are obtained. These people are the problem.

Figure26

*****

The majority of people who rely on opioid pain medications do not abuse them, but we are the ones being abused, treated like addicts, junkies, and fakers when we simply seek help. We have been tapered drastically or discontinued suddenly. The ones who fall through the cracks end up being statistics, the ones who can no longer handle the pain and choose death over suffering. This is the national disgrace. This is the American embarrassment. We are not the problem.

Those who have followed this blog for any length of time remember my voluntary opioid taper last year. My doctor told me it was a wise decision to undertake it on my own because the dose of morphine sulfate I was on 24 months ago is now illegal. One of the reasons I decided to blog my experience with the taper was for the benefit of those who, for whatever reason, needed to taper. There was precious little information about opioid tapering from a chronic pain standpoint, what to expect with withdrawals and pain increase. I believe that if my experience helps just one person enduring this injustice at the hands of unethical laws, doctors, and pharmacies, it will be worth it. 

So I have two months’ worth of pain relief thanks to my co-pay and a practice full of doctors who believe in helping people in pain and are willing to put in the extra hours and absorb the risk. I have jumped through another bunch of government hoops to live somewhat comfortably until February when the anxiety sets in once again. I’m never sure when the day will come that he looks me in the eye and says, “My hands are tied. I’m sorry.” 

I just want to live my life and be left alone. I am not the problem. 


If you know someone who could use the information on this blog, please share it. I do not benefit financially from web traffic to it. I simply want to help those who need the information. 

I am not a medical professional, and as such, I cannot give medical advice. What I can do, however, is offer support, a shoulder to cry on, and a word of encouragement, from someone who has been there. Much love and peace to you.

A Bittersweet Anniversary

It doesn’t seem possible, or logical at all, that it was twenty years ago yesterday this event changed every aspect of my life.

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I couldn’t have foreseen it, or I would have gone a different route through downtown Salem that morning. I had no idea how wide and how long the impact would be felt outside of that split second where she collided with my little car. And though the damage done to the car wasn’t severe, the lasting damage to my body will last the rest of my life.

Twenty years ago began the next five years of frustration. Anxiety. Feeling as though maybe I was more than a little crazy as doctor after doctor told me the pain was in my head. That I was looking for a free ride and a big payday. That I would become a “self-fulfilling prophecy” if I let myself believe I was in pain. Luckily, this was long before the current hostility toward chronic illness and pain began by way of the opioid “crisis,” or I would have been labeled a drug-seeker, an addict, and a junkie in addition to every other humiliation piled on top of the crap sandwich. Friends walked away, not understanding. I hate to think they didn’t care, but I can’t be sure anymore.

It was years before I could drive down a street and not flinch when someone approached an intersection from my right side. Even today, I can still see the event vividly in my mind’s eye, and it’s bothersome. I have dreams about not only this incident, but about accidents that have never happened. And as recently as three years ago, also in October, we were rear-ended in a brand new car at 6 in the morning. I’m already unsure of myself in the dark, but now I have an irrational fear of driving when I can’t see what’s coming for me.

It wasn’t until Hubby and I moved here to Florida that a compassionate doctor believed that I was telling the truth, that I was still in pain from an automobile accident five years earlier. She diagnosed me on the spot with Fibromyalgia after I presented with all eighteen tender points and textbook symptoms. Finally! Validation that I am (or wasn’t) a complete nutjob. It was the beginning of another long journey.

In 2007, the company for whom I worked suffered a tremendous financial loss and was acquired by another. A co-worker and I were laid off as a result. She and I were in the same department and had similar health issues. Coincidentally, of everyone who worked in the branch office, she and I were the only ones not offered a position in the new company. I won’t give much detail about the last two months of my employment there, other than to say many labor laws were broken. But if I wanted my severance package, I waived my right to bring a grievance against the company. At the time, we needed the severance pay, so I chose it. Looking back with clear 20/20 vision, I know I made a mistake. Live and learn.

I planned to take 4 weeks off and resume job hunting. I had two months’ worth of severance to cover us, and I figured with my qualifications and skill set, I’d find another position easily. But in those four weeks, my body betrayed me in a way it hadn’t before. The fatigue was crushing, the pain debilitating. I couldn’t stand long enough to cook a meal, and upkeep on the house was nearly impossible. And as the end of my unemployment benefits neared, it was painfully clear I would not be able to return to work. My doctor agreed. So later that year, I filed for SSDI. The process from start to finish took almost two full years.

Today, I have been unable to work and 100% disabled for almost twelve years. There are days when I’d give anything to have my old life, the old me back. And then I think of every person who has entered my life because of this stupid disease. I remember how much more I have been blessed because they are in my life. To my fellow Fibro warriors, and you all know who you are, my profound thanks to each of you. I love all of you, and couldn’t imagine my life without you in it.

Other than myself, the one person who has lost and suffered as much, maybe a little more at times, as I have is my faithful, steadfast life partner and soulmate, my dear Hubby. There have been many, many times he could have washed his hands of the mess that Fibromyalgia has wrought on my life, on our lives, but he stayed. For that, I can never say thank you enough. You are my rock, babe, and I will love you until I die.

It’s a bittersweet anniversary. 

Things Doctors Don’t Tell You About… Narcotics

I feel like I’m in a whimsical mood these days, with the semi (?) successful launch of my Facebook page for my creative writing blog, and filling up my WordPress account with stories about little people who exist in my PC. What does this have to do with the title of this post, you might ask yourself. And I will tell you. Nothing. Nada. Bupkis. Zero. Zilch. Now that we have that out of the way, we will get into this post, shall we?

I love this post!

Not that post (See? I told you I was in a mood!)

Anywho, I saw my primary care doctor a couple of weeks back, and we were talking about my abysmal failure that I now call my medication taper. He was not all that surprised to hear about it, nor was he terribly disappointed in the outcome. I got to thinking about some of the things I wish I had known about the pain meds. BEFORE I got started with them, because the good Lord knows, if I only knew then what I know now, I would not be in this situation right now. Can I get a witness, y’all?

Maybe, if I can talk myself into researching stuff, because term papers in high school and college were my favorite things in the world (yeah, no.) I can turn this into a series of things that you will never hear from a doctor. Well, almost never.

  • Narcotics Cause Constipation

You have a new prescription for narcotic painkillers, you suspect you might be on them long time. The doctor casually mentions you might experience some constipation. Okay, you think, I can handle this. And for most cases, you’d probably be okay. Hydrocodone and oxycodone, or Lortab and Percocet, have a mild to moderate risk of developing OIC, or opioid-induced constipation. There is an acronym for everything these days, it seems. Some medications are even developed for use with heavy opioid use (Movantik comes to mind right off the top,) Chances are, unless you are taking more than 30 mg of oxycodone or hydrocodone daily, you won’t see the kind of stuff I’m talking about here. I’m talking big league (or bigly) poop problems. I’m talking, I need Roto-Rooter once a week to come clean your personal plumbing, if you catch my drift.

Before I started morphine sulfate, I already knew about the risk of constipation. But with Fibromyalgia, one of our lovely symptoms is IBS-D (see what I mean about acronyms?), or irritable bowel syndrome, with diarrhea. Even with oxycodone, I still suffered terribly with IBS, so I wasn’t too worried about switching to morphine at the time.

I was wrong to not worry.

I will spare you my gory details, but let’s just say I should have purchased stock in whatever company makes Miralax. Without it, I literally do not “go.” At all. And even if I had been able to get off the medication as I had hoped, chances are, my body has long forgotten how to poop on its own. No need to suffer in pain if cutting meds won’t solve one of the worst problems that goes with stronger painkillers.

  • Narcotics Cause Dependence

Given the state of the current environment surrounding the opioid “crisis,” this would seem to be a given. However, addiction is NOT necessarily the same as dependence in narcotic use. Addiction, if I were to go grab Merriam Webster’s definition, is defined as, “a compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (such as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal.” (Emphasis mine) Dependence, on the other hand (Well, the term I found is ‘habituation’) is defined as such: “tolerance to the effects of a drug acquired through continued use.”  Addiction and Dependence often go hand in hand, but they can be mutually exclusive phenomena. For example, addiction to opioids will almost always include a physical dependence on them,  but someone who is physically dependent on their pain medications, especially when they are taken as directed, does not necessarily have a compulsive addiction to them. Physical dependence can happen with the chronic use of many drugs—including many prescription drugs, even if taken as instructed. Thus, physical dependence in and of itself does not constitute addiction.snark_warning

I have been fighting against the stereotype of pain patients being labeled as addicts since the legislation was passed last year in Florida. The label isn’t fair, and it isn’t accurate, as the number of overdose deaths for prescription opioids is dwarfed by the number of overdose deaths by other opioids and benzodiazepines. In 2017, the total number of opioid overdose deaths numbered at 86,456, and prescription opioids contributed 17,029 to that impressive, but sickening number. Okay, a little over 19%. Seems like a pretty big number, and it is. But if you take the number of other opioid deaths, heroin, fentanyl, even cocaine and the benzodiazepines, they total a whopping 80% of those deaths combined. But tell me again how chronic pain patients are the problem here.  Okay, time to dial it back, I’m sensing my snark ‘o meter is buzzing.

Dependence isn’t the same, folks. It just isn’t. Addiction = psychological  ≠ Dependence = physiological. That is my summary of the whole debate.  You’re welcome. Anyway, because of the physiological nature of opioid dependence, it is very difficult to discontinue these drugs without some type of intervention, either medicinal or behavioral, sometimes both. It is this dependence that causes withdrawal symptoms. The same happens with caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and other substances we humans find ourselves dependent upon or addicted to. Had I known when I began taking these medications twelve plus years ago, that I would probably be on them for the rest of my life, I would have turned them down.

So, this is what happens when you combine insomnia, regret and a weird mood.

You’re welcome.

 

It Is Finished.

Hello friends! I have a little news to report about the medication taper, and this will be my last post on this subject.

I saw my pain doctor on Friday, and I told him about the dismal failure that was the ending part of the taper. He agreed with me that I will not be able to finish this final dosage taper, and we agreed to keep me at the same level where I am currently. All things considered, this isn’t a terrible thing. As I got closer to the end of the journey, I had a feeling that I wouldn’t be able to complete it. Pain is a tricky thing, and it doesn’t always comply with plans and desires.

Wishing this had ended differently is a moot point. But I feel good about coming this far, and at least reducing the amount of pain medications I’m taking. Plus, evidence suggests that the stronger CBD oil is working somewhat to relieve at least some of the pain. Not enough, perhaps, to come off the meds completely even if I could, but it does seem to take the edge off what the maintenance medications don’t relieve. I still have so many unanswered questions about this, but I’ll be content with the outcome.

I am going to keep this short, however, since I’m not having a particularly good day pain-wise. Hopefully, what I have written… my experiences… will someday help someone who finds themselves in my shoes. My taper might be complete, but my journey is not. I will find my voice and be an advocate for the innocents who are victimized by the system. For those who have no voice in the legislative process. For those, like me, who are forgotten in the war on opioids. We can’t give up fighting for humane treatment.

You will be hearing from me soon, that I promise. Until then, I wish you good health and warm, soft hugs.

-Wendy

 

The Finale

Good (?) morning everyone!  I honestly do not know why I am typing this as though I am perky and happy, when the absolute opposite is true this morning. Last night was my second night in a row where I lay in bed awake, fidgety, miserable, sweaty, and whatever else you can think of that is a synonym for awful, throw that in, too. Let me explain.

On Monday, I had planned on beginning the final leg of my medication taper, which technically I did. Except I didn’t.  A second dose crept in, because it was supposed to be there, and I forgot to adjust my medication box this week to accommodate my plans. So on Tuesday, I went almost 24 hours between doses of the morphine, up from my previous best score, so to speak, of 18 hours between.  What’s another 6 hours, I thought?  Well, it’s a big flipping deal, apparently.  At about the 20 hour mark is when I start getting the first hint of withdrawal. Feeling overly warm.  Headache.  Cold sweats.  Not to mention the pain that I’ve had since early last month as a result of this final lap.

This was the part I knew would take the most amount of will power and determination. I wasn’t counting on massive sleep disruption in the process, because NO ONE tells you how this type of thing affects, you know, actual pain patients.  If I know one thing about Fibromyalgia, it is that this disease requires, and I mean requires a good night’s rest.  Forty eight hours with just 5.5 hours of rest in that span is nowhere near enough, not for a normal, and certainly not for a fibromite.  So after one night of no sleep, I thought I fixed the problem last night.

I did not.

I thought I was being sneaky, and I took it two hours before I knew I’d be heading for bed.  And I was hoodwinked into thinking my little scheme had worked.  I got away with fooling my body.  Except for the part where I didn’t, because when it is being tricked, the human body can come up with some pretty extraordinary tricks of its own.  Restless leg syndrome, something I thought I didn’t have to deal with any more. Wrong.  Neuropathy and allodynia make anything touching my skin hurt. Sheets?  Forget about it.  Clothes?  Nah.  Who needs to wear pajamas to bed?  Combine RLS with neuropathy and it’s a recipe for insomnia. I would say this week has been a nightmare, except I would have to sleep to know about nightmares. I can’t roll my eyes enough right now without losing them out of their sockets. I’m done.

When I reflect and see the incredible amount of progress I’ve made on this adventure, I can’t say that I’m upset that this is the end of the ride. Am I disappointed that I can’t manage to squeeze out this last bit of medication?  You bet I am, but I won’t beat myself up over it.  At least now, if I ever get to a point where I am forced to taper due to state or even federal law, I don’t have as far to go. I sincerely hope and pray that we as a nation do not get to that point, but the climate in D.C. is not conducive to constructive talks on the drug problem without penalizing legal patients.  We are the easiest target, and we will be the first to feel the squeeze. Period.  If we can learn anything from the past and from current trends, I can predict that things will only get worse from here on out.

So now, the only formality is informing my pain specialist of the progress, or lack thereof, of this final lap of the taper.  He might still surprise me with another option I didn’t know was available, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.  I still have about a  month before I see him.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some pain meds, a pillow and a sleep number bed calling my name. I hope they really mean it this time and aren’t teasing.

Happy Thursday to all! Gentle hugs and blessings.

Quick Update

Hello everyone! I hope this post finds you feeling great and being blessed. It has been a very busy few weeks, and I apologize for not updating this like I had promised. Life, as usual, has a funny way of interfering with my “want-to-dos” these days. So, now that it is quiet, I have a few moments to bring all y’all up to speed on how my taper progress is going.

Crazy that it has been nearly a month since I began my last leg of this journey, and crazier still that the first month of 2019 is in the books. Hubby has finally gotten approval and appointments scheduled for 24 visits with physical therapy. He began three times a week yesterday morning, and will continue for the rest of February and possibly into March, depending upon how he is progressing. So between this and other appointments for him and me, we have been pretty busy bees!

As far as the actual medication taper is going, speaking in terms of withdrawals, things are mostly going well. There have only been a handful (2-3 times) that I have really been uncomfortable with that aspect, and each time I can pinpoint why. But as it has been this entire journey, this is a learning experience. I now know, by mistake mind you, that when I finally go to once per day, that I should take it at bedtime to minimize the ugly effects while I’m attempting to rest. Found this out the hard way, but it is what it is.

From a pain standpoint, sometimes I question every thread of sanity I might have left when it comes to the taper. Of course the pain has ramped up to levels of awful, and I expected it to an extent. Mostly, I get little sharp, stabby pains in odd places that linger for a minute or two, and they’re gone. Today’s pain is in my gut, though I suspect that might be related elsewhere. My doctor says that withdrawal related pain is usually more widespread rather than localized, but I seem to be a trendsetter in this department.  I’ve also been very sparingly using the immediate release pain meds since last week after a bad reaction to them.  It wasn’t an allergic thing, but I just felt very icky about an hour after taking them.  Cold sweats, nausea, just generally feeling unwell… I’ve had these symptoms before when I used to take hydrocodone years ago, which was one of the reasons I stopped that medication. I have a strong feeling I reacted so badly to it because my stomach was empty, even though I had not had a problem before then. So, I’m basically sucking it up and pretending I’m doing okay once I walk out my front door.  At home, I’m miserable.

With the reduction in dosage, I will not need to fill the new script as soon as I have in the past few months. Nevertheless, I am planning my next reduction in dosage beginning next week, starting February 11. Hopefully, this is enough time that I am used to this dose and can handle the next stage. I’ve been too hasty in the past with dose change, and I had to pedal it back quickly. I do not want a repeat of that disaster, trust me!

We have some news on Hubby’s MS and related stuff, too.  His MRI revealed a bulging disk in his spine between C5 and C6, which the neurologist believes is responsible for his spasms in his shoulder, and the tingling and numbness in his hands. This finding explains a LOT for him, and it makes total sense.  The CT scan of his lungs revealed nothing new. He was being monitored because a CT a few years ago found two teeny, tiny little nodules in his lung.  They have not grown, nor have they changed in the years since they were found.  The best news, however, is that the MS seems to be stable, with no evidence of new lesions in his brain or on his spinal cord. Praise the Lord!

So, now I’m all up to date with everything that has happened since the new year came upon us.  I will continue to update on the taper when there is something to report. I am also collecting Mom’s old tried and true recipes to share with you.  I hope you are looking forward to them as much as am looking forward to sharing them.

God bless, and gentle hugs to you all.

The Last Lap

White Flag: Last Lap

Image courtesy of Royalty-Free/Corbis

Hey everybody! Well, today is the first day of the last leg of my tapering journey. If time is going to pass anyway, I might as well spend it doing something worthwhile, right? First, let me explain the use of the white flag, as I know it has meaning for two different things.  This post is titled, “The Last Lap,” and in racing the white flag is waved to signify the final lap of competition. It wasn’t simple to find a white flag that didn’t look like one being flown in surrender, and I’m not even sure about this one, but it will have to do.  So, I guess I’m waving my white flag, and I’m looking forward to waving the checkered flag and taking my virtual victory lap!

For those who are new to this blog, or stumbled upon this topic and if you don’t want to go back and read. I’ll give you the “tl;dr” version here. If you are already familiar with my story, then by all means skip ahead. No hurt feelings here! First, I’ll introduce myself as a chronic pain patient, Fibromyalgia specifically. I have been living with FMS for the past 19 years, and the only treatment that has been effective over the past 13 years has been opioid painkillers.

Since a new law has taken effect in the state of Florida, I have tapered down off a 90mg per day dose of morphine sulfate to 30mg per day. This was my own doing for a couple of reasons. First, because laws regulating these medications have become more and more restrictive, I want to be able to control when and over what time period I am taken off these meds, instead of when the state says I must. I have had a lot to say about the state’s handling of the opioid issue, which I would encourage you to read at some point. Second, I am not terribly certain that some of my pain isn’t caused by years of taking these drugs. This phenomenon, called opioid-induced hyperalgesia, is the result of a mechanism in the brain involving pain receptors. I am sure I could not explain very well at 11pm on a Tuesday evening, but Google can find resources to explain better than can I.

So anyway, the reason I have been journaling my experience with this is because when I was researching the best way to proceed with a medication taper, the only resources I could find came from a standpoint of addiction and abuse. Not one that I ever found dealt with the issue from a pain patient viewpoint. I felt as though I had nowhere to turn for advice, so that is where this part of my blog had its natural beginning.  I wanted this journal to be a resource for those who are in my shoes. Now, this isn’t to say that I don’t need the pain relief.  Quite on the contrary, I have had more awful days than good ones lately.  I am just having to rely upon more unconventional ways of dealing with my chronic, debilitating pain. And now, you’re all caught up!


So, if you’re rejoining me here, welcome back!  As I was saying above, I am actually on day 3 of my medication taper. I wrote the first sentence of the blog on Sunday morning while I was trying to fall asleep, and woke up a few hours later with my phone in my hand. I’m also sure I’m not the only one to have done this (I don’t need a show of hands!) My plan of action, because my doctor really left the minutia of the tapering plan to what my needs are, is taking a dose every 18 hours. Previously, I’d been taking two 15mg pills per day, 12 hours apart. I figured an extra six hours would probably not hurt too badly as far as withdrawals are concerned, and I was right… so far. The pain aspect, however, is worse than I expected.  I still have my breakthrough pain meds on standby when I truly need them, and I tend to take them at the last possible minute. Like now, I am hurting from over doing some housework that has been very overdue. But I’m stubborn, and I don’t want to take them unless I’m to the point of crying “Uncle.” Believe me, I’m nearly there. I should have taken them an hour ago, but nooooo.

So as it stands now, I’m 18 hours between pills. Other than an increase in pain, which I expected, things are moving along rather smoothly. I am making myself move, whether I feel I can or not, because I have been babying my back since I found out about my protruding disk. Not good, at all.  Now I just need to learn my boundaries with activity, because I definitely didn’t adhere to any such thing today! You would think after nearly twenty years of chronic pain issues, I’d be better at managing my life than I am.  I think that’s mainly due to the unpredictable nature of the Fibromyalgia beast. Some days I’m fooled into thinking I’m okay, until I do that one thing too many, and then I’m busted like a… well, I’m just busted.

As much as I would love to sit here and write (and catch up!) my headache is telling me otherwise.  Plus, we have a drive to the VA hospital in St. Petersburg tomorrow for Hubby’s OT consultation appointment.  Hopefully, they can give him some tools and techniques for managing his Multiple Sclerosis and making life easier for him.  I’m not sure how often I’ll have something worthy to report this late in the game on tapering, but should something happen, I’ll be here with the details.

Until we meet again, gentle hugs and blessings to you all!

Happy New Year!!

Well, we have made it through another year, relatively unscathed and no worse for the wear.  Despite the loss we suffered this year, it was not actually the worst year I’ve ever survived, and I suppose that is a good thing.  I have a few things on my mind, and a quick update I’d like to share with those who are following the medication taper saga.

First, some interesting factoids about our little blog here.  The most popular (most viewed) post of last year was An Update From Wendy, which was surprising to me considering how many other posts there were covering a bunch of different topics.  My takeaway from this is that y’all really do care about what you see here, and about the person behind it.  My family was really thankful for all of the prayers and well-wishes after the loss of our mother. I’ve also seen the largest gain in readers in 2018, and for that I am also grateful.  Personally, I want to thank you all for sticking by me and this little blog, even when I don’t feel like writing and take a small break.  The fact that you even read this means the world to me.

CHristmas tree

Our Christmas tree, with Teeny Beanie Babies.

Our holiday season this year was quiet and subdued.  Not that we had any plans to do much anyway, but we didn’t even decorate.  Most of that reason is due to a 2 year old, one-eyed “kitten” who has never seen a Christmas tree. Even if we had room to put ours up, I’m not sure how she would respond to it. Because she spent a good amount of her early weeks outside, she might know how to climb it better than Pixel. But he is no picnic either, when it comes to that tree. We gave up on glass ornaments years ago when we became cat guardians, and because we had a ton of those McDonald’s Teeny Beanies, we decided to use those as ornaments for our tree, when we do actually put it up. But Pixel chooses one toy from the tree to be his “baby” and he plays with it until it’s time to clean up Christmas. Plus, he chews on the branches and is generally a pest.  It was just much easier to skip the annual screech fest that is me yelling at him to stop chewing.

This year, I am going to attempt to accomplish a few things that are important to me. First, I want to be better organized and minimize our stuff.  After we closed Mom’s house in 2017, we were inundated with boxes of things I didn’t have time to sort, and some I just couldn’t part with at the time. This year, I want to spend some time going through boxes and deciding if I truly need all of this clutter we have.  I told someone recently, we have a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house worth of stuff packed into a 900 square foot apartment. I’m just tired of being out-populated by our things, and I’d love to try living with a lot less.

My second item on the list is an update for the taper. I saw my pain specialist in mid-December, and we discussed the feasibility of finishing this taper and getting off the long acting meds, once and for all.  He gave his blessing, and advised me on taking the appropriate doses to finish out. As a precaution, he still gave me enough prescription medication just in case this doesn’t work out as I hope, but beginning very soon, I am going to begin the last leg of this medication tapering journey.  We will worry about the breakthrough medication when we get there, and there is a chance I won’t be able to give that up completely.  But if I can discontinue the main medication, that is my goal for 2019.  And as I have done in the past, I will continue to do regular updates for those of you who follow this blog for that reason.

My third and final item on the “resolution” list is to continue to reconcile my relationships with my remaining family.  When we lost my dad in 2007, a considerable rift formed between all of us, as it sometimes does when a trauma hits a family unit.  My family’s situation was not unique, but his loss definitely fractured us for a long time.  It’s only been recently, within the past two years, that we have begun that healing and knitting back together.  For so long, I have felt so isolated, and to have them all back is the best gift I could have gotten. Three siblings, seven nieces and nephews, and five great nieces and nephews, and I love each of them. I couldn’t imagine doing the rest of my life without them in it.

Here is to a wonderful new year.  I pray that each of us has a happy, healthy and prosperous year ahead of us.  And one last thank you to each of you who reads my thoughts here. You are appreciated much more than you know.  Gentle hugs, and God bless!

Tapering Hiatus

Hello everyone! I’m so very sorry I’ve not gotten back to regular writing yet. I know you all know it’s been a rough month for me, but I’ve been trying to get back to life and normalcy. It’s just not working out as I had hoped, but it’s only been a month since my Mom passed away. I’m not going to rush into making myself feel better because I think I should.

Anyway, I have an update on my tapering progress, and I’m thinking that this might be my last post concerning that topic.  I had an MRI at the beginning of the month after my last doctor appointment, and I think I might have even mentioned this in an earlier post. My results appointment was on Thursday last week, and I have some disappointing news.  It turns out the pain in my back stems from a protruding disk between T8 and T9 in my thoracic spine. Before I even told him what the symptoms have been over the past 3 weeks, he told me what they were.  He nailed every one of them. Pain radiating forward around my rib cage.  Difficulty drawing a full breath because of said pain.  Costochondritis pain (which is inflammation of the breast bone and cartilage surrounding it.) The feeling of having been hit with a hard object.  Yep, I have all of those lovely symptoms.  The MRI also showed some degenerative changes in my neck and lumbar spine.  I’m in terrific shape.

For now, he is keeping me on the same medications.  Leaving the doctor’s office, I said to Hubby that, in light of this new information, I most likely couldn’t finish my medication taper as I had desired. And he said no, probably not. Am I bummed out about this?  You bet I am.  This is not how I had hoped this would go.  In fact, I was hoping to be completely off of the medications by Christmas and beginning the new year fresh and free.  And as this drags on and I face more setbacks, it seems less and less likely this will happen at all. In the meantime, I’m starting to rely upon my CBD oil a little more, to fill in the gaps in pain coverage. I am, after all, 60mg less than I was in January, and I’m still coping with the discomfort that is bringing.

This brings me to my last point of this post.  I have come a remarkably long way in this journey to being opioid free. Even if I don’t realize my final end result, I am still proud of myself that I have reduced my dosage successfully by two-thirds. To go from a 90mg equivalent dosage to 30mg a day is a tremendous accomplishment, and to have done so willingly, this is probably my most significant achievement in a very long time. If I stay where I am for the rest of my life, and can manage my pain effectively using this dose, I’ll be content with that.

While I anticipate that this is the end of my tapering journey, my doctor might have other ideas that will work towards achieving that end eventually. Right now, his main concern is getting my existing pain under control. So I want to thank each of you that follows this for the purpose of keeping informed about the medication taper. I invite you to stay, because the new year might bring some other news.  Fortunately, I cannot tell the future.

As always, I thank you all for following me and my journey through life.  You have no idea how much I appreciate your audience, prayers and well wishes.  Blessings to all of you, and wishes for a pleasant weekend!