It’s been a little while since I’ve gone to church. And when I say “church,” I don’t mean the religious institution; I mean being at work and puking into a toilet made by the “Church” company. They print their name on the underside of the seat to remind people like me who the boss is.
The reason I tossed my cookies (or “tercer le biscuits,” as they [probably] say in France) is because my body was alight when I started writing this entry last Friday. Lighting up like a Christmas tree, as Augustus Waters would say. There was a wind-up toy’s mechanism shoved in between my shoulder blades that was being wound and wound and wound by an evil little gremlin.
What else happened on Friday? Ah yes, I saw a psychopharmacologist for the first time in the hopes of streamlining my pill-reduction efforts. As of right now I have yet to decrease my meds any more than I did in that linked entry. I wanted her advice.
I tried on my own. I really did, but cutting down on the medication is “go away to rehab for a long time” difficult. Going down temporarily on Cymbalta made me feel like I couldn’t wear clothes without my skin being ripped from my body. And was that the pain or the withdrawal? Who the hell knows.
I was disappointed when the psychopharm actually suggested increasing Cymbalta, both for my situational depression and for pain control.
She had no recommendation for the Lyrica, though my neurologist (whom I saw the day before, it’s like “Musical Doctors’ Appointments”) thinks it’s best to increase Cymbalta and get off the Lyrica entirely so that I, you know, stop walking into door frames.
We went through my whole medical history, the psychopharm and I. At this point I feel like I’ve repeated it so many times to so many doctors that I can spit out any part of it at will and have no reaction whatsoever. But then the questions she asked felt more and more personal — which makes sense, given her profession — and I started manifesting stress physically. I could see the heavy, dark grief creeping into the edges of my vision.
When I get stressed, I start hurting. If I think about unpleasant things, I hurt more. Dwelling on the car accidents and the years since made me start twitching. My back was in spasm. My left arm was dead. Darts were shooting up my neck and into my head. So I went back to work and threw up.
Now, with a few days of distance in between me and that appointment, I can see that I reacted physically to mental stimuli. It’s called the Mind-Body Connection. I know that I can exacerbate my own discomfort that way. I can’t shove those thoughts down into my body; they force their way out, no matter what I do to contain them. Trying to tamp down on my emotions is like throwing a wet blanket on a house fire.
That’s probably why she suggested dialectical behavioral therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy instead of drugging me up to my eyeballs. She even threw out the idea of grief counseling. DBT is used to treat wild swings of emotion and to create coping skills where before there were none; CBT attempts to change unhelpful and negative thought patterns, like how the glass is always half empty. I would benefit from both. As for grief counseling… I have suffered a loss. I had a normal life taken away from me at the age of 17. I feel that loss every day. I am bound by its restrictions.
The worst part, I think, was when I had a realization during the session. I honestly don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me before. Once again I asked for Vicodin (go big or go home, basically), which she denied. So I asked the question I have asked each one of my doctors: “If the medication I take covers up to here, but the pain really ends way over there –” I was using my arms to illustrate this. “– then what do I do?”
Her words threw me into a tailspin: “This might be the best it gets with medication.”
I had another one of those snapshot moments when everything stood out in stark detail, like reality had paused in order to let me take a breath. She was still talking: “It sucks, it really does. But I think that’s why you should try this therapies.”
Just that realization, that this might be the best it can be? That was horrifying and yet so obvious. How could that not have occurred to me before now? Going from doctor to doctor, asking the same questions, getting the same non-answers, nobody prescribing any additional pain medications. “You’re going to have to learn to live with it.” The doctors can’t just keep prescribing Vicodin unless they want to turn me into a narcotic-addicted freak show. What’s left after that? Trying to find ways to deal with the pain. Knowing that there will be a significant gap that isn’t covered and that you have to plan accordingly.
Her bottom line? If you can’t change the pain, you can at least change how you respond to it.