acceptance, accident, addiction, attitude, back pain, brain fog, car accident, chronic pain, Cymbalta, disability, doctors, grief, happiness, happy, health, illness, inflammation, injury, invisible disability, invisible illness, lifestyle, Lyrica, medical, medication, meditation, mindfulness, nerve pain, pain, pharmacy, pills, prescription, sick, side effects, therapy
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Going to “Church”: Changing Meds, the Mind-Body Connection, and Talk Therapy

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.

WARGL BARGL

WARGL BARGL

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.

Womp womp.

Womp womp.

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.

“Yep, I think one blanket’ll do the trick.”

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?”

PainGraph

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.

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10 Comments

  1. Seriously – omega oils, either flaxseed or fish oil, help loads with cymbalta withdrawal symptoms, and gradually is the way to do it – even if you have to split the capsules and put half the grains into new capsules (available on mail order or from ebay). That is how I did it.
    But I realise that is only a small part of what you are going through, and what you need (((hugs)))

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    • I actually take flax every day. Allergic to fish (which is unfortunate because man, fish are delicious). What did it feel like when you went through withdrawal? (huggles back to you)

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am allergic to fish too. Well, apart from one, but they wouldn’t tell me which one coz I would probably become allergic to it after eating it a few times o_O
        Oh the withdrawal was awful. I think I was on 90mgs a day, and I was able to drop the first 60 mgs quite easily, and I was like “this is a doddle, what’s all the fuss about?” But the pills dont come below a certain dose, and when I tried to drop that last pill, it was awful. My head spun, my vision went wappy – things appeared to be wiggling, when they obviously werent, I kept seeing movement out the corner of my eye, my balance was shot, I was jittery, and restless, and I had these awful ‘brain zaps’ as they are described. They were the worst. If I even so much as moved my eyes some days, I got this almost electrical buzzing in my head.
        If you google Cymbalta withdrawal – there is even a whole website dedicated to helping people come off it that has something like 14 million hits. You’ll also see a lot of links to forums where people discuss it. WHich proves that coming off Cymbalta IS hard, despite what the Drs tell you.
        I have a few posts about it on my blog too, but I’m not sure they will make much sense as they were written when I was at my worst 😦
        But I bought some empty capsules from ebay, and decanted out the contents of the Cymbalta capsules into them, halving them each time and making the reduction every week-10 days. I was desperate to get off it as fast as possible. But I read about people who literally had to remove 1 grain of the drug a day to withdraw without symptoms.
        Get the highest strength flaxseed oil you can find – mine is 1250mg – and I was taking 3 a day. I still get the brain zaps occasionally, and then realise I forgot to take my flaxseed oil.
        To my mind, Cymbalta is a terrible drug that should no way be prescribed as much as it is.
        Also – the amino acid DLPA often helps with pain. Our brains use amino acids as precursors to other substances in the brain, for instance L-Tyrosine is a precursor for the neurotransmitter Dopamine. There are many, and we normally get enough from our food, BUT if the brain has a higher need for something and it cant get enough of the amino acid, it can’t produce enough of the neurotransmitter. The amino acid DLPA contains a precursor for a pain relieving hormone and I find it helps, with no ill effects. I used Solgar brand as they are good quality. They aren’t cheap, but probably a lot cheaper than prescriptions for you in the US.
        (((((hugs))))) I wish you all the best, petal. Let me know how you get on, what you decide to do xx

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  2. Two years of cognitive therapy and Mindfulness training helped me with chronic back pain, severe depression, and a small list of other issues. I still needed meds, but not near as much and I did not rely on them like I previously had. I don’t know if that makes any sense.

    Anyway… I hope this is positive. I nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blog Award. There are some good things in our lives. Check out my blog for the details. Have a good day!

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    • So you liked the cognitive therapy? I’ve reached out to a few therapists in my town who do it, I’m willing to try anything. Working on the mindfulness as well… I’m so glad to know that it helped your back pain! And thank you so much for the nomination!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think for me it was a combination of the two that helped. I almost blew off mindfulness. I am so happy I didn’t. One of the things I had to do was come to terms with my lower back. There were things that I just couldn’t do anymore. Once my back and I agreed on this, I was better able to accept my limitations. It was imperative for me to quit fighting myself. You’ll be amazed at what that alone will do for you. None of this happened overnight. It probably could have been easier if wasn’t so stubborn.

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      • You just inspired me to listen to a couple of meditations on my “Buddhify” app. 🙂 Definitely a breath of fresh air in the middle of the day! I’m trying to stop fighting myself. I WILL GET THERE!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Mindful Anger Management, Buddhism, and the Neck TENS Unit | Wear, Tear, & Care

  4. Hi there, thanks for that interesting story. I can relate for sure. Tapering is really hard. I got off Cymbalta but I had transitioned to milnacipran already… but still got side-effects. I had no social filter on my mouth for 2 full weeks and got easily pissed off. I ended up insulting a man after he accidentally splashed me (something I would never ever do ever) but thank goodness, it was in my native tongue when it came out. I’ve also had bad withdrawals with other pills like dizziness, getting angry easily, crying easily, and having trouble sleeping for about 2 weeks. I had weaned myself really carefully and for 6 months at least. I find it quite a shame how they will just throw pills at you but have no way out for the sensitive people. I was a teacher so I always did that in summer.
    As for mindfulness, it has helped me these past (almost) 2 years to deal with it all (fibromyalgia, severe chronic fatigue and multiple chemical sensitivity, migraines, back pain). Try Jon Kabat-Zinn on Youtube, he’s really the founder of it all. There are tapes you can try there.
    Also, the book by Russ Harris “The Happiness Trap” and the “Reality Gap” have been helpful to me as well. He also has audio tracks I downloaded.
    Meditation: The Honest Guys’s channel on YouTube. They have pleasing guided meditation with high quality audio and content. Nice British accent, too.
    No, it will not solve all your problems but make them more tolerable. Even a 10% improvement would surely be welcome. It did that for me in terms of dealing with the pain through the breathing techniques and mental practice. On good days, I could even say it improves it by 20% when I can really get into it and let go of the bad stuff : ) Good luck.

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  5. I think the therapy sounds like a great idea. I still think that it’s kind of a dick move to deprive you of vicodin, though. I think if you can get to a point where you don’t need vicodin every day, just when it really flares, then they should give it to you.

    Keep us posted on the therapy, though. Preventing pain/panic attacks is the best way to go. I hope that’s something that is within reach.

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