All posts filed under: happiness

CBD Oil for Pain Relief: Legal Status, Side Effects, Drug Tests, Traveling, and More

I recently took a trip to the Dominican Republic. It was a 30th birthday bash for a friend at an all-inclusive resort, possibly one of the greatest vacations I’ve ever experienced. Rather than actually be excited for the trip, however, I spent months fighting crushing anxiety. I hadn’t traveled internationally in years, since before my first car accident. I figured I could handle this because we wouldn’t be doing much besides sitting on the beach or by a pool. Despite this knowledge, I was frightened. What on earth could I do to handle what I knew would be increased pain, much less participate in fun activities with 15 friends? I wanted to go, and I was determined to go. I knew there would be few chances to travel with my friends like this again, and if I didn’t go, I’d regret it on my death bed. How can anyone not want to go here? So, how could I enjoy this trip?  My husband is a fan of Instagram. (Stay with me, this is relevant.) He follows …

3 Weeks ACDF Post-Surgery Update

I had my first follow-up on Friday with my surgeon. Up until that point I’d been in my pajamas with a hard neck collar, buzzed hair, thick black-rimmed glasses, and obviously no makeup. There wasn’t anything close to “hot” in “hot mess” here. But hey, buzzed hair = barely shampooing = don’t knock it ’til you try it, because trying to shampoo your hair after neck surgery is a wench. My latest foray into the outside world before seeing my surgeon for the all-clear? Chasing my damn cat, Fattie, who decided that the cold muddy day of the week was the perfect time to sneak past me out the front door while I talked to a woman across the street. She made to leap from the front steps straight onto the muddy ground and then — after shrieking at me for grabbing her tail — gave me a furious look like the mud was somehow my fault. “Excuse me a moment,” I said before scrambling after the cat, socks in the mud while my poor neighbor just stared at me (thanks for the …

Pain News Network: Dressing for Comfort and Success

Check out my latest column for the Pain News Network! Comedian Patton Oswalt once apologized for all the times he made fun of sweatpants. “I thought the pinnacle of mankind would be Mars colony or teleportation. Nope! Sweatpants! That was it. Sweatpants!” he said. “We started with fire and the wheel and writing, agriculture, penicillin, sweatpants. Everything else, we’re just on the downward slope. We did it. We’re all done.” Oswalt went on to say how one never puts sweatpants on after showering; they’re always worn over “un-deodorized flesh,” with which I disagree. Why? Because I just took a shower and then put my sweatpants back on. (That’s not the point of this post.) If you are one of the approximately 60 million people in the world with chronic pain, you know that regular clothes can just hurt. It becomes a burden to wear something as regular as jeans. We operate by feel alone. What is comfortable? What doesn’t compound our pain? What feels good against our tortured skin? Sweatpants! This obviously was a problem …

Building a Shield for my Body and Mind

I am trying to better protect my body, which means trying new things in order to build a stronger shield on all fronts. My father found a powder supplement called “Arthroben,” which is generally used for those suffering from arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. For some reason the company decided that their original flavor should be green apple, so it tastes like I’m eating a Jolly Rancher (yes!) that I dropped in the sand (no!). I have also increased my Cymbalta by 20 milligrams, which I’m not thrilled about, but hey, what can you do.  Judging by my Pain Tracker instead of my shoddy memory, it’s been a fairly good week. Once I stabilize on the new dosage of Cymbalta, I will attempt to transition off the 2oo milligrams of Lyrica that I take each day. I am also strengthening my body to the best of my ability. After a week of no exercise because of being symptomatic, I am easing back into my morning swimming routine where I doggy-paddle (or I do Aqua Aerobics with the old ladies and …

Mindful Anger Management, Buddhism, and the Neck TENS Unit

More and more often, I am trying to figure out what this blog is to me. Is it just the tagline, “Using word therapy to work through chronic pain”? Is it an effort to reach out to people like myself and form a network? Is it a chronicle of my wayward pill-reducing efforts, or is it an examination of my transformation from a bitter young thing into a self-aware individual who can control her own anger? I can’t control anything. That’s the first bit of wisdom I would like to impart upon you, my dear reader(s). I’m sitting here at my desk with a neck TENS unit on (it’s pretty rad, and with it looking like a choker, I’m feeling very early ’90s). I can work the buttons on the device, but it only temporarily blocks the pain. It does not fix it. We manage. That’s why pain clinics are called “pain management.” They do not cure your pain; it is only managed. As I said in a previous entry, this current state might be the best it gets …

Names Have Power: a Discussion About Labels and Chronic Pain Patients

I have long believed in labels. If there is a name for what I am experiencing, I am better equipped to fight it. If I know what I am, I can deal with the world appropriately. Names have power. That’s what Neil Gaiman’s version of John Constantine said. He said it for different reasons and toward a different end, but the fact remains: Names have power. I have collected labels and names over the course of my life: allergic to food/has eosinophilic esophagitis/is a good student/played tennis/played the violin/writes novels/is a lawyer/is disabled/is a chronic pain patient. I define myself by what I do and what I experience. The names are like a shield. A medical ID bracelet naming my allergies makes me feel special and fragile like a unique little glass-winged butterfly, and more than that, it’s a story. I love to tell stories. A scar on my throat is a symbol that others recognize. I have been broken apart and welded back together. I have been remade. So now I face a dilemma because the …

Let’s Talk About The TENS Unit

I’m a huge advocate of clothing camouflage. Loose shirts and cardigans are great to hide a flabby stomach or that back-fat area around a tight bra strap; however, I’m wearing them to hide both a back brace and a TENS unit. (And the bra fat. Let’s be real.) Here’s me in my extremely stylish office bathroom: I usually only wear the TENS on occasions when my back pain is truly escalating and refuses to level off. This week has been particularly bad. The TENS is keeping me at a functioning level, considering I am backing off the Lyrica. The electrodes irritate my skin after more than one use, which is unfortunate, but the only cost-efficient way to use the device is to reuse the pads until the gel wears down and the pads electrocute you. Tiny shocks to be sure, but electrocutions nonetheless. Side note on the electrodes: Don’t go through the supplier from which you acquired the actual unit. My insurance company holds the very ridiculous philosophy that while they will cover the device, they will not cover the electrodes. Tufts, you silly company, …

I Make Pain Look Good.

Take a look at this person. Take a real good look. Then ask yourself: Is this person in pain? She looks fine, you think. She doesn’t have a handicap placard on her car. She doesn’t walk with a cane. She isn’t wearing a brace.  You furrow your eyebrows, and then you think: She looks totally normal.  The thing is that when this picture was taken, she was in a world of pain. She had three sort-of healed spinal fractures and a calcified nerve cluster. Even though she was smiling under the artful disguise of Microsoft Paint, she was hurting. She was wearing a back brace under that dress. She changed into flats as soon as that picture was taken. She found a place to sit down and close her eyes, trying to match her inhales and exhales to the thud-thud-thudding of her spasming muscles. She had her special dichroic glass pill case in her handbag filled with Tramadol, Nabumetone, and Vicodin. She had already calculated how long she could stand being upright and the time it would take to get back to …

Word War Won: “Victim” vs. “Survivor” vs. “Thriver”

I was going to talk about different words during this edition, but Alexis got me thinking. We had a very uncomfortable session the other day during which she asked me how things are going now that I’ve cut out sugar and alcohol. It started last week when we had a Skype session and she saw my face. She said I needed to do a detox. Immediately. I felt slow and inflamed, my brain was foggy, and even my face looked puffy. I’d gone to a small law school reunion/memorial for my friend Andy and saw surprise on my classmates’ faces; the last time they saw me was thirty pounds ago. (Granted, some of that weight gain was necessary at the time since I was an anthropomorphic coat hanger, but do you know how hard it was just now to type “thirty pounds ago”?) My pain was worsening. I’d been gaining weight despite exercising every day, thanks to my medication increasing my appetite to that of a starving boat wreck survivor. I’d binge in the evenings after work, thinking I deserve this as I snatched …

Embracing Pain with Mindfulness

Is it better to ignore pain or embrace it? I thought for the longest time that by meeting my pain head-on, I was doing myself a good service. And it’s true; ignoring pain can be emotionally and mentally taxing. If I embraced the pain, I would be able to discover the edges of it. Then I could encase it in a box within my mind, if that makes any sense. I’d be able to get outside of my own head. Surely this was better than ignoring how I felt? Better than pressing onward despite feeling like a train was chug-a-chug-a-chugging along my spinal column? After the first accident, I thought that I’d felt the worst pain I could ever feel. After the second accident, naturally, I realized that the pain can get worse. The pain can always get worse. And where before I could feel the edges of it, after the second accident I was burning inside, burning outside, just burning. I tried to face it; instead, I was directed by it. If I turned too quickly and felt …