”How can you take so many medications? Don’t you feel bad about doing so?” my overnight visitor asked me. She had just watched me open the “Saturday” compartment of my 7-day pill box, and swallow my medications down with a single swig of coffee.
“No, I don’t. Not a bit.” I replied. “Want to hear why?”
When I was first struck with pain, which, actually did felt like a “strike” of lightning, as is the horror of trigeminal neuralgia, I would have, frankly, taken all the drugs in the world to try to stop the pain. Because, back then, I thought that (a) I would die without it, and (b) the pain was temporary at best.
It took a good while to convince me that the pain, as awful it feels, is not causing actual damage to my body, but, instead, is a cranial nerve sending wrong messages to my brain. It took even longer for me to come to grips with the fact that it is not curable and will remain part of my life, unless and until God chooses to heal me.
That’s when I began to question how much medication I wanted to take. Medication advertisements alone, can give us the willie-nillies!
Seriously, how do they say:
without taking a breath?!
So, we must not swallow pills lightly.
Back in the beginning, I tried to get by with just a little medication. It wasn’t just that I was worried about the side effects--actually this was a minor worry. My major problem with taking medicine was that I didn’t want to be “a person who takes a lot of medicine”.
All the years of going to doctors and when filling out forms, it felt so good to leave the “medications taken on a regular basis” empty! How often had I boasted to others that we didn’t even keep tylenol in the house because we used it so rarely? Even being in as much pain as I was in, it was emotionally hard to give that up. I was strong! I was healthy!
...Uhm...no. Actually, I was now sick.
It’s been a long time since then. I’ve been humbled in lots of prideful places--you know this if you’ve read many of my postings--and it’s been a good thing. The more humbled I’ve become, the less I judge, and the more I like other people.
Upon this gained acceptance of illness living alongside of my life, I have made it my job to know all I can know about it, and how to treat its symptoms. My research, interviews with physicians, patients and various representatives of the pain community have lead to many calling me “Dr. Judi” and, seriously, I have no doubt I know more about cranial-facial neuropathies than most doctors, and even many neurologists. (Much to my disappointment)
Ahhh, but I digress...
Here’s where I am, now 7 3/4 years into this life journey with severe pain, regarding medication:
- Every treatment method, traditional or alternative has side effects. (I consider medication a treatment, just to clarify.) I’ve engaged in many treatment programs, of all of these kinds, with varied results and varied side-effects. My worst side effects have not been from medication, but from one treatment wherein the physician assured me there were absolutely minimal side effects!
- Even before I choose a treatment provider, I research the potential option, and then do legwork to find the best provider. I’ve actually gone out of state for the best treatment, be it traditional or non-traditional. I am the one ultimately responsible for my wellness! I must know all the pros and cons; the potential side-effects; the costs; and I must keep my own record of everything. I also must stay the course with the treatment long enough to ensure I’ve given it a fair chance, following the exact rules/orders I am given. All of this has also helped me from jumping on the bandwagon when fad treatments come along.
(You know the ones--when a friend of a friend of a friend who has pain kinda’ like yours, does something that seemingly "cures" his pain.. and your friend tells you that you absolutely must make an appointment right away!)
- I must be honest with my treatment providers about everything--my obedience to the program, asking all my “stupid” questions, and being honest about all reactions--even the weird or embarrassing ones. I’ve learned that doctors (and other kind of treatment providers) are hard to shock.
- I now thank God for creating the circumstances that provide for medication that allows me to function, despite severe pain, in the same way, He has provided medication for people who have diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other serious illnesses.
- I acknowledge that my medication isn’t worth anything if I don’t do the practical and common-sensical things to stay as well as I can physically, emotionally, and spiritually. (Not that I do them that well, or all of the time!)
As I write and say over and over, please forgive me if I ever sound “preachy” or like I have it all under control! Because I am a mess, even on my good days! It’s like I have multiple personalities--I can spend half a day getting my huge 3-ring binder full of my personal medical information organized, only to find a whole stack of essential papers that should go into it a few days later...but I can’t bear the thought of trying to put them in. Instead, I’ll shove them somewhere where they will be forgotten for months..until I actually need them and can’t find them.
Get the picture?
After talking all of this through with my guest, she told me she “got” for the first time what my life was like, as well as what life was like for others who suffer. She didn’t tell me this, but I could tell by her face that she was feeling kinda’ guilty. No doubt, she had long wondered if I was “really” in the know about ways to treat my pain.
I didn’t feel any sense of anger or disappointment about this. I used to be like her. That’s a big reason why I live my life so openly, engaging people in my journey. I hope to create better understanding and support for those who suffer.
Each of us has our own journey to walk. Whatever you might choose for your treatment methods, bottom line, go to God first, with humility. He has answers, but it takes a needy heart to hear.
Make me to know your ways,
O Lord; teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long.
Until Next Time,
P.S. I bet you ’re wondering how much medication I take, so you can compare it to yourself. I’m not going to tell you, though. It’s not out of any sense of pride; it’s only because I don’t want any of you to find yourself feeling guilty if you take more than I do, OR being tempted to judge me for taking more than you do!