Letting It Hurt, Making It Stop


My chemical helpers, alongside lovely flowers from Bob & Carrol Kunkel. Thank you!

Part of being human is developing a relationship with pain. We’ll talk physical pain for now, but we all know this translates into the intangible realms, too. As I’ve lived longer, I’ve learned that it’s generally best to feel pain rather than mask it. I prefer not to take pain medication – for tendonitis, headaches, or post-workout soreness – unless I’m really hurting. I’d rather have the pain send me a message, like, “Don’t you know not to run 2 days in a row???” or, “How about going to bed before 11pm? You need sleep!” When I can respond to what the pain is telling me, I can make changes to make my overall system healthier and eventually learn to prevent that same pain again. And equally as much, when I do take meds – even over-the-counter stuff – I generally feel some side effects. Whether I’m in tune or hypersensitive is a matter of perspective…

So when I arrived in the hospital 17 days ago, the nurse popped an IV into me and was about to start a pain drug. When she told me it was morphine, I asked not to have any. I know lots of people have had crazy side effects from morphine – including people who don’t react much to what they put in their bodies – and I was pretty sure I’d be headed for either the loony bin or the barf basket. So they gave me liquid ibuprofen through the IV, did x-rays, and checked me into the hospital. It wasn’t until 3am, when my entire midsection was glowing with a pain that wouldn’t let me sleep or think or move that I finally accepted some Vicodin. It didn’t make me too nauseous, and boy did it help the pain. It didn’t knock it out totally; I still knew which movements were off-limits, but I could at least think beyond the hurt.

But the Vicodin made me stoopid. Just kind of in a fog that didn’t let me focus on much of anything. So I talked with the doc last week about a non-narcotic drug, and she prescribed Mobic. It’s an NSAID, and you just take 1 a day. Just 15 milligrams to freedom! For the first day, I was nauseous, as they predicted. But the second day, I was sold. I felt clear-headed, with very little pain, and had good energy. Then the third day I noticed I’d put on about 1.5 lbs, was retaining fluid like a beach toy, was completely wiped out by fatigue, and was starting to have this weird stiffness in my jaw. I was also having really intense dreams, like one where I was in this very fancy master bathroom made of all pink marble, eating a dish of reheated squash. Like my life crossed with one of the many Mad Men episodes I’ve been watching. My life would be the one with the leftover squash, just to clarify. I consulted the drug info sheet, as well as some websites, and found enough comments like, “Gained 8 pounds in 8 days, and ended up looking pregnant,” that I decided that Mobic was not for me.

Called the doc, am now started on an alternating regimen of ibuprofen and Tylenol. Aaah. I can deal with this. At this point, I haven’t had Vicodin or Mobic in over 24 hours, and I’m doing pretty well. I have a little more pain than before – mostly a dull, background ache – but it’s way more tolerable than being all puffed up, or all stopped up, or fogged up. I’m still pretty tired, but hopefully a nap will help.

A usual scene from the recovery room. The dogs appreciate that we've moved a bed in here for them. And yes, I'm wrapped in a fitted bedsheet.

This experience with pain was at a level completely different than that of my previous, everyday experiences. After the accident, it really wasn’t an option NOT to accept pharmacological help with the pain; I was in so much pain that I couldn’t respond effectively to the pain or to anything else. The pain was all I felt. All it was telling me was, “MAKE THIS STOP HURTING.” And maybe, “Keep the rubber side down, next time, will ya?”

I know that I’m gradually moving towards health, because I’m finally not afraid of the pain. It no longer seems so bad that it will take over everything else. And I’m very ready for the side effects to stop taking over everything else, too.


About solveighanson

I'm a (late) thirtysomething Plant Breeding Ph.D. student, daughter / sister / auntie, vegetable fan, yogi, sometime cyclist, and enthusiastic if infrequent baker. I started this blog in the summer of 2010 to trace my recovery from a pelvic fracture sustained in a cycling accident. That healing process was truly transformative, and since then I seem to have written mostly about the transformations that have followed. And hence the title of the blog: Don't call me a butterfly, because I'm not done changing.
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