Well, I found out yesterday that as well as having degenerative disc disease throughout my cervical and thoracic spine, I also have a bulging disc that is pressing on the nerves surrounding it and likely causing most of the excruciating upper back pain I have been experiencing for several years now. The doctor wants me to do traction therapy and then see pain management for injections and other pain modalities that might help. I’m pretty bummed about it.
On one hand, I am thankful they aren’t pushing for surgery yet, but on the other hand I know the doctor isn’t ruling it out and that kind of scares me. I know for some people traction works wonders, but for others it doesn’t. I hope it helps me. Anything that keeps me from having to be eventually sliced open is a good thing in my opinion. I figured I would share this information with an old drawing I did years ago entitled “Crick in the Neck” (pictured above). I figured it fit the subject matter well, and it was always one of my favorite drawings I’ve done. If the treatments do help the pain, it would be really good for my art and my writing, as both are hard to do when my back is acting up (since the pain shoots down into my arms as well).
I’ve been really struggling with depression lately. And I mean really struggling. Like, can’t get out of bed struggling. Like sleeping more than half the day struggling. Even when I do finally get out of bed, I often find myself back in bed soon after, lying there staring at the wall and the ceiling for unlimited amounts of time. I do still have an appetite at least, but I think a lot of that is the meds, which make me hungry almost all the time. Of course, sometimes with depression I do tend to comfort eat as well. So along with the desire to do absolutely nothing, I am also plagued with anxiety about gaining weight from being hungry all the time. I don’t see the doctor again until the day after Christmas, so I am just having to muddle through the best I can, but it is really hard. I feel like I am constantly fighting just to function at all. Even washing my hair or brushing my teeth seems too much for me most of the time and I have to force myself to do it. This level of lethargy is ridiculous, and sometimes I wonder how I’m alive at all.
Today I’m feeling about as old as Bugs and Daffy look in this picture I colored a while ago. I’m only 35 years old, but it often feels like I am much older physically, thanks to the chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. My husband currently has the flu and when he was telling me how bad his body aches and fatigue were, I couldn’t help but think that I’d never be able to tell the difference from my everyday body aches and fatigue. In fact, with my chronic ear and sinus infections, the only way I ever know for sure if I actually get a virus is if I am running a high fever. Otherwise, I figure it is just my normal daily crud I have to deal with.
Sometimes it is easy to forget what it was like to NOT feel sick all the time or hurt constantly. I can’t even imagine living without it all now. I’ve become so used to the routine that I’ve accepted it in a sense and admitted defeat in my own mind. That is likely not a good thing, considering that I feel I’ve lost all hope to ever feel healthy again. I’m not writing this today to try to illicit sympathy or just to whine, but it is what I’m thinking about and dealing with, so I felt it only honest to share. If you are a fellow sufferer, let me tell you that I am truly sorry you have to go through all this as well.
The last few days I have had a bad plantar fasciitis flare up, the worst in quite a while. I have dealt with this awful condition since I was 19 years old, so for 16 years I have dealt with chronic foot pain. I wanted to take a moment today to explain what it is really like to live with this condition, especially on bad days. Here are a few descriptions of what I go through:
- During a flare up, it feels like every step I take, I am walking with a huge, jagged stone piercing my arch, near the heel. After a few steps like that, it starts to feel horribly bruised and I start limping badly. Sometimes it feels almost like something in the arch of my foot “drops” and the pain starts then. It is a seriously weird feeling.
- During flare ups, I find it hard to stand long enough to do even the simplest tasks. I have to sit on the kitchen counter while waiting for my pop-tart to toast. I have to sit on the floor or my bed while brushing and flossing my teeth. Showers are out, baths are in. Massages can help sometimes, but other times even that is agonizing.
- When the flare up is really bad, even staying off my feet doesn’t help. The burning, aching, throbbing pain is constant. I do ice it and that helps a bit to numb it, but nothing else does a thing. Often I wind up in tears because the pain is simply unbearable. I hate to have to turn to narcotic pain relievers, but sometimes do. When the pain is constant and unyielding, I find myself fighting thoughts of suicide just to make it end.
- Unfortunately, nothing really helps but staying off my feet and giving it time. I do take NSAIDS and muscle relaxers, but they take a few days to work (if they even do work). I’ve tried cortisone shots, but they didn’t help at all. I’m not willing to chance the risky surgery that can leave you crippled for life, especially when nothing else modern medicine has had to offer has helped.
- Even when I’m NOT having a flare up, I have to be careful, because being on my feet more than a half an hour to an hour at a time can cause a flare up to occur. Even a day of regular grocery shopping can cause a flare up because of being on my feet too much. It truly is an intensely disabling condition for some people like me.
It seems that there is this stereotype about Bipolar patients not wanting to take their medicine or stopping medicine without consulting a doctor. However, like most stereotypes, perhaps there is some truth to it. I personally have Bipolar type 2 and often find myself wondering, “Do I really need these medications?” or “Are these medications actually helping or hurting me?”. Why do I wonder this? Mostly due to negative side effects. I can’t help but wonder sometimes if the cure isn’t worse than the disease at times. Weight gain, acne, digestive problems, being pushed further into depression or hypomania, anxiety, jitters, uncontrollable muscle spasms, irritability, crying spells, etc. Sometimes I really do wonder if I wasn’t better off before.
And about consulting a doctor before stopping meds, in my case at least, my psychiatrist is only able to see patients once every few months due to the shortage of psychiatrists in the area. He is EXTREMELY busy. It is unlikely I will hear from him in the interim, even if I have a question. Of course I can speak to his office staff, but that isn’t the same as actually speaking to a doctor. And even if I were to call and tell the office staff I wanted to stop taking the medicine, likely they would just request I wait until my next appointment, which may be months away. If the medicine is truly causing side effects I can’t stand or making me feel worse, why would I want to endure that for months before making a change?
I am not writing this post to encourage anyone to go off their meds or anything like that. I believe strongly in listening to medical advice, but I wanted to explain to those who are outside of the Bipolar loop why this can often become a legitimate issue. And no, right now I am not stopping my own meds, but I have been tempted many times, which makes me sympathetic to those who have.
I wrote the following while I was pretty hypomanic. Thought I would share more as a glimpse into my life and hopefully educational about bipolar 2:
I AM bipolar, I’m officially crazy. I can’t seem to control myself, but on the medicine I feel SO much better, who cares if I’m hypomanic? Not sure I wanna tell the doctor the truth. Thank God I have my husband to keep me in check. I AM perpetuating the cycle. Thank God I never had kids. My muscles twitch and I can’t control them. I feel like I have Parkinson’s, but I’m good with that. I am stressed the fuck out, but I don’t care. I don’t want to sleep, but I have a magic bullet called Seroquel. I just worry I’ll get fat, but how fat can I get when I can’t sit still? Every dance in creation I think I’ve done today, even if it was spazzy. Some might look at me and say I’m a danger. I look at me and say I’m alive.