Living with Chronic Pain. My Journey

I really don’t want this post to be a woe is me kind of post but I wanted to write my experiences and document things down so I can look back at how things have changed in my life over the last two months. Going forward, I want to be able to see how things have improved and changed and hear from others about their experiences and how others are dealing with their chronic pain. I honestly never thought that I would be in a position where my life would change to an extent where I would be on constant medication, struggle to do menial tasks and feel like I’ve lost my independence. Let’s take it back to the beginning and what has happened.

Chronic Back problems

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I do struggle with bouts of depression and anxiety which is controlled by medication. Most of the time I get through each day without it becoming too bad, however one particular evening, I was in a horrible slump. Tearful with nothing to pin point it on, a general low feeling and not wanting to get out of bed, I took myself off for an early night with the intention of hoping that a good nights sleep would help the fatigue side and lift my mood. I stayed in bed til around 1pm that next day, and was forced out of bed as Thomas the cat was miaowing for food. I shuffled down the stairs, still feeling a bit pissed off, in my pyjamas, slippers and dressing gown. I could tell I was in a bad mood as I was slamming things around in the kitchen. Opening the cupboard to reach for his box of food, I bent over to pour the food in his bowl. The most horrific sharp pain shot up my back. It had gone into spasm, and it’s probably due to how stressed and tense I was. This wasn’t the first time it had happened but I knew from previous experience that if I got on all fours, with my back straight, it generally would right itself in a few minutes. No such luck this time, and I was in absolute agony. I had to try and lie on the floor, which was a task in itself and because I was so uncomfortable on my front, I managed to turn myself and lie on my back. Big mistake. I was absolutely frozen solid. It took me around an hour or so to slowly inch myself from the kitchen to the hall, with the intent of being able to try and use the stairs to pull myself up. I couldn’t get further than the kitchen door and I was having spasms all down my spine and left leg. With regret, I had left the key in the door and the safety chain across, so my neighbours wouldn’t have been able to get access to rescue me.

After around an hour of being half in the kitchen and hall, I knew I had to get an ambulance to come and get me. The emergency services were amazing. They stayed on the phone whilst the ambulance turned up, as well as the police who had to break my front door down to gain access to me. I was a sorry sight, lying on the floor in my pyjamas with one slipper hanging off my foot and tears rolling down my face. I was pumped full of morphine whilst I was taking gas and air to try and relieve the pain. It took three paramedics to get me off the floor before I was taken to hospital to be prescribed some more drugs and get checked out.

It took three days before I was able to move around without my back going into spasm. The doctors gave me a huge prescription of medication including Gabapentin which is a mild epilepsy medication which is being used to stop the shaking in my left side, plus strong pain relief and Diazepam to relax my muscles. I’ve gone from hardly taking medication to having up to 12 tablets daily to control the pain, spasms and shaking.

A physio assessment confirmed what the Doctors had hinted at, and that is a slipped disc that is pressing on my sciatic nerve causing the severe weakness in my left side. Even now, 7 weeks later, I am still struggling to hold things in my left hand and stand for long periods of time without my left leg shaking uncontrollably. With physio exercises to help with stretching my hamstrings, which has been causing me problems in bending over, I have slightly improved with getting around although I won’t be doing any cartwheels anytime soon.

I have an MRI coming up to see what the actual damage is inside, and I’m just hoping that it is just a slipped disc and nothing worse. The thought of having to have back surgery in the future terrifies me and I’m hoping that once we kn ow what it is, it can just be controlled with pain medication.

In terms of pain, I’m constantly aching but I am having pain everywhere else except where I’ve damaged my back. Whether its down to using other muscles and over compensating so I don’t injure the area again, I don’t know but I have never had my body ache so much. The weakness in my left hand side is still quite bad, although not severe, and unfortunately my back has since gone back into spasm. I keep getting told off because I’m not resting enough, but I also need to be active to stop seizing up. The medication is making me sleep more than I’ve ever slept before and I feel drowsy most of the day, with a clouded head and muggy thinking. Almost as if I’m drunk, I can’t formulate sentences properly and I keep forgetting things moments after thinking of them. My body feels stretched and although walking is good for me, I feel like after a while my gait changes like I can’t hold myself up. I’ve invested in an orthopaedic V shaped pillow which has been an absolute god send for keeping me propped up as well as holding me in place whilst I’m in bed. I wake up each morning feeling like I have bubbles behind my forehead which I have been told is a side effect of the Gabapentin and should settle soon but could take up to three months before the side effects start to subside. How long I will be on this medication, I do not know but because it’s a medication that alters cognitive processing, I’m not allowed to stop taking it without consent off my doctor. I’ve also developed what can only be described as a sprain in both my left ankle and left wrist and I’ve been wearing a support bandage to compress it to help. I’ve also got a trapped nerve in my groin which is very awkward, as I just want to rub it to relieve the tingling but you can’t do that in public!

The strength, or should I say weakness in my left side is really hard to deal with. I can’t lift, carry or grip anything without shaking and it’s had a huge impact on daily chores that I can do. For example, washing the pots has now become a military operation as I can’t stand still at the sink as well as lift things in my left hand without having strong tremors run through my leg. Even filling the kettle is painful. I can’t hoover as I have a Hetty and can’t bend or find the strength to be able to push it along the carpet. Even the simplest of tasks like taking a shower and washing and drying my hair have proved to be quite difficult, although it is getting slightly easier as the weeks go by. The most annoying thing is not even being able to hold my DSLR, and you know how much I love my photography.

The worst thing from all of this is that I feel like I’ve had my independence taken away. In the last 7 weeks, I’ve left the house just 10 times and the majority of those have been with friends or family as I feel like I have lost my confidence in getting out and about myself. I’m caught between a rock and a hard place because I need to keep moving but I have to plan it out as if I do go out, it wipes me out with fatigue for the next day or two. To say it’s driving me mad is an understatement. It’s going to be a long recovery process I know, but I will get there – that I’m sure of!

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