Friday, July 15, 2005

Pain, Relief, and Addiction

Some of you know my history with physical pain, some don't. Anyway I'm feeling something that I want to talk about, and I want to give some context, but without some disclaimers this is going to come off as one massive pity party.

I'm in a lot of pain, pretty much all the time.

I've had severe headaches ever since I was a little kid. They come on fast and hard, and they start hurting so bad they make me sweat buckets. They used to make me pass out, but through martial arts techniques (concentration and meditation) I learned how to control them and function through them. Now they still hurt, but most of the time I just make the pain not matter.

From a very young age, I started growing very quickly in large spurts. I was 4' before I was 5 years old; I reached 5 feet from 8-9, and I stopped growing at 13, at 6'2" (about a foot taller than the average for 13). I also have a ridiculously heavy bone structure (my orthopedist used to call me the "Cro-Magnon". That rapid growth gave me permanent stretch marks, and godawful apin while I was in a spurt. I used to rock back and forth all ngiht long just aching... It's hard to describe but lets just say it isn't pleasant.

I have had chronic insomnia since I was a little kid as well (I started getting acid reflux and severe heartburn around the same time). I dont know if you know this, but severe sleep deprivation HURTS; and it hurts a lot. Your entire body jsut starts hurting one system at a time as it tells you that it needs to heal itself.

As a teenager and into my early twenties I had a series of severe injuries to my ankles, knees, wrists, fingers, and back. They ranged from falling out of a helicopter (bad one that) to rolling down a flight of stairs, a number of very bad fights, and three opposing football players deliberately going for my knees and ankles (I broke my left ankle, and both pinkie fingers in that game. Then I taped them up and kept plaing. We won). I've been stabbed, sliced, bitten, dragged, hit by cars, hit by bats, chemically sprayed, shot with less lethal projectiles, hit by a large number of other martial artists, hit by wooden swords, hit by lightning, and shot.

The knee injuries and ankle are in particular pretty bad, and I get constant moderate pain from both, along with my wrists and finger. All of thsoe injuries are also arthritic, which jsut makes it worse.

Since my late teens I've suffered from Ulcerative Colitis; but we never firgured out thats what it was til after I got out of the AF, and saw the right specialists. Ulcerative colitis can be unbelievably painful; and it's pretty damned disgusting to talk about., so let me jsut say, it's something you really never want to have, unless you enjoy spending hours at a time in the bathroom wishing you were dead.

Anyway, all that together, and I'm between a pain 3 and a 5 all the time (thank god not as bad as my mother, who is at a 7 or 8 most of the time).

When you have a lot of pain, al the time, it becomes part of the background noise. You dont even notice it unless somethign aggravates it. Between developing the tolerance, and the martial arts training, and just general cussedness... well I've got the mind over matter thing going.

Some of you may not have experienced that...

"Pain dont hurt"
"Huah Sergeant"
"HUAH Sergeant!!!"
"Mind over matter trainee, if you don't mind, it don't matter"
"HUAH Sergeant!!!

Aaaaaany way...

My wisdom teeth were pulled about 5 hours ago. I have a ridiculously high tolerance for pain medication to go along with the high pain tolerance, and they had to give me 8 topical novocaine swabs (double dose), then 10 shots of Lidocaine to numb me up (about 2.5 times normal). The doctor had to stop three times while pulling to give me more, and still he could only give me enough to just get them out. I could still feel everything he was doing.

Honestly, it wasnt that bad. I've felt a lot worse in my time, and I'm glad to be rid of them.

As part of the normal routine, he gave me a scrip for percocet. The irritating thing is, even after seeing how resistant I was to pain meds, and after I talked to him about it, and knowing how much I weigh, he only gave me 12 5/525s (5mg of Oxycodone, and 525mg of acetomenophine).

That aint gonna do shit.

The swelling hasn't even really started, the real pain is going to start tomorrow; but I need 15mg of Oxycodone just to have any effect at all because of my bodymass and my drug tolerance.

I've taken 4 of them at this point, for 20mg of Oxycodone, 2100mg of Acetomenophine, AND I'm taking 2000mg of Ibuprofen, and 2200mg of Naprosyn (to hold down the swelling and inflamation, and they are working great). They are tearing up my stomach even more than usual, but they are doing the job. I cant take any more of the percs for at least another 4 hours, and it would be better to wait six to eight, because 4mg of acetaminophen is enough to cause liver damage.

Here's the thing about painkillers and me. They don't do much for the thing they are supposed to be tartgeting, which is breakthrough pain; but they do something else... that background pain...

It's gone

That level 3-5 pain is pretty much gone. I mean there are twinges in my joints if I move funny, but NOTHING like what I'm used to.

When you are used to a lot of pain all the time, and then it's gone... I can't even describe to you that kind of relief.

Imagine never, ever, being comfortable, ever.

Not just a little uncomfortable some of the time, imagine laying down on a bed of small sharp rocks, or walking barefoot across rough gravel; now take that feeling, and thats what I feel all the time.

Now take that pain away.

I'm really not describing it well... maybe I can relate it to something pleasureable that a "normal" healthy person might experience in their day to day life.

Okay, so you are walking around in your normal eveyr day life, and you get your day to day aches, paines, stresses, bumps etc...

Now imagine getting an expert massage while you are in a perfect jacuzzi.

That's what the difference feels like to me. See I can never, ever relax. Theres always this pain and tension; and now it's gone.

But that feeling only lasts for about an hour or so, and then gradually the pain goes back to what it was, until the painkillers have completely worn off.

I can understand how people can become addicted to painkillers. Never mind the opiate addiction, just having the ability to feel comfortable for a few hours.. well if you are in severe pain all the time, for months on end, the prospect of some relief of that is far more addictive than any opiate could ever be.