I’m Sick, I’m Going Off Meds, and Going Off Meds Is Making Me Sick.
Monday August 12th 2013, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Health (Not Cancer), Me, Myself, and Reid

During chemo, I was put on a whole bunch of painkillers because I was in a whole bunch of pain. I still have a lot of pain, but it doesn’t usually compare to the levels of pain I experienced during chemo. It gets that bad sometimes, though, and when it does, it’s harder to be positive about it. It was easier to be positive about the pain when I knew it was from the chemo that was destroying my cancer, when I knew the pain was a side-effect of saving my life. But I’m not fighting cancer anymore. The chemo did its job and left my system a while ago.

Once chemo ended, I wanted to start getting off all these painkillers, posthaste. While they do a fairly decent job of killing pain, they are also very addictive–even when used responsibly. My brain (and probably yours and everyone else’s brain), as it turns out, is really, really dumb. When it comes to pain medication (and probably drugs of any kinds), our brains act like small children. They’re thrilled to play with cool new chemicals they’ve never seen before, chemicals they quickly decide they absolutely must have and that belong exclusively to them and that they want to play with all the time and that they’ll scream bloody murder and kick you over and over and over if you try taking away from them. Our brains never wanted these chemicals, they were totally fine without these chemicals, and, in fact, they didn’t even know these chemicals existed. Addictive drugs fill a need our brains never knew they needed… just like iPods.

Despite my ongoing pain, I’ve really wanted off of these meds for way too long. I can’t simply stop taking them, because my brain will throw a temper tantrum of gigantic proportions and I will not be able to tolerate that for very long. I need help getting off of these meds in a healthy way that fools my brain into being happy with smaller and smaller doses until it forgets about the meds and moves on to play with something else. I can’t do this by myself, which is a big reason I have pain management doctors. There are tons of side effects to these meds, including keeping me in constant mental fog that doesn’t allow me to think clearly, screwing with my memory, and flat-out preventing my use of other meds I should be taking (such as migraine recovery medication).

Withdrawal is the problem I face. It’s the brain’s temper tantrum. To be clear, I’ve never abused any of the drugs I was prescribed–normal, doctor-order medical use is what led to my body’s addictions. For years, I’ve told my pain doctors that I need their help to get off of these medications. For years, I’ve received two responses:

1) “If you go off your pain medications, you might have pain.”

While this is true, there’s really only one way to find out: go off of the pain medications. If I have more pain after I’m off the meds, then we can deal with that problem. Preferably by some non-addictive means. Ironically, if I wasn’t on these pain meds, there are so many other kinds of medication I could use to potentially help manage my pain. Not to mention biofeedback techniques that don’t involve any medication at all, such as mind-body imagery, targeted breathing, and good, old-fashioned meditation.

2) “It’s really not a bad thing to stay on these drugs your entire life.”

This might be true for some people. If there are people that can take painkillers responsibly for their entire lives without feeling that they’re impaired cognitively, emotionally, or physically, well then, bully for them! Seriously, that’s great. But I have felt like my mind is only partially in this dimension for almost six years now. I feel like I’m floating, like my head is in the clouds, and that clouds are in my head. Lots of clouds. So many clouds. Really, really dense clouds. And I don’t want my head anywhere near clouds anymore.

Earlier this summer, I finally decided to just tell my pain doc that I was going off of one of my pain meds. She questioned my decision, she tried to convince me I was wrong, but, in the end, she gave me her blessing. Her blessing was mostly meaningless. She told me how much I could stop taking at a time, lowering the dose of medication I was taking until I was taking none. This is important information, but it’s more hypothetical thinking than any sort of actual in-the-field working plan.

I’m currently going off clonazepam–a powerful muscle relaxant, also used to control seizures and anxiety–which is known as klonopin to its close friends. It was prescribed to me when the ulcerated, necrotic, radiation burn on my back was causing muscles throughout my abdomen to seize up, causing extraordinary pain on top of the constant pain that came from having a huge, complicated burn on my back. I underwent surgery that removed that burn nearly two years ago. There was recovery from the operation and I still don’t have feeling in several places on my back, but it’s been awhile since I’ve had the problem for which the clonazepam was originally prescribed.

It’s been a battle getting off this stuff. Some days my body shakes uncontrollably, some days I have anxiety attacks, some days I feel itchy all over, and on a lot of days I just don’t feel like myself. My body is rebelling against me, against what’s best for it. I’m fighting through this rebellion because I’m determined to reach my goal of being off all these painkillers. In the meantime, my brain is throwing temper tantrums about not having as many cool chemicals to play with.

Stupid brain.

–Reid.


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