Category Archives: My Pain

Ubi Has A Peg Leg

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It was 4:00 am this past Wednesday night.  Just like the past 3 nights, Ubi was sleeping with me on the couch.  I felt this was safe because my couch is so low to the ground.  The highest point is no more than 2 feet above the ground.  Unlike the past 3 nights, at 4:00 am I woke up to a thud, and then loud screeching.  “Oh no!  Ubi!”, I cried out loud.

I got up and turned on the light and picked him up.  He was shaking violently and yelping.  I comforted him as best I could, stroking him, as he looked up at me with those all too expressive eyes.  I knew he was in severe pain.

Eventually he stopped shaking and squealing though, and I put him on the ground to see if he was limping.  He wasn’t putting any weight on his right rear leg.  He limped over to his crate, stepped inside, and lied down and went to sleep.  I closed the door to his crate, and decided to wait until morning to take him to the vet since he wasn’t complaining anymore and he was resting.

The next morning I called the vet at 7:00 am, right when they opened, and they got me an appointment at 9:00 am.  An x-ray showed a broken tibia in his right rear leg.  I felt so bad.  I felt like I used very poor judgement and I could never forgive myself.

The picture above was from when I picked him up from the vet a little bit later.  You can tell he’s frowning.  My frown is fake, but inside it wasn’t.  I told the vet tech that I just felt horrible.  She reminded me that I’ve never had a puppy before, and sometimes lessons have to be learned the hard way.  She said that she had no hesitation sending him home with me because she and everyone else there knew that I would do right by him.

It turns out that Ubi doesn’t need his cone collar because he can get to the bandage anyway.  A friend at work had a good idea, which was to spray Bitter Apple on it.  Today I am having to slow Ubi down because he doesn’t appear to be in any pain, and he’s flying around my condo like nothing happened.  He has definitely learned how to use his peg leg, and it doesn’t deter him from playing.  It pains me to stop him and slow him down because I know he has a ton of energy and he just wants to play, but the more he puts weight on the peg leg, the longer it will take to heal.

So I’ve learned a big lesson, and as I finish this up with Ubi at my feet barking at me to play with him, all I can think about is that this could have been much worse.  Everyone tells me that he will heal quickly because he is a puppy.  I’m looking forward to the day when he gets the bandage off and is released from bondage.  In the meantime, I will consider this to be a character building exercise.  Not for Ubi, but for me.

The Road To Gratitude

So it’s almost 10:00 on a Tuesday evening, and I’m not tired yet.  I don’t want to watch TV.  I don’t really have anything to do, hmmm…  Oh!  I haven’t written in my blog in a while.

I haven’t really been doing much of anything lately to be honest with you.  When some stuff happened in my life, I crawled into a shell, and ultimately wound up extremely depressed.

Now first, I want to warn you, because I’m about to talk about God.  Not the traditional God that many people think of.  I’m not a Christian, and even though I’m Jewish I still don’t believe that Jewish parts of the Bible are meant to be taken literally.  I’m not even talking about an all powerful, omnicient being, that guides our every day lives.  In fact, I’m not talking about anything predefined.  The word God is what we use to describe something that means different things to different people.  I’m going to use that word for brevity sake, but really what I mean is, higher power, and by that I mean anything that is more powerful than me.  Myself and a friend.  Together we are more powerful than me alone.  Myself and a group of friends.  Even better.  Myself and a group of friends and loving family members.  Or maybe it’s not people for you.  Maybe it is the God of the Bible.  The point is it doesn’t matter.  What I’m talking about is anything that you feel can help you when you need help, better than you can help yourself, or, anything that can help you help someone else better than you can help them yourself.  For the rest of this reading, God = hire power.

God has helped me a lot lately.  When I found myself in my depression, just wanting to stay in my hole and not deal with the situation I was going through, some very loving, caring people in my life gave me some help that I needed.  First, it was my family, and I didn’t really need to ask too hard for that help.  All I needed to do was pick up the phone and say, this is what is happening, and the help was offered.  My father and step-mother love me so unconditionally.  Sometimes I can be the biggest baby about things, and sometimes there are things I’m going through which they can’t possibly understand from my perspective, but they don’t care.  They just love, and they show it by doing as much as they possibly can, whenever they are able.

The problem is, they aren’t as able right now.  My step-mother just had knee replacement surgery, and my father is going to have a heart valve transplant sometime very soon.  But they were still there for me when I needed them, as much as they could be.  However, this time, during a crisis I was going through and I’m still going through they couldn’t offer as much as they’d like to be able to, and that meant I needed to grow up just a little bit.

That was very difficult for me at first.  I wanted more care than they were able to give, and I finally had to face that fact after a week of hell, and a trip to the emergency room because I thought something was horribly wrong with my stomach or abdomen, or I had some other major medical issue going on, only to be diagnosed with constipation.  That’s ok.  You can laugh. That shit really hurt man!

Then, quite frankly, I started to pray to my higher power.  Now, again, if I’m sitting in my living room saying, “God, please, I need your strength here!”, is anyone listening, or am I just affirming in my head, that I need help from something more than myself, and trying to work through how to get that help in my head.  The weirdness is not in the asking.  The weirdness is in the answers you get, and recognizing them.

At this point it was another family member who came through for me.  My aunt, who just lost her husband and my Uncle from cancer sent me an email one morning, asking me if I could help her with some computer problems.  I told her about my situation, and how debilitating it was for me, and that all I could offer was to keep in touch because I thought it would be good for the both of us.  I then asked her a question.  How is she coping?  Because she’s pretty depressed right now too.  She told me about how our grandmother used to make her make up her bed as soon as she got out of it, so she would at least have that to say she accomplished that day.  So for some reason, I got out of bed, I not only made my bed, but I finally changed the sheets, putting clean ones on, and then I put the dirty ones in the washing machine along with some other laundry I needed to do.  Then we chatted back and forth in email, and eventually she asked me a specific computer question, and it gave my mind something to do.

At first I just explained what it could be, and pushed it back on her.  But we kept chatting.  Then I decided to do some searching online, and I was able to at least partially find the answer to her problem and help her get it more under control.  I was still in a bad place, but my mindset had changed a bit.  Frankly, having something to do made me feel less depressed.  So we continued to chat, and I continued to pray.  I also had to make some very tough decisions about some things in my life which I will talk about in another post some time.

I started doing a few more, manageable tasks around the house.  More laundry, wash the dishes,  vacuum a little bit.  And then I allowed myself to take a break because I had accomplished some things that I needed to accomplish.

Another pretty much sleepless night went by, but I got up and took care of some things I needed do.  I went to a doctor’s appointment.  I had to take a cab there because of some other real (more than constipation) issues I’m dealing with right now, but I went.  I asked the doctor for help with some things and she went over and above to help me.  Certainly a higher power there.

Another sleepless night, still chatting with my aunt, still getting small, manageable tasks done, still praying.  By the way, my prayers were pretty simple.  “God, please help me to know what to do next.”

This time the answer came to make some phone calls, and I did.  I called very good friends.  That was today.  I had several phone conversations.  Then I got a ride to another doctor’s appointment from one of those friends.  Then I met my parents for lunch, and took care of some business that needed to be taken care of to make it easier for them to help me in ways that they could help me.  Then I met another person and took care of some more business that needed to get taken care of.  Then another friend picked me up, and we went to meet with some other friends.  I got home at about 8:30 after a very full day.  I made a few more phone calls.  And now I’m writing this.

Will I sleep tonight.  Who knows?  If my body needs sleep, I will sleep.  It will eventually come, but it sure will come a lot faster if I’m up and moving, and doing things and staying active.  By the way, I meantioned more phone calls.  Tomorrow is a very full day.  Thursday will have some activity in the evening, and I can always think about how to do more between now and then, and then make some more phone calls.  Oh, and I need to go grocery shopping.  Luckily the grocery store is in the same shopping center where my condo is.  I think I can manage a 3 block drive.  I was told so by one of my advocating friends..

So now it’s midnight.  I’m not really sleepy, but I’m tired, and that’s a good thing.  I have to deal with chronic pain, and managing that is tough because it adds to the depression causing the sleep issues which adds to the depression and yes I did mean to say depression three times.  But today was a good day.  I was up, and active, and tomorrow and the next day will be the same.

I’m certainly not out of the woods here.  I’ve got a lot more to do to get back into life.  Find a job for one, but I need to take care of myself first, and this one was a bit of a nose dive so I’ve still got some climbing to do, but I’m grateful, because I have help, from my higher power.  As long as I ask for it, and am able to recognize it when it is presented, it will always be there.  People, activity, things to think about.  They are keeping me sane, at least for now.

Clairvoyant Or Lazy? You Decide.

Preparing your home for sale is hard.  Especially when you are alone.  Still, I had done this once before, and my home this time was much smaller, with no land to worry about since I live in a condo.

So I decided to take the plunge, and I started looking for homes online.  Then I took it a step further and contacted a few realtors, finally settling on one of them to sell my home and help me find a new one.

There were things that needed to get done.  Stuff needed to get fixed, like the stains in the ceiling and along the wall in my bedroom and one of my bathrooms from some water that leaked in during a major storm.  Then there were the windows.  Almost all of them needed to be replaced because of leaking.  There’s still more of this “contract” work to be done, and I call it that because it was certainly not stuff that I was going to do on my own.

Then there was the decluttering.  Wow, what a huge job for a single guy who has a lot of junk sitting around.  I had no idea how much work this would be.  I had a few friends help, and I had a few others offer, but it seemed like the job was never going to end.  I kept noticing new things that needed to get done, and I was becoming more and more frustrated and depressed about it.

Then last weekend, with one of my neighbors in my garage ready to lend a hand, I just stopped.  I became incredibly depressed for no obvious reason, and I told my neighbor that I didn’t want to do any more.  During the week I still managed to pack up a couple of things and move them down into the garage, but for the most part I just came to a screeching halt.  I called the realtor and told him I was getting overwhelmed and I needed some help to first, figure out what needed to be done, and then do it for me, because I didn’t want to do any more work.

An over reaction?  Maybe.  If the next thing that happened in my life hadn’t happened I would have said I was just being lazy, and/or letting my emotions get the better of me.  But something significant did happen, and I’m wondering now if somehow I sensed that things were going on behind the scenes in my life that would change the  course of my life for the immediate future.

The following Thursday evening after work I got a disturbing email from my manager.  It said to not go in to the site where I worked for the government contract I was on, and to call him at home.  When I called him, he told me that the government lost funding for my position.  In other words, I am out of a job unless my company can find me another position on another contract. 

I’ve never been laid off or fired or anything of the sort, so to put it bluntly, I’m scared.  I have money in a retirement account,  but I don’t want to have to deplete that if I don’t have to, not to mention having to take a 10% penalty on whatever I withdraw.  I don’t know what I’m going to do if my company doesn’t find me something.   Well, I guess I do know.  I’m going to  look for another job.  I have plenty of contacts and some good skills and experience, so I suppose I shouldn’t be so scared, but I am.  Fear of the unknown is really what it is.

Back to clairvoyance.  Did I know there were discussions going on about the lack of funding for my position that I wasn’t privy to?  Or am I just really sensitive,  and felt an indescribable insecurity that was causing my depression and lack of motivation to continue to work on my home?  Was this a self-fulfilling prophecy,  whereas I caused this to happen because I felt so insecure?  I thing Carl Jung described this as synchronicity.  Two seemingly unrelated events are connected not by cause and effect, but by meaning.  This is a fancy way to describe a coincidence that is just too coincidental.

So here I am, terrified about what the future will bring.  I’ve canceled the move for now until I’m sure that I have a steady, reliable job to go to, and this is actually somewhat of a relief.  I’m feeling almost paralyzed though, and I’ve been waking up in the morning in tears from horrible nightmares.  If anyone else has been here that can offer some advice as to how to deal with the emotions, especially the fear, I’d really appreciate it.

Mornings

Mornings are difficult.  It’s not easy to wake up alone.  I suppose it’s better than waking up next to the wrong person, but sometimes I wonder.  Which is worse, lonliness being with the wrong person?  I suppose you could be lonely and be with the wrong person at the same time.  Right now for me, I don’t have to worry about that.  I just have to worry about getting out of bed, and that’s difficult lately.

I’m not sure when it started.  The depression that is.  I mean, I’m always depressed to some extent, but these days I’m on the verge of tears much of the time.  Plus I just feel sick, run down, stomach ache, nauseous, almost all of the time.  Having a bad back and having to take chronic meds for that probably doesn’t help.  But where has all of my energy gone?  I just want to sleep.  Having a job is a good thing, but I don’t want to go to work.  I don’t like being there.  I feel even sicker when I’m there.  I’m almost never hungry, but I force food down because I know I have to.  Yeah, full blown depression I guess.

The mornings are the worst.  I know I’ll feel better in the evening.  I know I’ll feel better after work, when I can relax a little bit.  But right now my stomach is in a knot, and I feel like throwing up.  I suppose I could pray.  In fact I think I will as soon as I’m done writing this.  Writing is a form of meditation for me, so maybe that’s what I needed to do this morning.  I needed to write this down and share it, and the answer has come that I need to pray.  I’m not a religious person by any means, but I don’t have to be to have a relationship with God.  If God is perfect, why would he care what religion I practice if any?  Yeah, I think I’ll pray.  Just for a minute before I go to work.  Maybe that will help get me through the day, maybe not.  It certainly can’t hurt.

I used to read this book of motivational thoughts every morning.  I stopped reading it a while back, but a few days ago I picked it back up again.  The thought for today is one day at a time.  It’s about setting a small goal, and accomplishing that goal, and feeling good at the end of the day that I’ve accomplished it.  Today I’ve already accomplished a small goal.  I’ve written this down, and shared it, and believe it or not between the time I typed “Mornings” and now, I’ve somehow typed myself into a whole different attitude.  I feel better.  So maybe the prayer I’ll say is “Thanks!”  Obviously something gave me the motivation to write this, and to accomplish this small goal before I left for work this morning.  And I feel better.  So thanks!  Whether it was God or something else.  Thanks!

Do I Look Like I Have Boobs In This Shirt?

Just writing this blog posting and sharing it with the world proves how brave I am.  It proves that I’m not a woosy boy, or a girly man, or feminine in any sort of way.  Just remember that when you are reading this.  Just remember what kind of person would put themselves out there and admit to this before you make judgements, or poke fun, or reply with the inevitable, “This explains a lot Larry!”  Just remember that only a true man would put this story out there for the world to see.  Only a true manly, man.

A while ago as I was complaining about my back pain recommended that I go to see a holistic doctor that he took an old girlfriend to see.  He spoke very highly of the practice, and said that even though they may not be able to help me with my back pain directly, they may be able to help me with my overall health.  I figured, what the heck.  It couldn’t hurt.

So I’m speaking to this doctor, and she’s asking me all kinds of questions about this and that, and sends me away with a bunch of supplements, and an order for some blood work to check some things that a normal doctor doesn’t generally check for.  One of these things was my testosterone level.  Now, before I go any further, I want you to know that my actual testosterone level has nothing at all to do with the outcome of this story, and why I decided to publish it for all the world to see.  My testosterone level is normal, or as normal as it’s going to be given the pain I fight on a daily basis, and some other things going on in my body.  All in all though, it’s perfectly fine.

I got the test results back, and I’m going through them, and I get to testosterone.  What was odd was that I didn’t see it being in a normal range.  I saw it being several times the highest level that is considered normal.  A few of the other numbers were slightly off, but my testosterone was off the charts on the positive end.  “Oh my God!”, I thought.  “I’m really, really sick!  What the heck is wrong with me?”  I was going back and forth between thinking that my parents forgot to tell me that I’m actually from the planet Krypton, to feeling very proud to be a man, and feeling sorry for all of the women out there that were missing out on my obviously ultra human abilities.  But in all honesty, I was extremely worried.  It would be one thing if it was slightly high.  But it wasn’t.  It was about 7 times the highest level in the normal range.

Thankfully I read the rest of the chart very carefully, and discovered the clerical error.  Apparenly, (and this is just a guess as to how it happened), someone saw my first name, which is really Laurence, and only saw the Lauren part.  That’s right.  According to this chart I am a woman, and all of the ranges on the chart were for that of a woman.

Ok, so now that I’m back to reality feeling a mix between disappointment and relief (I figured it would be something to brag about to both men and women), I needed to figure out what to do about it.  So what I did was to go to my coworker who referred me to this doctor and squeeze my “breasts” and ask him if I looked like I had boobs in this shirt.  I told him that apparently this wonderful doctor that he referred me to was somehow so confused that she read the results of my test, made comments on it, mailed it to me, and never once made any mention of the fact that my testosterone levels were way outside of the normal range, or that the results indicated that I was a woman which was why the testosterone levels were so outside of the normal range.  So when I saw her today, I had to play it up.  I asked each of the nurses and clerical people in the reception area (who all knew already what had happened), if they thought I looked like I had boobs in the shirt I was wearing, and had them all in tears as I explained to them that it was a relief to finally know what my problem was.  Walking around all of these years thinking I’m a man when I’m actually a woman can have severe psychological effects on a guy, ummm…  I mean….  ummm…  whatever I am. 

I also told the doctor that if I was going to accept the fact that I was a woman, I should probably start taking estrogen because I didn’t think my boobs were big enough, and I wanted to not have to shave anymore.  Then I had her in tears as I spurted out lines (no perverts I wasn’t spurting anything else because I can’t now that I’m a woman) from the old Saturday Night Live skit “Pat, the androgenous heterosexual”.  Remember that skit.  “Hey everyone, I have a date tonight!  Really Pat, what’s your date’s name?  Terry!  Hey everyone, it’s that time of the month again.  Really Pat, what time is that?  Bills!”

Yes today was fun.  Maybe a little bit too fun.  I do love to poke fun at myself and this was just too easy.  Luckily the lab that took my blood was able to correct the results, and I now have lab results with the correct ranges on them.  I’ve asked everyone with a copy of the bad lab results to please destroy them, but I think I’m going to keep my copy just because of the comical effect it will have when I show it to friends and relatives in the future.

So there you have it friends, family and complete strangers.  Go ahead, laugh at me, make your comments, and poke fun if you must.  Just please, don’t poke my breasts.  They are very tender right now and I’ll have to punch you if you try to touch them anyway.  Hands off!

I don’t want to operate on your back – Pain Part 2

There’s a good possibility that when someone hears these words spoken by an orthopedic surgeon, this would bring a smile to their face.  After all, perhaps the surgeon is about to suggest another solution to pain they have been experiencing.  Don’t get me wrong.  He did.  But his suggestion was to go back to my pain specialist and try some different techniques.  “They have all sorts of procedures they can perform to help you with the pain!”, he exclaimed loudly as he told me a story of another patient of his who went to the same pain specialist that I’m seeing and had great success.

What I told the surgeon though was that I had already tried everything the pain specialist had to offer, which I thought he already knew given that I was being referred by a pain specialist who saw the MRI of my back and determined their wasn’t much else he could do for me.  He then went on to show me my messed up spine on both the MRI, and the X-Ray he took while I was in his office.  I’ve seen these pictures hundreds of times in my lifetime, and every time I look I feel deformed, and ugly, and things just look worse that they did before, and that’s because they are worse. 

“I can see why you are in pain.”, he said.  He pointed out the “inflamation”, the “degeneration”, the pinched nerves, the arthritis, and how the scoliosis was only complicating matters.  He pointed out that the top of my back was bent forward and that he was afraid if he operated on the bottom of my back I would be hunched over even more than I am now.  He lectured about how correcting the problems I had in my lower back would not fix the pain I’m experiencing because the pain I’m experiencing is in my lower back.  This caught me off guard, but he explained that fixing the lower back helps leg pain, not lower back pain.  I still don’t completely understand, but I’m not an orthopedic surgeon, so I guess I have to trust him.

I then said to him, “So you are confirming that I’m feeling pain.  I already know that.  Is their nothing you can do for me?”  He told me the odds of surgery fixing my problem were too small to risk causing more problems and just distributing the pain to another location.  I understood this.  I was just frustrated.  I told him about the pain medication I was on and explained that I didn’t want to have to take it for the rest of my life.  I had already asked the pain specialist about other things I could do, and I’ve already tried those other things.  Exercises, Chiropractic, physical therapy, massage.  About the only thing I haven’t tried is Accupuncture.  The pain specialist said none of this would help me.  Not with everything that is broken in my back.

The thing is though, this surgeon was just one man.  He gave me the phone number for another surgeon who works in my area, and also at John’s Hopkins hospital.  I’ve already contacted John’s Hopkins on my own and I’m waiting to hear back from them.  I’m not giving up on this until I’ve exhausted all possibilities. 

Today, disappointing news is not devastating news because today I am a much more balanced person emotionally than I used to be.  I am deformed, but I’m not a freak, and in fact I’m a pretty darn good looking guy.  My deformity is hardly noticable until you’ve been staring at me for a long time, and some people have told me they don’t notice it at all.  I’m just a person in pain.  Long term treatment with pain medication is not an option for me, and I’m not going to accept that as the solution.  I hate having to take it!  I hate the stigma associated with it!  I hate the side effects of it, and if you are wondering what I’m talking about, I hate having to take a ton of extra fiber supplements so that I can poop!  I hope that didn’t gross anyone out, but really I don’t care.

The ending to this chapter of the story goes like this.  This is not over until I say it’s over.  I don’t see any fat women around, just one slighly chubby man, so I’m going to keep trudging forward.

Pain

Pain comes in many different forms.  At the root level though (no pun intended for those in the medical field), pain is either emotional or physical.  Sometimes one creates, and then perpetuates the other.  For example, sometimes physical pain prevents us from being able to sleep, which in turn not only hurts our bodies further, causing everything from obesity, to problems with our immune systems, but the lack of sleep also interferes with our judgment and reason skills, causing us sometimes to be short tempered, depressed, or anxious.

On the other hand, emotional pain causes stress, or anxiety, or depression, which can take a toll physically on our body.  Causing insomnia, heart problems, digestive problems, cancer.

Sometimes, when dealing with chronic pain, people who are not doctors, or therapists like to think that they are.  To the pain problem they would say, “I take Aleve, and that takes care of all of my pain.  I do acupuncture.  I exercise.  I lost 40 lbs and my pain went away.  I go to a physical therapist.  I go to a chiropractor.  I get a massage every week.”

The advice for the emotional pain may be, everything from, “I use St John’s Wart.” to “Just let it go.  Get over it.  Why are you holding on to this?”

The only fault I can find in this type of advice is that what worked for them may not work for you or for me, and maybe the advice should instead be, I’d see a doctor about that.  It seems to me that the family physician I have today is perfectly capable of assessing my situation and determining whether or not he can help me.  If he can’t help me he will refer me to a specialst, like a chiropractor, or an acupuncturist, or a physical therapist, or a massage therapist, or a personal trainer or a dietician.  In my case though, it was a pain specialst.

The people in our lives offering advice are probably just trying to help though, so don’t be too upset with them.  In my case though, I’m glad I went to the doctor, and I’m glad he referred me to a pain specialist.  For the past 1 1/2 years I’ve had moderate success with my physical pain.  But let’s go back through my history for a moment so that I can illustrate the events leading up to today.  Not so much so you can understand me better, or sympathize with me, but so that maybe you can relate.  Maybe there are others out there who will read this and feel comforted that there is someone out there who knows what they are going through and struggling with, and maybe can relate.  If you are one of those people I’d love to hear your story.

I was born with a rare congenital deformity of my right shoulder.  My parents searched far and wide for a solution, to hear everything from, “It’s just a broken collar bone and will heal on it’s own.” to “There’s nothing we can do.  He’s just going to be deformed, have little use of his right arm.”

But then they found a doctor only 30 miles away at John’s Hopkins hospital in Baltimore, MD.  He knew exactly what the condition was, and was confident he could help.  So at 22 months old I was under the knife for the first time in my short life.

The surgery was as successful as one would have hoped, but I was not out of the woods yet.  Although I looked more normal, and had more motion in my right arm than I would have, I still had a great deal of challenges to face.

I grew up with horrible asthma, most likely unrelated, but still it took a deep emotional toll having to be rushed to the hospital for epinephrine shots, and constantly being on medication.  At 12 years old I was diagnosed with scoliosis, and cifosis.  I was supposed to wear a full body brace 22 hours a day.  Although I wore it to sleep, and when I was at home, I refused to wear it outside of the house and my parents didn’t force me.  Because of this I probably deal with a lot more physical pain than I would have if I had followed directions.  Plus, my body would look more normal.  Not that it’s bad, but it is different.

When kids were old enough to know how to be cruel, they were.  I was made fun of, called “No Neck”, bullied by many.  I started taking Marshall arts, and when I started to fight back, the bullying stopped, at least at the physical level.

At 13 I had to have surgery for a hiatal hernia along with acid reflux.  This was likely related to the deformity.  Over a week in the hospital, and weeks away from school.  You have to remember this was 1980.  More physical and emotional pain, although it was meant to relieve other chronic pain, which it did, for about 7 years.  Now I have a big scar, and I take prescription strength Prilosec chronically.

At 25 I was the passenger in a car which hit a tree.  The seat belt grabbed me so hard that my sternum snapped in two.  I’d never felt such pain, and I never would again, until I was at the pain doctor’s office the other day and he was injecting me with a steroid to try to get the swelling down in my lower back.  More about that later.  I was taken to the hospital by ambulance, admitted of course, and I spent several days there.  Even with the pain medication they were giving me, it hurt to move, and it hurt not to move.  Even breathing hurt.  Staying in one position for too long hurt.  Changing positions hurt.  There was no way to get rid of that pain for the first few days, except for sleep which came rarely.  Even then, I’d dream about it.

Around the end of the ’90s through the early half of the 2000s,  I started experiencing severe abdominal pain, particularly in the lower left.  The diagnosis this time was diverticulosis.  Flare ups of diverticulitis, meant trips to the doctor’s office and antibiotics.  The pain would go away for a time, but would return eventually.   The flare ups became more and more frequent, to the point where the last one was nearly deadly.  The infection had caused a perforation in my large intestine, and it was in my blood stream.  I was at a wedding in Cleveland when it got really bad.  I was up all night with intense pain, a mid grade fever, and vomitting.  When my Dad was ready to take me to the airport, I told him to take me to the hospital instead.  Good decision.  They did a CAT scan and immediately admitted me.  I spent 4 days in the hospital in Cleveland, over 500 miles from home, on a high dose of antibiotics, while they told me that if they couldn’t get the infection under control I would wind up with a colostomy bag, and I’d have to have a second surgery to put my broken lower digestive tract back together.  Luckily they did get it under control, and I went home, scheduled the surgery, and although this was yet another physical and emotional toll, that problem was fixed.

I had to give up a trip to Kenya because of this last incident.  It was paid in full.  This would have been my first major trip in years.  Instead, I had to spend months contacting the airlines, and hotels, and excursion managers to try to convince them to give me at least some of my money back, which of course caused further stress.  Ultimately I got a full refund from the airlines, but not much else.  This was about a third of the total amount I had already spent for the trip.  But that was Ok.  You wouldn’t believe the amount of help I received from family and friends.  The love they showed, not through words, but through actions, made it so much easier to accept the situation as it was, rather than to complain about what it could have been.

All this time, I was still dealing with skeletal pain.  This was not creating the emotional pain I was feeling, but it was certainly contributing to it.  Still, I had almost accepted it as just something that would be a part of my life.  It was always something there in the background which was just the result of getting older.  After all, I had tried the chiropractor,  the physical therapist, the exercise,  losing weight, the massage, and even the NSAIDs, and occasionally the narcotics, but ultimately these things either didn’t help at all, or helped so little that it wasn’t worth the effort.

All this time I was still dealing with emotional pain.  Perhaps a lot of this was my inability to shake the habits, and reactions to the world that I learned as a child.  Even though my actions are my responsibility,  sometimes my reactions are more than what is called for, and then the actions that come from those overractions, are far too swift and far too judgemental than what is appropriate.  I have dealt with the result of these overractions to the world in many different ways in the past, mostly in ways that cause further self-destruction.  Lately though, I try to deal with them by seeing a therapist, and by being with people who like me, are trying to overcome a lifetime of adversity.

When I was 23, my mother died.  My relationship with here at the time was rocky at best.  Then again, my mother’s relationship wth everyone towards the end was rocky.  She had pushed everyone out of her life.  She was on unusually high doses of pain medications,  muscle relaxants,  mood stabilizers, and anxiety reducers. She was depressed and angry all the time.  Sometimes her behavior was quite frankly, psychotic.  She had quite a rough childhood, and although this was not an excuse for the way she viewed and reacted to the world, when I look back, and relate her life experiences to my own, I can understand why she had become the person that she was, and how I could use her as an example of where I could go should I not make the right choices.  At the age of 48, she just didn’t wake up one morning.   The coroner said she had not taken any of her medications at a dose that was more than prescribed,  but that the dosages she was taking, and the combinations of medications she was taking most likely caused her heart to fail.  There is another factor which the coroners never take into account, which is that the drugs of sadness and loneliness, or more specifically the chemical reactions they cause and the damage they physically cause to our bodies, were also a contributing factor.

My mother’s death was hard to take, and I still cry about it every time I think about it because the last time we spoke we were having an argument about why I didn’t tell her I was back from vacation.   My last words to her were, “I’m afraid to talk to you!”.  I had stopped talking to her many times in that last year, sometimes for months.  Too much pain to talk to her, and so much pain not to.  But I was not alone.  There weren’t a lot of people left in my mother’s life who were able to tolerate her.  Today though, I have forgiven her, and I even thank her.  My experience with her has taught me much about myself, and especially about how I react to the world.  Most importantly,  she has shown me an extreme of where I could go if I don’t stay in touch with people with whom I have a healthy relationship, and do whatever is within my power to keep that relationship healthy.

So what is this leading up to?  As I have been somewhat successfully dealing with the emotional pain I have been through in life, I must also deal with the physical pain with just as much enthusiasm.   The people in my life, who can help me with physical pain are doctors.  The pain doctor has tried multiple different methods to help me with the pain in my lower back.  That’s right.  The deformity is in my right shoulder, but a lifetime of compensation has caused the joints in my spine on the lower left side to weaken, form arthritis,  pinch nerves, and cause me so much pain that I can’t sleep.  Sorry helpful advice givers, warm milk is not going to help here.

The doctor has tried a variety of methods, not just for this area of my back, but for other areas which are difficult for me.  Some have succeeded and the pain is gone.  Yet, some like this lower back pain have failed.  The doctor ordered an MRI.  I’ve had them for other parts of my back, but not here.  Unfortunately the results did not look promising.   The doctor read the report, and showed, me the pretty pictures, and showed me just how much of the pictures that weren’t so pretty.  He told me that he could give an epidural injection which would be directed at the main nerve which was causing the problem in the back.  He wasn’t sure how effective it would be, or how long it would last, and reminded me, that it was only treating one of my issues, and only the symptoms caused by that issue.  He then asked me if I had spoken to a surgeon.  Folks, when you are going to a pain doctor who’s motto is “Non-surgical solutions for pain”, and he is asking you if you have spoken to a surgeon, it’s time to make a difficult decision.

I asked him if there were exercises or physical therapy or any other less invasive methods.  His answer was, as he was shaking his head, I’m not going to tell you not to exercise.  I agreed to have the shot, and I couldn’t walk after he was finished.  The broken sternum was a long time ago,  but I can’t remember feeling the amount of pain I was feeling when that needle went in, for that extended a period of time, ever. It was only a minute.  60 seconds.  Holy shit!  But maybe it would be successful.  Maybe I could avoid surgery.  Maybe it was worth it.

Afterwards, the doctor and I were talking and I said, “Maybe I will just have to accept the fact that I’m going to have some amount of physical pain for the rest of my life.”  His answer was, “From what I saw in the MRI, not as much as you have been experiencing lately.  What you need to accept is that you are going to have to make a choice between chronic pain medication or surgery.”

I contemplated this for less than half a second.  Pain medication treats the symptom.  Ultimately you have to take more and more of it to have the same effect.  Finally, even on dangerously high doses, it no longer works, and then you are back to the choice of surgery if you don’t die first.  At that point though, you may want to die.  You may have pushed everyone in your life away because you have become dependant on the pain medication,  and that changes you.  You become self-righteous, self-absorbed, and self-serving.  Your thoughts become focused on your next dose, and everything else in your life backs off, fades away, and becomes unimportant and unecessary.  Your body suffers, your loved ones suffer, your mind suffers, and both your body and mind begin to die.  If it sounds like I’m speaking from experience, it’s because I am.  I’m not just talking about my mother either.  Thank God that this is not my life today.

This next part I have not experienced, but what do people in this situation do when they finally do have surgery?  I would expect they suffer.   If they have built up a high tolerance to pain medication, then how much will they need to handle post surgical pain?

I made the decision to wait.  If the injection didn’t work, I would get a second opinion,  and if the second doctor agreed, I would begin looking for a surgeon.  Unfortunately, although the injection worked for a couple of days, the pain is back today with a vengeance.   I will give it a couple more days, and then call the doctor back.  Did anyone see the puns in those last two sentences?

There are things from my past that I must let go of, but I can’t erase the memories.  I can only accept them, and hopefully learn from them, perhaps discovering that forgiveness is the best way to let go of the pain those memories cause me.

There are things in my life that I must accept, but sometimes I need the help of others to figure out what I need to accept, and what I can change.

Sometimes I have to listen to my friends and loved ones, and to experts, and combine that with my own experience to make the best decision possible for myself.

Then, once the decision is made, even if there are still doubts, I must take a leap of faith and let God handle it from there.  But I must not hesitate.  A decision to do something is not actually doing anything.

This past 3 years, I’ve decided I wanted to take some of those major trips I was discussing earlier.  It took me a while to build the courage back up to make such a financial commitment after what happened with Kenya.  In 2012 I went to Italy.  In 2013 I went on a tall ship cruise from Italy to Montenegro, to Croatia, to Slovenia, and back to Italy.

This year I decided I wanted to do something different, and at the end of October, I am going to Kenya.  I am only going though, if I take this leap of faith, and I do so in enough time to allow myself to heal.  So the time is now.

For now I have chosen to not accept the pain, and to make a decision that has the most likely chance of long term success.  If I was not living such a wonderful life today, with such wonderful people in it, I might have made a different decision.  Thank you to everyone who has been in my life, and who currently is for helping me to see clearly, and today get through painful times, whether they be emotional or physical.   I hope I can be there for you some day too.