Thursday, September 15, 2011

'Painful Reminders'

* You'll have to forgive my self-indulgence at this time as I'm writing about what I'm going through, but I think they are valid issues to write about, and I would welcome your opinion. I've actually been finding different forums online, to talk me through some of this stuff, and would welcome what you know about the main issue I'm writing about today, which is ultimately, PAIN.

Today, I had cramps in my back that felt like they were ripping out my spinal column, and then down through my right hip and into my foot. At one point, I got so anxious and wracked with pain, all I could do was walk around in the back yard like a crazy man. I had to do some breathing just to calm myself down. Stretching helped. I thought, "How am I going to get through the rest of the day? How am I even going to function?"

It was a good thing that Chuck came over and talked me through it. It felt so good to just talk about everything. It felt good to analyze and figure out the evolution of getting myself into this crazy painful place. The funny thing is I'm directing Chuck's play, (which I'm very excited about) but the great thing is he never loses confidence in my ability to launch this project of his, 'The Man in the Black Pajamas'. I just finished reading the draft we are going into auditions with, and I think its pretty brilliant. The other interesting thing about the play is the main character is locked in a room having similar feelings that I'm having. So very interesting that I would have this particular project before me, this man in the black pajamas, whose locked in a room being interrogated for causing the destruction of the world. Anyone else have that nagging feeling that you've just destroyed the world?

I always get excited about a new play, always have, and perhaps this is just the play necessary for me at this particular moment in time. It's daring, dark, and poignant, and I have every confidence in my ability and experience to execute the whole project. Even though I feel very physically drained and with this nagging anxiety and pain, It feels good to look upon the future at some substantial work. It will be great to get into a room with some actors again and push around the yin and the yang. Doing a new play is always different than doing one that already has a history, because it changes and rearranges right before your eyes. A new play is always a daring prospect, and because it hasn't ever been done, its often a wild risk. After awhile, you do get a handle on how to minimize the risk it asks of you, the first is asking yourself through experience if it is a well written play, and this one is, and that's a beautiful thing. There is no question in my mind that a good play is a piece of art, and so the adventure is before me.

It felt so good to talk to another writer and fellow chronic pain recipient about what I've been experiencing, and to get the feedback and some other things I could do to minimize the anxiety, pain, and the fear. We went and got some B vitamin complex, and a few other things that I needed. He also brought me a very fine belt, so at last, I have a belt. I suppose he might have felt he needed a director with a belt, and he's probably right, even though I've lost probably ten or so pounds since the fire. It's a great thing to have someone show that kind of confidence, I've been feeling like there are not many who have any confidence at all in me, (even though I know much of that is self imposed), losing everything makes you feel pretty lost, and losing it the way that I did. I'm sure there are many things I'm just about to learn, and I can at least intellectually understand that, even if I can't feel it. When I was talking about not being able to pull into my being the presence or the feeling of a creator in my last entry, I was struck by the fact that I haven't been able to process or hold in even good news or positive affirmation, which is so unlike what I usually am, able to hold much positive spirit and good fortune and appreciate it, and extend it. However, it is interesting that I'm feeling this pain in my body so intensely right now, unrelenting, and perhaps this is the reason I can't hold onto anything coming into the spiritual side of things.

After Chuck left, I wandered again in the back yard like a deranged crazy man, and then finally jumped in the swimming pool. This helped a lot. Oh, I almost forgot, exercise! Swimming around I remembered how in tune I used to be to my body, and how it connected to the rest of me. It's this intense pain that is actually reminding me of that. Perhaps when you decide that you are going to erase the pain with a substance, you begin to speed up the process of the body towards death, because you are able to deny your body is even there. I started to notice that this past year, that I didn't really even know this body anymore, I just wanted to deaden the pain I was feeling in it. The separation of the spirit from the body is a weird and dangerous thing because in order to stay alive they have to somehow connect to each other. Wow, is there ever a price to pay for trying to deny your body!

It also caused me to think about being in Los Angeles doing Bohemian Cowboy. I was able to maintain a perfect record of sobriety, no substance but aspirin to control pain, but each night after rehearsal or performance, I would feel it intensely in my body. There is not a question that the operation I had several years ago caused a definite decline in ability to function as I used to, with some very definite nerve damage that was never there before. I remember laying on my bed and feeling the pain so intensely it would take me along time to get my mind in a place where I could fall asleep, and that would only be for a couple of hours or so, and then I would go through the process all over again. I've definitely tried to look at pain differently before, but its vigilant work to find ways of dealing with it without the use of a substance to help deaden it. Part of the work before me is to re-think all of it. How can I get by this pain in my body? How can I heal my body to a degree that I can stand it? How can I do it in another way? I do know several of the ways, and several of them involve stretching and exercise. Of course, Its easy for me to go way overboard with exercise, like any addict, as if I can change it all in several days on an exercise binge. Now, that's not completely true, as most of my life I've kept a pretty fit regiment. The irony for me is that the vigilance of exercise must increase with age and yet once I found a way to deaden the pain it seemed a little easier to just deaden it, and let the exercise go. I know now that there is a definite downside to that kind of thinking, because in time, except for exercise, everything else stops working. I've heard these words so many times before. How many meetings I've been to and listened to another drunk or addict say that "When it worked, it worked SO well, and then it stopped working right up until death." This is so very true. But I also know that pain is very definitely human, and that most of us do experience it to some degree. As I've just said, pain is almost like a thermometer, a reminder that we are indeed, human. The fact is, I've been very hard on my body. When I was young, I pushed it always with a full intensity. I remember going to the doctor after a second neck sprain from doing the most insane gymnastics tricks trying to keep up with the ASU diving team off a three-meter diving board, and the doctor saying, "If you do this again, it will cause you lots of misery later in your life." I remember him saying that and thinking, "What? That's crazy!" When you are young and athletic these things seem strange to hear because your body has such recuperative powers. And then, ever so slowly…slowly, the pain starts creeping into your body like a thief. I'm always amazed at people who seemingly feel no pain at all.

I've also had time to think (this time) how the combination of so many factors are in play here. The years of gymnastics, quite a few bull rides, some car accidents, several fights, and tumbles down flights of stairs, the operation on my hip, and always, always trying to do the thing that no one else was physically doing. I remember learning double backs on a tumbling mat before spring floors at Glendale College, and crashing myself into the mat over and over again. I can't tell whether this was part of a self-destructive pattern or if I was just fearless when it came to this kind of physical activity. But as I think back, there were scores of injuries I sustained over the years, and so many of them I ignored even when I knew I had caused some real damage. I think my body healed is some way, but I think the damage is still there. Anyway, most of this is just analytical rhetoric, trying to figure out answers to my dilemma without the use of drugs or alcohol to kill pain. So, I suppose I'll have to embrace my pain, because I think for me its always going to be there. Writing helps a lot, I find when I write I can separate myself from the pain, and I also know after a good writing session, I'm always going to sleep better. I guess that's it. Is it necessary to post this? I don't know, but I will because maybe I can get some help or opinion from you.

*Note to self: Have to look for some new ways to manage my pain. Any ideas?

*There is one more important note to add here. I've been on and off pain killers for several years after my operation, and know doctors who will perscribe to me liberally and powerfully just by looking at ex-rays of different parts of my body. But for me, painkillers are not working anymore, and also are a gateway to alcohol abuse. It's been a descent into madness, trying to juggle it all. I'm the perfect candidate for this kind of abuse. That's the honest truth of it. I don't disparage my doctor, as he was truly trying to help me, but I can never just take one to deaden pain. If one will work, two will work better, and for along time, two did work better. I am now completely off all the medication, and am embarking on a life dealing with pain in another way.


Gerry said...

I wrote quite a long comment about the remarkable way I saw Pierre react to what must surely be the most severe pain on earth, cancer pain in the bone. He said it felt like his hip was literally being torn apart, which turned out to be lung cancer metastasized which he medicated up until a month before he died with 8 darvocet a day so as not to run out and be denied more, if he did run out he used advil. The cancer spread to his rib cage and clavicle before he finally went to the doctor and was diagnosed, but his struggle with pain was remarkable as he was tired of back surgeries and was determined he wasn't going to have a 4th one, which is why he wouldn't go to the doctor for so long.
I never saw a man die after that with more fortitude. Never complained no matter how much pain he was in about his fate. But he was a heavy smoker and drank periodically throughout that year, which was thought to have caused his cancer of course at the age of 64.
But I saw him struggle mightily against the whole idea of pain, more surgeries, increased pain medication.
I have never seen anyone use talk and writing therapy more effectively than you have, and I know it is going to be an ongoing struggle until death for you to triumph over the list of injuries to your body, I have heard of unusual and brave souls who have struggled with it, to find a way to use mind over matter, mind over pain. I think the struggle is extremely worth it because we have become such a nation of addicted to pain killers. This is what Pierre was fighting. (cont.)

Gerry said...

Pierre had fought the most severe cancer pain up until a month before it killed him, so he battled mightily against more surgeries, and higher pain meds. He did not want them. But you have fought the other addictions stronger than he did as smoking and drinking and I think you have discovered more the power of talking and writing therapy as he had not. Which is what I always used to deal with my ailment (CF) because pain medication was an absolute no no, I had to be able to tell how weak I might be getting so I could manage it. I could not afford to numb myself, so I have never taken pain meds, I just tried to keep from ever injuring myself. Four child births were the most severe pain I ever experienced and a Caesarian the most dangerous because it caused the numbness to set in and nearly stopped my heart after I was alone in recovery. Activity around me snapped my heart back into rhythm so I learned to call for help to keep my body going when it had been weakened by something so dangerous as surgery. I regarded doctors prone to surgery as extremely dangerous for me. Surgery could kill me. Right now at my age I have a big challenge to get back my walking ability which I always had to do after a severe bout of CF when I could not walk, then you have to build yourself back up again or you could suffer injury of some sort, if you aren't strong. My recent neck problem stopped my walking. So I must get back in shape. I have done that again and again after a CF bout of inactivity. So I realize that building up the body is so necessary, talking and writing therapy, and I suggest also medication, talking to God, try that also, which might seem crazy, but I do it every day to strength my mind and connect to spirit.

Gerry said...

Instead of medication I meant to say meditation! Mom

kanyonland King said...

Tom knows pain. He said the pain in his leg was like putting his leg in a fire and watching it burn.
Before his leg was removed, he was in pain so intense that he would break out in a sweat, his face would be yellow-white. That intense pain went with his leg...although now all the other pain seems to be speaking out..back, leg spasms, it's their turn now.
He plans to have his back pain killed by radio waves like was done just before his leg was removed. He wants to get off meds, but he pays the price too.
So what can I tell you? Actually not much. I had some intense pancreatic pain for a little while before surgery and went off pain killers shortly after I lost pancreas and spleen. I am without pain now, but I have had thrusts of real pain. I feel lucky to be free of it, and I appreciate your struggle and wonder how you can deal with it every day since it doesn't seem to diminish. I don't have advice. I will hold up your spirit any way possible.

Bohemian Cowboy said...

I think a lot of my pain currently has to do with getting off the pain medication itself. Even though I tapered my dose, I think there was plenty of residual medication in my body. I did lots of research on it, and what I'm experiencing is very normal. This was the reason I also used alcohol, when I had a bout with drink it was always in attempts to 'get off' the medication. The psychosis that goes with any kind of opiate withdraw is extremely intense. Letting the medication go is an especially vulnerable time for me. The physical, mental, and emotional pain of withdrawal is excruciating, which is why its always better to go into a hospital to withdraw from pain medication. They can give you things to lessen the anxiety, and watch for suicidal tendencies, which are always there because of the extreme hopelessness you feel. For me, from previous experience, I've learned that the separate parts of all of it will eventually subside. That's why I chose to do this here, now, where I had a few days to just be by myself and reach out when I needed to. It's the same with any addiction, food, smoking, all of it, however, opiate and alcohol addiction withdrawal is especially tough. Alcohol withdrawal is especially physically dangerous. Opiate withdrawal is not as physically dangerous, but mentally it is. It's a suicide ride, unless you are prepared to just get mentally tough and tell yourself it will be over. And that is usually five to ten days. So, for five to ten days, your mind is telling you your life is over and you will never be the same. I have no recourse but to be honest, and to reach out. Three and a half years ago, I went through this same thing in Boulder, getting off the suboxen they put me on, which although I didn't know it at the time, is an even more powerful opiate than what doctors gave me before. There is no simple way to do it--you just taper off as much as you can and then there has to be a breaking point. I don't think I'll be in pain like I was yesterday, (and a bit today) always, its just the pain of letting go of the medication. At this point, I'm careful in my thinking, but don't fear any kind of alcohol bender, because I'm dealing with the anxiety in a much different way. I'm embracing it, instead of fearing it, which helps a lot. The quote from Hubert Selby Jr. that I posted on my FB page helped lots. I just try to find where I can identify, (with other sufferers) and tell myself as he did, "It will be better tomorrow..." My frustration with the alcohol for the several times I've relapsed has always been in relationship to withdrawal. I haven't for years just said, "I'm just gonna party and have a good time!" It was trying to 'do' the chemistry, mixing one to counteract another and so on. But the truth is, that doesn't work, it only exacerbates all of it, and fires start. So for that day, or this day, I just have to embrace it and 'deal'. We are rapidly becoming an addictive society, and the drug companies are doing exactly as the tobacco companies used to do years ago before they stopped the television advertising. I just read a magazine ad that had a forlorn woman on the page saying, "My anti-depressants were working, but I needed a little something more." That's the message, we all need a little something more. I still have a long way to go through this, but through the years of being on and off of medication, getting off of medication, hating myself, etc. I feel like I'm a lot more informed to handle the issues... I really feel hopeful today that I have a shot at finally understanding and getting completely off all of it. thanks for all the comments, they've really been helpful.

Bohemian Cowboy said...

I wanted to ad that I used to be really ambivalent about pain medication to treat pain. For years I suffered with alcohol, and eventually spent many years sober. The pain medication to treat my pain was a roll of the dice. Going in, I knew in my mind that this was working, but it would eventually create problems. I'm not against treating all chronic pain with medication, but if you and your doctor decide you are going to use an opiate medication to treat it, you are going to get addicted. Some addiction I think for people is more pronounced, as it was with mine, but most of the characteristics of addiction are the same. And no matter who you are, the body will always build up a resistance to which you will usually need more to have it work, and therin lies the biggest problem.

I also wanted to ad that just this morning, even though I've been seven days off of any kind of medication, I'm still experiencing lots of pain, but, I did have some real clarity in my thinking, as though I was saying, "Oh, now I remember how it was to be clear in my thoughts--the medication tells you you are fine, but really, its very definitely an altered dimension...