There are two types of posts I make to this blog. The first type is a spontaneous post and usually involves a piece of art. The second type is in essay form, usually 600-1200 words and has been drafted, proof-read edited offline so it comes out exactly right. This post is going to be a mix of both.
While this is not a political blog, and I am not an overly political person I started out with a rant about prescription pain medication. Granted, there is a problem with abuse and diversion in the country but in humanity’s usual mode of over-reaction a lot of deserving people are being not just hurt but permanently damaged.
I was that rarest of anomalies, a drug-free college student in the early 1970s. I didn’t start out with any hard and fast opinions either way, but I made a promise to my girlfriend that I would not indulge, and I kept that promise even though it brought enormous pressure from the other residents of my dorm to include threats of violence. When they finally figured out that (A) I wasn’t a narc and (B) I wasn’t going to cave their attitudes changed and I became the token “straight.” As my good friend The Badger said to me “Deitrick I guess you have character,” and from then on anyone from outside Lathrop Hall risked damage to life and limb if they pushed the drug issue with me.
It’s been that way all my life. I had extremely high security clearances and was selected to control large amounts of money and extremely valuable items of equipment because I have proven myself to be scrupulously honest. When I returned an extra $20 a clerk gave me with change after a purchase she was amazed that I did so, saying, “No one would have ever known” to which I answered, “But I would have”
So, where is this going? Please bear with me.
At the same time that I have been going through life as the living embodiment of Richie Cunningham from Happy Days, I have also been going through sheer physical hell. As the result of a now overwhelmingly disproven SIDS prevention measure known as Thymus Irradiation I was deprived of a healthy immune system. Because of that I have multiple auto-immune problems: advanced rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and multiple skin rashes which are often severe enough to bleed through.
…and did I mention the pain? I don’t have a thesaurus big enough or accurate enough for me to find words to accurately describe the exquisite torture I go through just to get up in the morning. You know that little graph they use to help verbalize pain, the one with the little faces on the number scale? At any given moment I have at least five areas bouncing up at about #7–and there are days when I could tape an extension to the end of that little scale and draw in three additional expressive faces showing pain at level 11 (vomiting) 12 (voiding bowels) and 13 (giving the world the “one finger wave”). I have knuckles that look like walnuts and major joints which possess 20% of the range of motion I had ten years ago. Because of the various non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs prescribed to me I’ve gone through pancreatitis twice (usually a one-way trip the first time around). I have gone all the way to “the edge” because of uncontrolled severe pain. The only way I can live anything close to a normal life is by using pain-killers.
OOOOOOHHHH. AHHHHHH. See–already you’re sucking your breath in and looking back over the previous half-dozen paragraphs to see if I ever car-jacked someone or dried a baby off in a microwave. If you use pain medication you are automatically judged as a criminal/addict. Never mind that all these “conditions” are due to massive stupidity on the part of doctors that are all dead now–I am flawed because I need this kind of help. What is bitterly ironic about all of this is the fact that pain-killers don’t really “kill pain.” The pain is still there, but you’re able to ignore it to an extent.
Long term chronic pain acts almost like a disease in and of itself. As your body copes with the overload on your nervous system it changes and adapts–and not in a good way. To take the pressure off of one joint I have to kind of twist in an otherwise unaffected area-–but which now causes more pain because it has been forced into an alignment it wasn’t made for. The longer the pain goes on, the faster and more intense it becomes as well. One doctor explained to me this simplistic but effective manner: it’s like the pain messages have worn a groove they can zip down.
At one time I longed for a device that would allow someone to experience my life for just thirty seconds–a small hand-held device with a push-button on it–but in the end was glad it didn’t exist. I’d be leaving a trail of people collapsed on the floor, covered with vomit with their bladders and bowels voided.
…and contrary to what thoughtless people have said to me, this isn’t a moderate condition that I am “using.” As you would expect with growing up in Alaska and life as a soldier, I have experienced other periods of severe pain before all of this set in. At age 10 I walked on three broken bones in my foot for a week before getting a cast. I had my left thumb slashed/dislocated in an industrial accident and I took care of it with aspirin and a butterfly closure. Passed gallstones twelve times before the operation with only ibuprofin to ease the pain. I know what pain is and what I go through daily equals those brief incidents.
Fortunately there are exceptions in the human race, people with unfeigned compassion. I have two attending doctors now that both deserve sainthood for what they have done for me but in many ways their hands are tied by government rules and regulations that are just not thought out very well by people who know nothing of the science involved to begin with, much less the misery their actions have inflicted.
I make it through each day only because I have a great support system, with my beautiful Saxon princess at the top of the list. As I mentioned there are my two doctors and their staff who regularly save my life through their care and compassion… and there are the members of The Club.
The Club. I am certainly not the only person in this situation and I refer to those friends of mine in similar straits as members of The Club. I can readily pick those individuals out of a crowd–there is particular combination of a dark exhausted look around the eyes, a careful way of walking and an absence of judgment that comes only from countless sleepless nights, regular spasms and chronic joint pain… and the fear that comes with it. It is something that can only be experienced to be understood and it gives you a compassion that nothing else will.
At the outset of this post I said I didn’t know where I was going or what I wanted to accomplish, and I still don’t have a totally cohesive thesis statement to tack onto the introduction. Just do me a favor please. If you know someone in pain-hell, or in your daily activities encounter someone with a cane, moving in an oddly stiff manner or maybe wincing while moving around at a desk or handling objects, please be kind. No matter the kind of life they’ve lived, they’re going straight to heaven because they’ve already lived in hell.