Archives for category: medical marijuana

…I just hurt, is all. Like… predicting a hard early winter levels of arthritis pain, here. Pain sufficiently severe to present a chronic distraction, to drive volatile moods, to aggravate me to the point of anger-driven anhedonia… the cluster-headache-pain of spinal pain. I hurt, and I’m fussy, and I’m irritable, and I’m… not at my best. The problem with the pain is less about the pain than the sabotage. No kidding; pain shrinks my world and limits my focus. Worse still…?

…You can’t see it. Some of us are pretty stoic about pain, most of the time. You’ve no idea what you’re up against when you interact with someone with invisible injuries like chronic pain. Was I terse with you? Yeah, well, I couldn’t stand up without my cane this morning, and every step hurts – except the ones that don’t require my spine. Breathing hurts. Moving hurts. Not moving hurts (actually more so than moving, over time anyway).

“Take something for it. Duh.” Uh-huh. I like that idea. So, after I finish ruling out the OTC stuff that may be problematic for some other health conditions and the Rx  non-opiate pain relievers I can’t have because of some contraindication or another against those, that leaves, generally, just opiates and cannabis. I’d rather not deal with the political and medical minefield of opiates, but if I could be without pain… then? Rarely. I dislike the sexual side effects, and yes, I said it; I’d rather endure my pain and still be able to enjoy sex than be 100% pain-free but not able to enjoy sex. So. Get over that with me, I’m human, and I’ve got a lifetime of experience with my priorities – the pain management options available to most of us are fairly shitty in one way or another. It’s a thing that some of us are entirely too aware of. Cannabis? Yep. Definitely. As much as I can, and it is my “go-to remedy”, but let’s be frank with each other; it’s not a perfect fix, and it is not appropriate for all circumstances (or all pain).

This is not a quantity of pain that is easily medicated away. Pain is a signal from our body about our health or circumstances. It shouts loud because it is supposed to. Drowning it out is a major task; our body would much rather we fixed whatever is actually wrong. It’s complicated, and it’s imperfect, and there are so few days in the year that I’m entirely pain-free that they become cause for real celebration. I hurt so much of the time, and have for so long (since around 1990), that I’m seriously bored of bitching about it. (Can’t people who actually know me somehow just also know that I hurt…? Like… mostly always? lol)

I plan my life as if there is no pain. I don’t know how else to do it, really. I still want to live my life. I still just fucking hurt. Sometimes I hurt too much to hike. Sometimes I hurt too much to party. Sometimes I hurt too much to do housekeeping or even to get dressed. This weekend, I filled my calendar with cool stuff I was seriously looking forward to doing, and people I am eager to see. By the time the weekend actually came, and with it the welcome rain and the autumn weather I enjoy so well, my pain had come back, too. This weekend ended up being less about going and doing, and more about connecting (with my partner) and chilling (at home). It was lovely. So worth it, in spite of my pain.

Fuck pain.

Autumn and winter are worst. Then Spring. I get some relief in the summertime heat. Most years I even get to put away my cane. It’s been in my car, unused most of the time, since May. Four and a half months almost pain-free this year… less than the year before, which was less than the year before that. I find myself wistfully remembering years ago, when it seemed like I only hurt like this in the coldest months…

I got into the elevator at the end of my day and ignored the tears that just started spilling down. I got into my terrifically hot car with a real “aaaaaaahhhhh” moment of relief; however brief, totally worth it. “Pain management”. lol It’s more like “endurance” if you’ve got chronic pain. It is an endurance test filled with well-meaning suggestions, well-wishes, and an utter inability to communicate what this experience is like to people who don’t have it; we all feel our own pain, and can’t feel someone else’s. I’ve had some amusing experiences with people whose most serious pain in life has been a hangnail, stubbed toe, or bump in the night, who don’t understand chronic, relentless, serious pain, and how it wears away at one’s enthusiasm, and will. “I hope you feel better soon! Have you tried…” Uh-huh. Yep. That too. Yeah, and that. No, it didn’t “work”… What to say when someone who really cares tries so hard to offer support and comfort? A weary chuckle and a reminder that “chronic” pain is… um… not going go away, really, probably ever. That’s when I gave up the Rx pain relievers; between the fucking hassles getting them, and the constant nagging about their use, the side effects, and the fact that this shit is fucking forever…? Nope. I actually still work for a living. I have shit to do. People are counting on me. I’m counting on me.

I’m so not saying I hurt more than you do! I’m not saying my pain is worse than… anything. I’m just saying, frankly, in clear explicit terms that chronic pain is a thing I do deal with. Daily. You, too? I’m sorry to hear that. “Have you tried…” (jk jk lol)

What I am saying is that it is not possible to sufficiently well-medicated to truly stop hurting, only to get medicated enough that I care even less about the pain in the background, for a while. Shit. That sounds bleak. Don’t be sad. Sometimes it helps a lot. Sometimes it helps enough. Right now, today, nothing helps; it is the beginning of autumn, and I go through this every year… and…

I’m glad. I mean… it’s a fair trade. It could be worse. I’m still walking.

In 1986 I broke my back. It was pretty bad. My spinal canal was more than 60% occluded by a piece of vertebrae that had broken off from the impact, and gotten jammed into my backbone. There was real concern I would not even walk again. I was kept on a backboard for a couple days, very still, and partially restrained while we “worked out the next steps”. I wasn’t allowed to roll over, ever, without calling for nurses, who would ever so carefully roll me onto my side, re-secure my body so I couldn’t roll forward, backward, or move much at all, and put supporting pillows here and there to try to make me comfortable. I was heavily medicated. My back was broken in two places. My wrist was broken, and I had a head injury. I was not in the best shape for decision-making, but I had a good medical team. My surgeon offered me an option; a somewhat experimental procedure that could result in staying on active duty, being able to walk, and fully recovering from my injury, with some lengthy convalescence…, or, well… some less than perfect outcome in that basic “still walking” context. I took the deal. I absolutely did. (If he’d told me I’d be facing a life time of pain, would I still have made the same choice? Well, sure; we don’t know what we don’t know. I’d never known a lifetime of physical pain of this type or magnitude, and would not have been able to imagine what it might be like.)

I was in the hospital for months, then recovering on active duty long enough to be certain that I needed more time. It was going to be two years before I could “go back to work”, but that was in some rosy optimistic future I couldn’t yet envision any differently than “a full recovery”. Arthritis? That’s something that happens to old people, right? I worked hard throughout those two years of convalescence – and I returned to active duty feeling pretty fucking triumphant, no kidding; I was lean, strong, fit, and flexible. The pain came later. About a year into being back on active duty. Something definitely felt wrong… I kept going back, appointment after appointment. I wanted a diagnosis, and then I wanted to be treated, and I wanted to recover.

“Well, it looks like you’ve got a touch of osteo-arthritis…” I got my diagnosis. Shortly afterward, and feeling fairly heartbroken about it, I also got my discharge. That “touch of arthritis” has continued to spread over the years, commandeering my spine and my experience one joint at a time. I’m still walking. I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful for the hikes, for the downtown shopping on foot, the strolls through gardens, the slow dash to a meeting… all of it. It could be so much worse in some way. Most of the time, it’s just pain. It’s mostly manageable. It is… what it is. We age. We feel pain. We are mortal creatures.

I live my own personal Little Mermaid allegory. lol

But fuck. I hurt. Damn it. Sometimes I’m so fucking tired of hurting, and I forget myself, and end up taking it out on… maybe you? People. People who matter to me. People who couldn’t have known. People who have things to get done and need something from me. People who want to enjoy my company. People who have never hurt. People who, also, always do.

In spite of my pain, I feel very appreciated. 🙂 I could do better at demonstrating that. 

…I try “not to bitch”. (My results vary.) I do my best to manage my pain without making it anyone else’s issue. (Again with the varying results.) It doesn’t always work out well. This weekend, my Traveling Partner reminded me gently how much better a shared journey can be, when each moment and step is taken from a fully present place, in a completely authentic way. We talked about the pain. I’m glad we did. It stopped feeling like a shameful secret. It stopped feeling like a weakness. It’s just an experience.

Suddenly I’m not sure whether to post this one. Too many words about an experience no one likes to have (pain)…

…It’s time to begin again. I’ll go try some things… maybe I’ll feel better soon. 😉

Damn. Fuck this week. Already. Shit.

I say “this week”, but in all reasonable ways, and well-considered perspectives, this has been building slowly, event by event, detail by detail, day by day, and stitched together by threads of good intentions, affection, kindness, and commitments. I’m still having some moments of major anxiety as delicately balanced circumstances teeter on the edge of not going very well at all, which is stressful on a level I don’t recall feeling in a long time. It’s hard.

…Every new responsibility adds to the burden.

…Every new need piles on still more to a growing list of shit to do.

…Every new moment of stress dials up the intensity of the anxiety in the background.

…Every day… each moment… add another… then another… now one more… still standing? Here, have a little more extra… and more… and again… and still… and even… and then… and now… wait…what?? No time for questions – go go go!!

I caught myself “screaming into the void” on the commute home – a solo rant, with some ferocity, something on the order of a spoken word performance, or poetry, only much less pleasant. lol Not tearful, not exactly frustrated – just mad… about feeling anxious. Mad about feeling ill-equipped to be fully adult, even now. Mad at circumstances that could be just the tiniest bit better and end up quite splendid. Angry just to feel these ancient-seeming feelings of “shouldering the load” again. It’s not any one thing. It’s not any one individual. It’s not specifically work or specifically personal. It’s not lacking in context. I’m not “in it alone”. I’m just one human, having this human moment of mine, myself, and really feeling it. Which is… uncomfortable.

Mid-rant I remembered something I have been finding important; I don’t grow much through experiences that are comfortable, or reliably pleasant, or completely planned and predictable… or easy. That’s just real. Ease does not correlate with personal growth. That thought shut me down completely for a moment. I even stopped being so aggravated by that ludicrously slow driver ahead of me (15 in a 25 – one lane, no passing room) maintaining easily 3 car lengths of distance from the car ahead… during the evening rush hour commute… down a road with intersections more frequently than every quarter mile… with bumper-to-bumper traffic behind him for many blocks (I could see when I got a good view from the top of the hill in my review mirror). Yep. Even that stopped bugging me in the moment that I realized I’d been handed something precious – discomfort, anxiety, and a chance to work through those things and grow.

I’m pretty committed to my personal growth as a human being – I don’t know how much time I’ve got to complete this project, really, and I’d like to get as far along as I can toward being the human being I most want to be. It’s a real and true thing, that “doing better than I did yesterday” is a bit more complicated if the days roll by so gently that what I feel most of the time is delicious simple contentment, wrapped in the affection and high regard of those who hold me dear. I can choose change, but I won’t kid you; I’m not likely to choose to be uncomfortable, stressed out, anxious, fearful, worried, nervous, or in dread of what comes next out of this craze-tacular fun house of chaos and human drama. I like it easy.

Well it doesn’t feel fucking easy right about now. I’m having to bring a lot of attention to maintaining good self-care practices in the face of a lot more stress than has been commonplace for a couple years now. I’m having to skillfully practice “letting shit go” when holding on to it only creates more stress, and has no productive outcome. I’m having to really search for perspective, really work to find balance, and really practice the practices that have brought me so far in such a short time – as if failing to do so could send me crashing into a pit of despair (which it easily could). So many verbs. So little time. 😉

Tonight I’m not doing beginnings – just practicing. 😉

…A soft autumn rain begins to fall beyond the open window. I chat a bit with my Traveling Partner. The scent of petrichor wafts into the room, filling the space with fragrant reminders that this too will pass. Summer is ending. The tightness in my chest and shoulders begins to diminish. My breathing becomes deeper as a smile starts to transform my face. I’m okay right now. I let my thoughts glide over my day gently, finding a kinder truth in tense moments that are now behind me. I listen deeply to my internal dialogue, pointing myself to a compassionate path, reconsidering human beings in the context of their humanity. Reminding myself to assume positive intent, each time I note that perhaps I had not done so. I take time, too, for gratitude; a lot of people came through for me today, in so many small ways. My smile feels pretty steady, and I feel pretty much at ease; the anxiety in the background is subtle now, less a plague and more a pimple. (…Maybe if I don’t fuck with it, it will clear up on its own?)

I listen to the traffic go by outside. The house is very near to the street, and the walls don’t keep out much noise. Right now it isn’t bothering me; I am aware of the open window. That makes a difference to me for some reason. The noise doesn’t matter. The smile matters more. This gentle moment matters more. Taking a little time to enjoy the moment matters more. Following through on moments and smiles may not save the world, but right now, in this moment, it’s enough. 🙂

What a delightful weekend! I probably couldn’t say enough about it in the time I have available before a new work day begins. It was… awesome. Fun. Warm. Merry. Chill. Exciting… so exciting. It was also characterized by disrupted sleep (see “exciting”), and a lot of stimulation (an art show, a road trip, a weekend with my Traveling Partner…). I’m quite entirely made of human, and having the issues I do, a weekend – however delightful – full of exciting moments, color, light, music, and did I mention the excitement? A weekend such as this one just past often – too often – results in some sort of major freak out or melt down of some kind. No kidding. Yep. I have “mental health issues”. Definitely. It’s one little detail that is a reminder that I put so much time and attention into my self-care for reasons, not because it is a hot new trend.

Flowers need no excuse.

The drive back to the city started well, and traffic was well-behaved, although more than usually dense. Average speed was a comfortably ordinary 70 mph. Somewhere about 2 hours (a bit less, I think) from home, a bad snarl and some congestion developed rapidly ahead of me. Like… bad. Cars were spinning out, into the median, in one case, onto the left shoulder in another, and the third skittering across three lanes while other drivers used breaking maneuvers, and attentive skillful driving to both keep moving forward, and also, not hit anyone else. No collisions. I’m making a point of reminding myself of that. I “drive ahead of myself” a good way, and saw things going awry in real-time. The driver directly ahead of me began to lose control of his SUV. I let up on the gas after tapping my brakes gently (just enough to flash the brake lights) to alert the driver behind me, and slipped between the SUV as he slid sideways out of the lane, and the car to his right, which was crowding the fast lane out of panic as the driver ahead of him braked hard, very suddenly. Oooh… so close. As traffic finally slowed to a full stop, I looked in the rearview, and around; no collisions. I’m still very surprised by that. No indication of collisions further down the road, either. What the fuck? I began to seethe as it became more clear that this was likely the result of aggressive or frustrated ass-hattery, custom made by some clueless fuck knob. My fury began to build as the traffic crept along. At some point, I lost myself in my anger. Oh, “nothing bad happened” – by which I mean I did not attack anyone, hurt myself or anyone else physically, nor did I directly or indirectly confront any individual, or group of individuals…but oh wow. The invective. The yelling by myself in the car. It was… not okay. I’d fully lost my dignity, my resilience, my sense of self… I was… gone. Lost in it. Taken over by my metaphorical demons – who finished the drive more or less without me.

I got off the freeway at the first opportunity. It helped to do so; it slowed everything down just a bit, and reduced the feeling of “crowding”. Unfortunately, at that point I was also quite triggered, highly reactive, and the state I was in was less than ideal for driving, at all. I had no understanding I could have stopped driving. I wept much the remaining drive home. “I just want to go home!” I wailed, weeping. Purposeless, frustrated, impotent tears poured down my face, even completely blinding me briefly (I had to pull off the road to wipe the sweat-salt from my eyes). I got home shaking, angry, sad – so sad. Filled with drenching hopeless sorrow. My brain straight up attacking me from all sides with my deepest insecurities, disappointments in life, and leaning in hard on anything positive, and all my good feelings and recollections – a bit as if I’d come home and been confronted by a fucking dementor, honestly. It was pretty horrible.

I numbly started doing things that felt routine, feeling pressured by those experiences, and a little forced. Going through the motions. I made a point to let my Traveling Partner know I was emotionally unwell, and that I would be offline. (It does not do well to stay online in such circumstances, not for me; I use words. lol) I simultaneously gave a quick heads up to friends that I was having a tough time, but also that I did not require support; just in case shit went crazy wrong with me during the night and spilled over into the morning, I at least wanted people to wonder if I were okay – but I didn’t want to be fucked with right then (the terms in which my thinking colored all such thoughts in the moment). Then I got to work taking care of this all-too-human creature that lives my life.

A sunny summer day in the garden, tasks, routines, patterns of light – better moments.

I took a shower. I had a big class of water. I medicated (cannabis for the win, here*). I meditated. I watered the garden. I started some laundry. I began to redirect negative thoughts to their positive counterparts; ruminations about traffic were redirected to how pleasant the drive was in other respects, and what a pleasant day it was for driving, generally, and that there were no actual collisions, for example. I reminded myself, too, that once I was dealing with a storm of emotions, not only must the storm be permitted to pass, but then, as is often the case with the weather, there’s some clean up afterward needed. Our emotions have their basis in actual chemistry. Feelings of rage? Yeah, that’s like being on a fucking drug that causes that experience. It takes time for the drug to wear off, even though the moment is past. Sorrow, too. Each blue, emotionally disarrayed moment got some support, some consideration, some care and attention. It did pass. All of it passed. I felt better before I’d been home for even 2 hours. The recovery period was shorter than the emotional event. (That’s real progress!) I went to bed a bit early; I hadn’t slept well over the weekend, and all by itself poor quality sleep is enough to put me at risk of losing my emotional balance and resilience, if allowed to go on.

During the night the phone rang. Connectivity was poor at the location my Traveling Partner and I spent the weekend together, and he’d only just gotten my message. He called, concerned, to check in with me and see how I was. I answered a ringing phone during the night (I rarely do), because I went to bed expecting he might call. Partnership is lovely. I heard the warmth and love in his voice, and he heard it in mine. I was definitely okay at that point. I woke this morning, feeling rested, content, loved, and comfortable in my own skin. It’s a new morning.

A picture from a lovely summer morning hike yesterday; where will today take me?

Hell, I considered not writing about this experience, that’s how good I feel this morning – but here’s the thing; this experience is not one I’m ashamed of. I didn’t “fail” here. I managed things pretty well, actually. Somewhere, out there, there is an alternate version of this experience playing out that may not end as well, or may feel “permanent”, lacking any hope or perspective. I put these words on paper, sharing this moment, not only as a later reminder for myself that all this progress isn’t “a cure” (I need these practices, this level of self-care and self-awareness, to maintain my quality of life day-to-day.) I also put these words on paper because someone else may need to hear that there is hope, and it is possible to do better, and it is possible to find some relief – it’s within reach. There are verbs involved, no lie, but the incremental change over time has been… huge. Wonderful. A vast improvement impossible to overstate. It could have been much worse. I’m okay right now. That’s a big deal. It’s worth sharing.  🙂

Oh, hey, look at the time! It’s time to begin again. 🙂

*Note: It is unfortunate that cannabis is not yet fully legal, and that it is not more widely available, and easily, affordably available to more people. It is actually fairly stupid we make it so difficult for researchers to research it. Literally nothing offered to me by doctors, anywhere, has been as reliably helpful for my PTSD as cannabis has been, and for the most part side-effect free. Psychiatric pharmaceuticals were less effective for me, had horrific side effects (that included impairing me artistically, cognitively, sexually, emotionally, intellectually, and destroying my health), and didn’t actually result in an improved quality of life for me. I don’t write much about cannabis, itself, mostly because I’m not sure how to do so skillfully, and feel uncomfortable with the unsettled legal status it has in a broader sense. Having said that, I’ll be frank; when I talk about “medication” and “medicating”, if I am not more specific, I am most definitely referring to cannabis, and no, I don’t particularly care that it doesn’t come in a pill. 🙂

I was pretty crabby and cross with the world all day yesterday. I felt drained. Frustrated. Fed-the-fuck-up. Just generally not in a great mood. As I left the office, I allowed myself to be more explicitly aware of my state of being, and it occurred to me that just maybe I was about to get into my car, in that state of irritation, and head into commuter traffic less than ideally level-headed. This seemed, in the moment, a pretty shitty trick to play on unsuspecting other humans… What if we’d all had sort of a shitty day? Well, damn…. That didn’t sound good.

I started the car, and gave that some thought. I reminded myself that we’re probably, mostly, all of us doing our best moment-to-moment, more or less. All of us human. What if we really did all leave work feeling cross and frustrated, get in our cars, and head for home in dense commuter traffic? What would I want from my fellow commuters? What did I want from myself?

I pulled out of the parking lot feeling more than usually aware that we are each having our own experience. More willing to assume positive intent. More sensitive to the basic humanity of each of those other drivers.

The commute took the same amount of time as it usually does. There were just as many unskilled drivers showing just as much poor judgement. The same amount of risk appeared to be involved. All the same terrible moments of congestion at particular intersections existed. The experience was much improved, though, and I felt personally less frustrated. I got home feeling calm, contented, and actually somewhat less cross than I might ordinarily. Win!

Only… my shitty mood surged back into life once I was in the house. I was dealing with my own bullshit. (Aren’t we all?) I took a deep breath. I spent some time meditating. I enjoyed a leisurely shower. I made a bite of dinner and a lovely cup of tea. I took the medication I needed. Basic self-care stuff.  I still felt on edge and somewhat aggravated, for no obvious reason. It happens. I knew it would eventually pass.

I took a moment on the deck, in the evening sunshine.

Self-care matters. It’s not always “easy” to take that time for ourselves, but so worth it – and so important! You matter. Take time for the care you need. 🙂

I enjoyed the fading sunlight awhile, filling up my experience with the sound of the breeze rustling the leaves of the Big Leaf Maples beyond the deck.

What you need for you is something you decide for yourself. Definitely don’t take someone else’s word for that. Try things. Practice practices. You are your own cartographer. If that didn’t work, try this. Eventually, you find your way. Life’s menu is vast – don’t just order the cheeseburger every time. 😉

 

I’m sipping a quiet hot cup of tea. The tea is hot. The room is quiet. The music is quite loud, in spite of the quiet room. I’m enjoying the contrasts. Cool room. Hot tea. Quiet room. Loud music. I am in pain. I feel that too, although I enjoy it less; it is part of my experience. I have mixed feelings about the pain; I am alive. I have survived all I’ve been through so far. My pain reminds me of how strong I can be. My pain is a reminder of my resolve. My pain hints at my pure will; I walk with it, work with it, every day.

…Fuck, I’m a bad ass! lol You are, too. Here you are. You’ve survived. Fuck yeah – all of it. 🙂

Tonight isn’t fancy. I am making time for me. The woman in the mirror needing a little care, getting the care she needs. It’s a nice system.

Tomorrow, I’ll begin again. That’s soon enough. It’s okay to get some rest.