Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bitch, moan, whine, gripe, complain

Okay, so you can help me settle a debate. My boyfriend (anyone else over the age of thirty hate that word?) disagrees with me on this: I think I complain too much. He says I probably don't share enough of what I'm going through. Clearly, I'm right and he's wrong, and I'm now going to spend the rest of this post proving it to the world. :-)

So. Basically, my body is falling apart. At least, that's what it feels like from the inside. Every joint in my body is hypermobile - including shoulders, wrists, knuckles, thumbs, knees, ankles, hips... even the itsy-bitsy joints between the vertebrae in my neck. This means that the joints can move farther in one direction and/or another, and that I don't know that they've moved too far until there is some kind of symptom. Usually that symptom is pain, and it doesn't always appear within the joint that is out of place; it could be upstream or downstream. It could also end up as a dislocation, a strain, a sprain, a muscle spasm, or even a fracture.

Technically, I'm still in recovery from the rotator cuff surgery that was performed on my right shoulder in July. While we'd hoped this would eliminate the pain I'd been experiencing since about this time last year, the real purpose was to get that repair done so that it wouldn't make things worse inside my poor shoulder. And since that surgery, things got better up through October, and then took a nose dive in November.

While I describe this to you, let me begin by saying that I'm taking the narcotic painkiller Darvocet and the muscle relaxant Skelaxin every day, as prescribed by the physiatrist. I also have a prescription for trazodone, to help with sleep. And through those meds, my shoulders usually aren't too painful, unless I've really overdone something. My neck and upper back have spasms, so they can go from being just moderately tight to excruciating... through those meds. My thumb joints go from moderate to so painful that I cannot hold a book... through those meds. I'm a voracious reader and an Episcopalian. In church, I can't process with the other choristers because I can't hold a hymnbook that long. Even with the maybe-two-ounce sheet music for our anthems, by the time I turn the first page, I can't hold the music between fingers and thumbs any more. And biggest of all for me right now is my left knee, which is never ever pain free. If I hold it at a 90-degree angle to sit in a chair, it is horrible within five minutes. If I hold it at a 180-degree angle to stand up or to lie down, it is horrible within five minutes. Walking is okay... for about a minute, and then I'm limping. The only way my knee is moderately comfortable is when I'm sitting with my legs out in front of me, with my knees on a pillow roll, preferably one with an ice pack. By the time I finish a church service or a choir rehearsal, or even a quick trip to the grocery store, I'm moving like an 80-year old.

And yes, all of that is with me taking those meds faithfully, every day.

Sleep has been awful, even with the trazodone. About five nights a week, sometimes six, I can take it early enough that I'm not too hung over in the morning to get up. The other night or two, I have to do without. When I take the trazodone, I get sleepy within a couple hours, and then I sleep for four or six hours before the interruptions begin, and then I am in and out of sleep for the rest of the night. When I miss the trazodone, I may not be sleepy until really late. Then I get two or three hours of sleep before I begin the waking cycle. In bed, I have to keep pillow rolls, so that I can keep them under my knees when I'm on my back, or under my ankles when I'm on my stomach. And still, that only gets my knee to moderately comfortable.

The orthopedists are completely baffled as to what to do with me. All my x-rays are normal, and the locations and patterns of my pain don't fit what they expect to see with the injuries and conditions they're used to working with. The physiatrist is helping me get ergonomic changes made at work, and thinks that between that and dropping some weight, plus my thrice-weekly physical therapy, she'll be able to get me to the place where I can start regular exercise to strengthen all my muscles so that they can do the work the ligaments in my joints can't.

At the moment, I'm afraid, and I don't know what to hope for. I know that I'm in the hands of the best specialists around. I've given up hoping for a day with no pain. I can't even imagine what that feels like any more, and this strikes me as incredibly sad. One of the possibilities that has been suggested to me is prolotherapy, which does not sound like a whole lot of fun, particularly because insurance doesn't cover it. But the way I'm living right now isn't a whole lot of fun, either.

Friday morning, I go to physical therapy, with a scrip that allows my therapist to begin working on my knee. (Fun!) Friday afternoon, I go to the pain management practice to have a series of injections in the cervical facet joints - that's right, about a half-dozen injections into the back of my neck. (More fun!) To put the icing on the cake, I can't take my pain meds for 24 hours before those injections, because my neck has to be good and hurty so that we know if the injections are working.

Like I said, I don't know what to hope for. At this point, the thing I'd like most of all is a handicapped placard for my car. That strikes me as incredibly sad, too. A long time ago, I asked God, why me? Unfortunately, just as it was for Job, the answer was, why not you? And I know I have it pretty good. I have a good job, a home, a car, wonderful children, a loving partner, a supportive church family. I have kitties to cuddle with me and make me laugh. I have music to lift my heart. So why the heck am I complaining so darned much?

Beats me.

Now, I need to figure out what's for supper, so that I can eat and then take my pain pills. If you could spare a prayer, I could use one. I never know what to pray for any more, so I usually do what the Friends call holding you in the Light. I like that prayer, because you don't have to be a Christian, or really a believer in any path, to pray it. And really, I think it sets God free to be God, and doesn't assert what I think God should be and do. So if you have a moment, would you please hold me in the Light, too?

Thank you, my friend. Peace be with you, and may you know you are blessed, cherished, and loved by the God who created you in God's own image.