Friday, January 7, 2011

Better Living Through Chemistry

< Disclaimer:  This turned into a huge post.  And it probably rambles because I didn't proof it.  Feel free to skip it if you want. >

It never fails to amaze me how much pain and sickness the human body, my body, can take. It never fails to amaze me how much you get used to the pain so you don't realize how bad it is - that is, until it is gone.

People keep asking me how my Christmas was. I usually tell them it was great! I got to see my family, had lots of laughs, played games, and got to eat tons of delicious food. All of that is true and I am so glad and thankful for the experience. I usually leave out that 6 out of the 7 days I was in California, I spent most of my time staying still, and when I did move, I walked around like a stiff old lady because my rheumatic joints hurt so bad.

I leave out the physical pain because either they prefer hearing the happy stuff or I prefer thinking of the happy stuff. And then at some point, the pain becomes part of you. You know you hurt. It has hurt for a while. But you can still function when you need to. You may not be able to function easily, but the fact remains you can. You just have to adapt. Don't be weak and give in to nature being a bitch. Just get your stuff done and if it gets worse, call the doctor.

The process is so gradual, you don't even see yourself slipping. What started as a little mole hill has turned into a big mountain, but you don't feel like there has been any change. Next thing you know, you are rolling down that ginormous mountain at 1,000 MPH wondering how you let it get this bad.

That was me last week. I didn't see the mountain until I was sitting at home at the end of my Christmas vacation in tears because, once again, I couldn't turn a door handle or button my own pants. In tears because I know there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. In tears because I know it is a degenerative disease. In tears because I couldn't even form a cohesive thought through my pain and misery. My brain was a fog. But even worse, there were tears from a depression that I still couldn't see behind the mountain. It took the doctor telling me I was depressed for me to see that part of this equation, and that almost never happens with me anymore. Usually I am so in tune with my bipolar that I know I am slipping into a depression long before I show outward symptoms of it.

So I finally called my Rheumatologist. Out til next month. Boo. So I called the PCP. Saw him Monday. We talked about all my physical problems. The final conclusion was major RA flareup (well DUH) and severe depression. The question, which came first? I told him it didn't matter because they feed off each other anyway and he agreed. The treatment? Double the antidepressant (which put me at a whole 50 mg of Zoloft - something most people laugh at) and call in Guido (Prednisone - a steroid) for the RA.

Now, I have taken Prednisone before. I have an "as needed" prescription for these flare ups. I start hurting, I take 5 mg for a few days and then I am right as rain...usually. This time around, I had taken that dose for 10 days with no effect, so I was skeptical of this second round of Prednisone. Then he told me how much. 60 freaking mg. SIXTY! 60 for 3 days, 40 for 3 days, 20 for 3 days, 10 for 3 days. Holy hell. That is more than just calling in Guido. That is calling in the whole freakin mafia.

The good news was I didn't care. I just wanted relief. I figured getting rid of the pain would help my depression a little and I would be able to function at work. What I knew was Prednisone is fast acting. It would start working within 24 to 36 hours and my pain would start subsiding. Zoloft takes longer. It would be about 2 weeks before I had significant depression relief, but the lack of pain would help the depression a little bit in the meantime. I figured it was something like 80% real depression and 20% pain-induced depression. Oh baby was I WRONG!!! 24 hours after my first dose of Prednisone I discovered my pain was my depression. 24 hours after starting that damn steroid, I felt emotionally normal and my pain level was well on its way to leaving the building.

I have always known that I have a much higher pain tolerance than the average person. What most people would consider a 6 or 7 on the pain scale, I frequently call a 3, maybe a 4. Why? Because I am used to it and know how to adapt to it. For me to say my pain is 7 or higher, I have to be damn near crippled. I don't always remember that though. Then the pain goes away and I am left asking myself, how the hell did I function through that? How could I not realize it was that bad?

The only answer I can come up with:

Cause I'm stubborn  in denial  an idiot one tough cookie.