I recently saw this report on a blood test for depression in one of my science feeds. What many may not know is that severe depression is an often accompaniment to Chronic Pain, in all its forms, as dealing with the pain can be exhausting.
Why is this so important, then?
Simply because it pushes back against the taboo surrounding depression, it finally says: ‘depression is a real illness, not fake’. For many, depression doesn’t exist as an illness, its just someone’s attitude of mind, laziness or someone being ‘weak’. With a blood test, depression becomes a disease or infection like anything else. What’s more, the blood test reveals the probably severity of depression and gives some idea of the best way to handle it.
All of which adds up to a fantastic breakthrough. I hope it is available soon.
Curious things, banks. I’ve had a tremendous amount of trouble setting up a Business bank account. So much so that I finally sent a letter saying something along the lines of ‘I give up – it’s now taken over three months and you’ve not bothered to get in touch, process my application or treat me seriously’. I’ve thought of running through the FSA, already, and raising the issue publically to highlight the problems peeps like myself can face.
So, here is a tale of frustration in setting up an account. Sure, it may be ranting in nature, but the details are correct…
For a while I’ve been quiet about pain management. One reason is simple: I’ve been largely out of pain! The state of ‘out being in pain’ is addictive, though, such a relief that it dominates the senses by its absence. It’s a beautiful sensation.
It’s worth saying that again: being pain-free is addictive.
But there is a another, more sinister reason for not mentioning pain management: I haven’t been able to. All my focus has had to have been on what I’m doing, what I’m developing because, despite the lack of pain, I’m as incapacitaed as before. I have had to carefully choose what I am doing and when I do it. The focus on the current book and the occasional short story has had to be paramount which has meant a great deal of peripheral writing has had to be put on the shelf.
Why? It’s the side effects of the medication. I’ve been taking Pregabalin, a progression of gabapentin that, theoretically, has less side effects. The intent of the drug is to suppress some nerve impulses to manage peripheral chronic pain (like mine – neurogenic pain rather than ideopathic chronic pain). To be fair, pregabalin has had less side effects than gabapentin. The latter reduced me to what can literally be called a dribbling idiot, a walking zombie who could barely talk, who caromed from wall to wall and door frame to door frame, never made sense and who never know where it was.
It’s no fun being such a zombie.
A few monts ago I wrote a creative non-fiction piece called ‘100’. It covers an individuals search to lose weight given a disability that prevents a lot of exercise. His scales tip 100kg at the start and become his enemy; by the end he has found a way to overcome their arrogant display of three-digit numbers and lose weight.
No, it wasn’t all truth; and yes, it was based on some truth. I found that I gained weight on gabapentin and could not stop the weight gain. Even after coming off it, I lost some but then stalled (yes, okay, at around 100 kg – that bit’s true). I was worried about my health, not only my wardrobe and vanity, but had just got over the last surgery and was beginning to feel pretty good (Pain Management regime permitting). So I worked out a diet that might help me given that I was limited in what exercise I could perform. The diet worked, exercise and pain was managed, but I then suffered a setback due to the side effects of pregabelin.
It’s worth sharing those side-effects, I think.
Pain – or Life – Management is an ongoing effort, a framework that often results in a daily management plan. It may seem a burden, but you get used to it. You know what you want to achieve so you work out what you may be able to do in a particular day or number days, work in rests, distractions, possible medication, relaxations and end up with a plan. Being a writer helps as the physical work can be wrapped around the vital task of reading.
But then the plan hits reality and has to be adjusted. That’s fine: the phrase ‘no plan ever survives contact with the enemy’ comes to mind. You adjust it, add in more medication, perhaps, more breaks, even a deliberate, full lie-down/meditation. That tends to work, and you adjust the plan.
But then life really kicks in and stomps all over the new plan, all over the intentions. Life Management becomes a real struggle.
Rejoice! Why? Because the drugs seems to be working.
For anyone who’s undertaking a Pain Management regimen, medication is merely part of the answer. In the UK, it is common to be referred to a hospital-run Pain Clinic for analgesia/medication advice. The problem is that the drugs that work with neuropathic pain or fibromyalgia tend to be somewhat narcotic (tramadol, morphine or even codeine derivatives) or used for other things such as depression and insomnia (amitriptyline) or epilepsy (gabapentin, pregabalin). Often a mix of medication is required: paracetamol can potentiate the effect of tramadol or, in the experience of some, actually enable it.