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Pain and energy

August 15, 2011

I said the next life in the middle entry would be up next, but I want to squeeze one more in before that. I want this one to be well written and thought provoking but, well….I’m in a haze right now so I’m not sure if I’m going to achieve that.

I want to talk about the effect chronic pain has on energy. When a lot of people think of conditions that cause chronic pain (usually those that luckily do not suffer from these conditions), they think of medications that make you very, very sleepy. What they don’t think of is pain so intense that it keeps you awake, despite being it being dulled by sedating pain medications and the fact that some pain medications end up causing insomnia.

Unfortunately for me, the medication I’m on for trigeminal neuralgia is causing insomnia. At first I was ok with this. After all, I get to be awake through these pain-free periods, how lovely! I can get so much more done! My body disagrees with me. Last night, out of frustration with this insomnia, I took a sleeping pill at 1am. It had no effect. Out of sheer exhaustion I have managed to crash a little bit each night in about half hour to an hour stints before the insomnia shakes me out of it. I am so tired I feel drunk. I have to keep pausing as I’m writing this because my vision is going blurry. The words on the screen are simply coming out too fast, I can’t keep track of them. I don’t feel a pleasant high, I feel nauseated.

Remember the worst pain you have ever been in. Now remember a time when you pulled an all-nighter and got called into work in the morning. Now combine the two. Not pleasant. Now go run around the block a few times, stop, put on a pair of steel toed boots caked in dried cement, a lead body suit, a backpack full of bricks, and run around the block a few more times. This is what chronic pain does to you. It robs you of your energy by making every single task that much more difficult. Your pain tolerance doesn’t matter. It may take you a day in pain, it may take you a week in pain, or it may take you a month in pain, but eventually it will grind you down until you are too tired to move. All you will want to do is sleep, but you can’t sleep because it hurts too much or the medication makes it impossible to sleep (even if it takes the pain away).

At the moment, my trigeminal neuralgia has slowed down. I mistakenly declared earlier today on facebook that the attack was over and I had won. What has happened is that the attacks are no longer going on every few seconds like they were yesterday. I’m now averaging an attack every hour or so, ranging anywhere from 5 minutes to 40 minutes. This began late last night as I was trying to sleep.

Despite not being in pain when I was trying to get to sleep, I couldn’t. I was burnt out, I felt like I would pass out as soon as my head hit the pillow, but I didn’t because of the medication induced insomnia. The first time I fell asleep, I was waken up immediately by choking on my own saliva. By the time I had stopped coughing, a new attack had begun, so I had to wait for that to calm down before trying to sleep again. Then as I was falling asleep, my tingling came on so strong it felt like I had hundreds of bugs crawling up my spine which, of course, snapped me back to wakefulness and nearly made me leap high enough out of bed to latch onto my ceiling fan. Once that calmed down and I was again about to fall asleep, the pins and needles started (very painful, very intense). By the time that started to calm down, another TN attack had started. Once that went away, the insomnia kept me up long enough for another attack to start. Vicious cycle.

I have a ton of housework that needs to get done. I planned on having it all finished this morning, but I ended up just as I am now: too tired to do anything. I managed to block out the world with earplugs and black out curtains this afternoon and got some rest, so the crushing fatigue is not quite as bad as it was last night. Yet I still can’t get anything done. Washing dishes is a nightmare. I have to spend energy to keep myself standing, to lift dishes that feel like they weight a ton, move a cloth across them, scrub, rinse, etc. all while trying not to vomit from sheer fatigue. And if another attack starts while I’m doing that, I have to spend what energy I have in reserve to rush to my earplugs because I am extremely sensitive to sound during an attack (while I live in a quiet neighbourhood, I can still hear a busy road nearby and the crickets are plentiful). Once the attack has stopped, all my energy has been spent blocking out triggers and fighting my way through the pain.

So please, I beg you, if you know someone with chronic pain, regardless of what it is caused by, let them rest. Do what you can to help them spend as little energy as possible. Just because they are on something for the pain, be it opiates, anticonvulsants, whatever it may be, that does not mean they will automatically be back to their old self. They are fighting a long, hard, exhausting battle and need to make up all the energy they’ve spent fighting it. Let them rest, they’ve earned it.

 

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