A friend of mine was complaining the other day so I wanted you to remember that I’m one of the lucky ones: I don’t have pain so bad so often that I need to take disability! Some of my American friends are made to feel lower than dirt because they’re unable to work, because they demand medical attention, because they’re unable to pay for the constant medical attention they require. They have to choose which medications they take even though they are told by a doctor that they need everything on the list due to financial reasons. Don’t forget I was made to feel like a “girl who cried wolf” for over 20 years before I finally got a diagnosis! Imagine vomiting from pain and then being told “That’s normal – stop your moaning and get on with it!”
Just because I have a happy marriage now and I’m able to hold down a job at the moment doesn’t mean that there haven’t been times when I’ve been treated badly.
I finally achieved a diagnosis (I want to say it was 2005 but may have been 2004) of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Insulin Resistance and Endometriosis. Sadly, this had a number of ramifications: I was a vegetarian and had to completely change my diet. When I told my ex-husband that I needed to start to eat meat he said “Do you have to?” as if I had a choice!
I was in a spiral of pain and depression – when I was struggling physically my ex would imply I was lazy. His parents didn’t respect me. When I would struggle at work I would make mistakes which lead to complaints which lead to more mistakes… After years of being told you aren’t worth much, you start to believe it.
I had to change the way I thought about myself. So on the one hand I was delighted to know that my pain wasn’t in my head but on the other I needed to think about my body in a completely different way: I have limitations. This fact didn’t sink in for a number of months/years and I wound up taking a number of medications in order to get myself into some sort of order – not to mention I wanted to pretend that my illnesses would not affect my “normality”. I took pregabalin which is a medicine that is mainly used to treat epilepsy. It works by stabilising electrical activity in the brain. As pregabalin stabilises electrical nerve activity, it is also used to treat pain that occurs a result of damage to or a disturbance in the function of nerves (neuropathic pain). I took metformin for my insulin problem. I took Mefenamic Acid (prescription anti-inflammatory), paracetamol and codeine for pain. I took laxatives for the codeine side-effects. I was taken off birth control and given HRT patches. I took St Johns Wort when I was off The Pill but gave it up again when I went back on it. I took Milk Thistle for my PMS. Finally I gave in and took prozac for the inevitable depression that I was in thanks to the never-ending pain. I positively rattled! I was in the position of taking so many medications that I was getting some terrible side effects and taking medications for the side-effects.
I moved jobs – from the solicitors’ firm where Helios and I met to a pharmaceutical company. The best thing I ever did was leave law. I think they were in the process of trying to push me out anyway. I am a very good secretary and office administrator but, in that poisonous environment I only went from bad to worse. The pharma company wasn’t great either but it was better than lawyers! Ultimately I was made redundant form the pharma company just a few weeks after my third laparoscopy – in December 2008. Happy Christmas to you! I agreed because they gave me a generous settlement. I could easily say that my health was a factor in their decision and I’m sure that’s why they were so generous. I didn’t have the energy to fight it even if I did want to. I spent 2009 going from one temporary position to another. Financially I was a mess but things were looking up. I came off a majority of the pills and, thanks to the most recent surgery, my pain was at an all-time minimum.
My point is that you don’t know what life will give you. When you are given terrible news, you will probably struggle too but I know you will manage. Until then you have to take one day at a time.