Running scared.

I have spoken on opioid use before and how it is getting harder and harder to receive a prescribed prescription. The opioid crisis seems to be in the news in a lot of places from talk radio, to the nightly news, to even Congress. I personally have written how doctors have become more and more adverse in regards to allowing the prescriptions to continue even if the person has been on said opioid for 5+ years with no ill effects. I have also written on how pharmacists have the ability to deny a medication based on a visual diagnosis and can refuse to give you the required medicine that has been authorized to you.
In all of this information, or misinformation, that is flying around, we encounter yet another advisory in this “crisis”. The public eye. Friends, family, and even strangers who find out what medications we are taking and the judgment is immediate. Everyone has an opinion, everyone has story they heard. The response is overwhelming.
I heard a news story recently that told of a pro American football player who was removed due to violations to the NFL’s drug policy by smoking marijuana. He responded with a video of him, while smoking, that it helps with his pain and mental health. He then spoke on how it is better for him to smoke that instead of being addicted to opioids like he has seen.
My chronic illness is not your scapegoat.
On a more personal note, I have had people come forward with threats that I cannot be taken seriously because of my prescription. The use of opioids in my past, it has been over 2 years, has now given people a reason to judge me further and to disregard my opinion, my judgment, and almost anything because “We just don’t know or cannot see the effects of those evil drugs on you yet.”
This is madness. I, like so many chronic illness sufferers, have daily struggles to get to work, take care of ourselves, fight an illness, fight doctors and pharmacists, and the public image of what medications we take. In all of this, we then get told we do not matter because of the drugs we are supposed to take to live have affected us too much.
Where is our voice? Who will speak for the trees?
I experience the “common knowledge” from people who know all about how bad the opioid crisis is and how they know what is better for me than my doctor. It is now said with such surety that everyone knows the horrors and effects of how it devastates lives. How dare anyone speak up in defense of this terrible drug use!
I am. Someone has to say something. I am tired of being judged. I am tired of being put in a box and quantified. I am tired of being labeled and categorized because of my medication. Is this how we deserve to be treated? With judgment and scorn about our illness and our help? How should we then live? We have to stand up and speak out.
#standwithaplushie my friends

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Doctor New

I have had a lot of people ask me about when I am getting a new doctor. I have talked about how my last doctor retired and the one before that gave up on me as a patient. I have been through a terrible run of doctors in my life and they are usually not my favorite people.

Having a chronic illness mess going to the doctor a lot. Having an illness that a third of the medical community believes does not exist, another third that it is a mental issue, and only the last third that it is real is never a fun fight. Also being a guy, being diagnosed fibromyalgia is a an odd one as it effects women much more than men by a margin of 5/1. This is a fight I am used to with having to explain, yet again, that I have this illness and yes I need help.

I did my research on my doctor. Google reviews, doctor review sites, even your own insurance will sometimes have ratings on doctors. I highly recommend to everyone to look into your doctor, see what people are saying about him/her. See if they have dealt with your issue or see the personality of the staff. You have the power to see and choose your doctor. You have the power to find a new doctor. You do not have to stay with a bad doctor. I feel that a lot of those with chronic illnesses feel they have to stay with the doctor that they go to the first time and are stuck with them forever. If you feel the doctor is not listening to you, you can find someone different who will. If you feel the doctor has given up on you, get a second opinion. Find a good one.

I took my wife and baby with me for moral support. I had several panic attacks leading up to actually seeing the doctor. I get worried that he would not listen to me or would, irrationally, make fun of me. I have had doctors tell me that I was imagining things or that I was wrong about an illness and then I was proven right at a later date. I go in early, fill out my paperwork and wait. I am then taken to get my vitals taken and go into the patient room.

The doctor comes in, introduces himself, and asks what is going on. I explain I am due for a 3 month checkup and am due for a refill on my perceptions. I am explain that my last doctor retired and was looking for a new primary. He looked at me sternly and and questioned my medical history. I told him who diagnosed me, how many procedures I have been through, the tests run on me. He watched me carefully and informed me that I was on an opioid and started to tell me the dangers of the drugs I was on and that he did not believe that I should be on them. He said he would need a drug test and a blood test to confirm that I was the one actually taking them and I wasn’t selling them. I said OK as I was taking my medications correctly. He informed me that many people had been dying on the exact medication I was one.

This was not looking good so far.

I was starting to panic because I was feeling attacked. I, once again, was having to prove to another stranger that I was sick. I had been through so all this be before. I was given a cup to pee into and waited for the results. He came in to inform me that the test did not show the opioids I was taking and that he wanted more information. He asked for the names of all the doctors I had had, where their offices were at, who gave me the actually diagnosis. I grew frustrated. I give him all the info I had. He said the nurse would be in for the drug test in a min and gave me the physical exam. I winced and groaned as he pressed and push on the points of tenderness and he seemed surprised. He poked like someone who was expecting not to find something. He pressed a lot harder than I expect at first and then he realized he was hurting me. He had me sit up and left to get the nurse for the drug test.

I was embarrassed at all this. I was angry. I complained to my wife. I was frustrated. She gave me some amazing clarity. She told me to stand in the doctor’s shoes. I was a new patient, with an uncommon illness, asking for a drug that he believed to be dangerous, coming from a doctor who “retired” and had a urine sample that showed I was not taking  my medication. She asked if I was in his shoes if I would be suspicious. I said she had a point and kept pushing through.

My blood was drawn. I hate this more than anything. I had a nurse once hit the nerve in my arm and my arm went numb for almost a week. This nurse had to go get someone else as well making it last even longer. Then they had to switch arms. I struggled with it all and squeezed my little Fluttershy plush hard.

The doctor came back in and told me he was able to pull some of my records. He was going to refill my medications but that he wanted to go through the active medication list as it had some discrepancies. Evidently it showed multiple duplicate medications. I cleared them up and was gave information on each on and what had happened.

The doctor finally showed some compassion and started listening to me. He asked to hold the baby and started asking questions instead of demanding them. Hr told me that my medicine was not what he wanted me on but he wanted to try a new one to help ease the inflammation as he thought that it would help me a lot more. He was surprised that no one had tried it before. He agreed that I should have my doses increased as I was having more pain and needed more help.

We finished up, got my paperwork in order and I thanked him and left. I thanked my wife for giving me clarity and calling me out on being too judgmental. We talked about how organized this doctor was and how I had so many red flags that probably set off alarms all the way to Washington, DC. He had refilled my prescriptions, even if he didn’t agree with all of them, and had given me a new one to help me out.

We both had prejudices that we had to overcome. I was forced to look at the other side. It is always interesting walking in someone else’s shoes. I know I can get wrapped up in my own prejudices when it comes to my illness. I am glad I overcame them.

#hugapony my friends

Still fighting.

I am so tired of fighting. I fight my body each and every day. I fight to get out of bed. I fight to take my pills. I fight to get the energy to even move off the couch. I spend so much energy on just making it through the day. Now, I have even more to fight.

The opioid crisis.

I have been on my medication for over three years now. I have been steadily dropping the dose in order to not raise so much attention as to how much medication I take. This helps prevent the pharmacy techs not look at me with quite the judgmental eyes. I am on a third of what my medication should be. I do this at the cost of my own personal comfort. I trade my comfort and ability to be somewhat normal so I don’t have to be judged on what medication I have to take and how much.

I am entered on databases. I have to sign a controlled substance sheet now to document how much I have. I have to have my drivers licence scanned and copied. I am monitored on my usage. It reached a new level today.

I found out my doctor is retiring in a few weeks. It is always hard finding a good doctor. Someone who believes you and still finds ways to motivate you.  Someone who cares and wants to help your well being. This is not a great time for me.

I called to get my last set of medication from my doctor. I am trying to prepare for my search for a new doctor. I call in to the pharmacy and request a refill. They deny me saying I need to call my doctor to get approval. I call my doctor and they fax everything over. Call back to the pharmacy and they say that they don’t have any paperwork. I ask them to check again and give them the exact name and dosage of the medication. They then say it has been denied by my insurance. I tell my information again and that if need be, I’ll pay for the medication out of my own pocket. They then say I have been flagged for to much medication and that I need to use what I have left.

I have two pills.

I inform them again that my doctor is retiring, I have only two pills left of the main medication (an opioid based med), I will pay for it if my insurance won’t, that he faxed the information yesterday at 4 pm, and what should I do in time being without my medication. The pharmacy tech informs me that I have been denied and flagged by a government system that says I am receiving too much medication but that he will resubmit my information again to see if he can “push it through.”

It goes through.

My medication will be filled and waiting for me later this afternoon. My fears of what waits for me next time I need to get a refill are very real. I fight so much to just exist in a a relatively pain-reduced (I am never pain-free) world. Why must I fight bad doctors, bad pharmacies, and now the government tracking me?

I am so tired, and it is not the just the fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.

I just want to get the help I need. I just want people to believe me. I am almost to the point of begging for help at times because people don’t seem to care. I wish I could explain it better. I wish I didn’t have to fight. Hell, I wish I didn’t have this chronic illness and had to take medication with the wonderful side effects. I already have such a love/hate relationship with having to take it, why must it be made worse with fighting to even receive it?

This is my story. This is my life.

Still fighting.

Its probably going to be on my tombstone.

#hugapony my friends.

Pleasant Company.

Over the past few weeks I have been introduced to many people who suffer from chronic illnesses and disabilities. Some online through blog posts, some through video games, and others in real life. I have gotten to talk and help quite a few people who are suffering. I have seen people in so much worse situations and see them powering through with a strength that makes me ashamed of myself.

In my opinion, everyone who suffers like this goes through a period of time when they question themselves on how much suffering they go through. I have been hit hard this last week. I have question how bad am I, what level pain should I admit too, and what right do I have to suffer in all my suffering. One of my issues with invisible illnesses is that I am in constant stress over being judged on how I look. “You don’t look sick” “Are you sure you aren’t feeling well” “It can’t be that bad if you are still able to walk around your house” Words ring in my ears and brain, reminding me that it must all be in my head. Famous words for anyone suffering from fibromyalgia as most doctors are quick to through them out.

I have had personal events happen that reinforce this. I have been denied disability. I submitted to the 8 month long process that took place and have seen more doctors and nurse than I care to admit. Being weighed and measured, poked and prodded has been an absolute nightmare. I suffered through it and in the end I was deemed too fit to be on disability. In the end letter, it was determined that I did suffer from fibromyalgia, insomnia, anxiety disorder, nerve pain, muscle pain and more. A total of 9 severe problems with my health. They did not find these severe enough to warrant me disabled. My final icing on the cake was reading on of the last lines in my letter saying: “If your job is too difficult for your condition, find an easier job.” My mind’s sarcastic response was “Sure I’ll go to the job tree and pick a new job straight off the branch.”

I have also had to fight with new insurance and new medications. I have been prescribed Lyrica. This is the first drug that I have seen that is specifically made for fibromyalgia sufferers. Being new, it is expensive. The classification it has been giving by insurance is that unless every other test and drug has been used and found not to work, then they will not pay for it. Fighting to get help is one of the most common themes I see in chronic illness patients. As if we didn’t suffer enough.

In my recent post that has been published, I have been able to interact with many people that have a myriad of different conditions. I have wept over reading the stories of those who have suffered. I have talked and comforted those who asked. I have been praised for helping raise our voice so others can see. In all of this, I look back at myself and ask “Am I really that sick?” Do I have the right to be a voice if I am not suffering as much as those around me. I am constantly questioned on how bad my pain and condition is that I am beginning to question myself. Yes, I have pain but is it bad enough.

I read an article recently that brought it to light for me. Erin from The Mighty.com posted on how Doctors are Advocating on Pain Acceptance. Doctors are now looking into “pain acceptance” as a treatment philosophy. It is an eye opening to see the direction this is going. As someone who suffers, I find it interesting to see that not believing chronic pain sufferers is a new direction to go. To be told that we should learn to live with the pain is insulting. To be told that my opinion, the patient’s opinion is not considered and the doctor’s view of my pain and condition makes me all the more fearful of doctors who don’t listen. Being told that I should just accept and live in pain, which is something I do every day, makes my and so many other voices sound like we are complainers.

It is infuriating.

If anything I have seen over these past few weeks is how many there are of us. It has shown me that we need a voice. It has shown that I matter. It has shown me more kind and compassionate people who, suffering like me, agree that we are not being heard. We have to fight our illness. We have to fight for our diagnosis. We have to sometimes fight our doctors and pharmacies and lawmakers. We have to fight to make our voices heard.

Thank you all for the pleasant company.

#hugapony my friends.

Pilling around.

I had another doctor’s visit this past week. My regular 3 month follow-up. It was supposed to be a regular check up but this was my first one since my asking about my condition and fibromyalgia. It was a bit hard to accept a negative response when I first asked about it. I was told it was all in my head and I was dismissed. It was not what I thought my doctor who has helped me so much would do to me.

I went in to the exam room and had all my vitals checked (lost 2 pounds at 210, 126/80, 97.1 temp). Chatted with the nurse, who knows me on sight now, about my emotional support dog and how much he is helping. Small talk. She left and I waited in silence.

After 5 minutes my doctor came in.

She asked how I was doing and I told her not very well. My pain had been flaring up quite a bit, life was still very stressful with moving into a new apartment (and dealing with new management and other issues), my wife being in another car accident (she was OK but is doing physical therapy because of injuries sustained), and surviving several other private things that I cannot share here.

She listened as she checked my lungs and commented a word or two of concern when needed. She then said she had been looking over my case and she agreed that she might have been too hasty in her decision to dismiss my claims, especially in light of me having increased pain. She was going to add another prescription to my usual medication to help with the pain.

I was surprised but happy to have her, in my opinion, back on my side looking out for me.

 

I went home and filled all my meds and in the next few days dealt with the addition of more side effects (all three of my meds cause drowsiness and dizziness) and my body trying to respond to them. It has been a rough weekend for me.

I have had to rely on my family and friends quite a bit as I have had more than several moments of having to clutch the wall in a dizzy spell, falling asleep in the middle of the afternoon, not mixing them up or overdosing, and making sure I am not driving. I am not sure people know the responsibility of taking medications. There is a lot more work than people know.

Making sure to keep track of them (there is a fantastic app called Medisafe that tracks when to take something, how many pills you have, and when to refill) is a part-time job. You become a pharmacist, almost, with knowing what to take, how to take it, when to take it.  You have to check in with those around you to see how badly its affecting you because your reality is skewed. You fight to maintain your concentration in the simplest tasks. You get criticized because you are on medication and you are weak and just need to feel better.

I am here to tell you that it is OK to need medication to help you.

I am here to encourage you that it is OK to get help.

I am here to tell you to talk to your doctor to get help.

I am here to tell you to stop listening to those who criticize.

Only you know what you are going through. I understand the struggle and the need for help. I have lived with the pain daily. It is beyond OK to look for help in your life. Lets end all the shaming in being prescribed medication BECAUSE YOUR BRAIN IS SICK. If you had a kidney infection or diabetes, you would take antibiotics or insulin to help your body. This is considered normal. The brain should be treated the same way.

Sometimes it can be therapy (stuffed or otherwise).

Sometimes it takes medication.

There is no shame in asking for help.

I’m not.

#hugapony