Pills have always been a part of my life. My mother took them like candy for as long as I can remember. Between her offering something for pain for every little owiee and my paternal grandfather always wanting to play doctor with every booboo that came along it’s actually surprising that I didn’t have a real addiction to pills. Although, I was very dependent on being able to take an ibuprofen for every ache. I’ve always had pain. It seems like I had aches and pain for as long as I can remember.
When I was just a young girl, my legs would hurt so terribly bad. I would cry to my grandma, “Grandma, please rub the green lotion on my legs, they hurt so bad”. She had liniment that she would rub on. Similar to today’s Icy Hot. It was green and smelled like euculyptus. She would sit on the couch and have me put my legs on her lap and she would rub and rub and rub the backs of them. She called them “growing pains”. I don’t know what they were but they hurt so bad.
Then, I was so fortunate to start my menstrual cycles at the tender age of 10. My very first menses was fraught with waterlogged legs and abdominal cramps. My cycle was problematic from the start. I had a 21 day menses cycle about my 3rd month. I had horrid cramps and nausea and feelings of waterlogged legs from the very first time. I felt this was so unfair, but both my grandmother and my mom had struggled with their cycles as well. My grandmother had a hysterectomy at the age of about 24. My mother had one at the age of 28. I didn’t get mine until I was 35 years old and had given birth to four babies naturally.
At the age of 12 I developed serious headaches. I also got glasses for a severe stigmatism. I don’t remember what, if anything, I took for the headaches, but I still can recall them.
At the age of 17 I started having significant abdominal pain while eating, to the point I was passing out in my class that was after the lunch period. Three days in a row I developed cold sweats and severe pain in my abdomen after lunch and would pass out. My instructor finally questioned me wondering if I was using drugs. Of course I wasn’t. I was in pain. He said I could not attend his class until I had seen a physician.
My mother found me a doctor and he promptly diagnosed me with Spastic Colon. I was prescribed a little blue pill that he said was like a muscle relaxer just for my belly. I was also told to be cautious about eating too many fats and too much processed foods. So..the beginning of being a healthy eater was instigated early from abdominal pain.
I have always been a naturalist at heart. I had all my babies naturally via vaginal birth, with two of them being born at home. I was prescribed some pain pills after my first birth due to a significant peritinium tear. I had about 45 stitches. It hurt bad. I also had my first encounter with constipation from pain pills. It was a bit of a break from my usual of diarrhea. My mother had to give me an enema about 4 days after I got home from the hospital. It was not fun. And I was glad to be done with those pills.
There were a variety of occasions over the years that I had back injuries where I was prescribed Vicodin. I always itched terribly and became very hyperactive, not being able to sleep. I also was prescribed muscle relaxers for back injuries.
Shortly after my divorce from my children’s father in 1990, I had a panic attack. I was working my landscaping business and was actually on the street where my grandparents lived taking care of one of their neighbors hedge. She had an arborvitae hedge the entire width of her backyard and I was cleaning out the inside of it. I had been working in there…thinking and thinking and thinking. With spider webs encasing my face every so often, and pieces of trimmings falling down my shirt and making me itch, I came out of there feeling like my insides were going to explode outward. I literally dropped my tools, got in my truck and drove myself to the emergency room. I couldn’t catch my breath and I felt so anxious. I was diagnosed as having a panic attack and given a Xanax. Ahhhhh…..in 15 minutes I felt calmer than I had my entire life. A miracle! That was in 1989.
I was a single mother at the age of 27 with 3 children under the age of 6. Alone, without regular child support and minimal other support. My children weren’t blessed with doting grandparents ready to help me so I could work and maybe even have a break once in awhile. I tried finding childcare for my children, but found that to be too stressful and so took them to work with me! 3 children under the age of 7, full of energy, and they were stuck in a 1969 Ford pickup driving around town with me while I mowed lawns. Then we would go home and do homework, dinner, Cub scouts, church or whatever activity had to be attended. I was doing it all!!
I had a terrible back injury while working for the Brown Truck company in 1993. My then husband had to take over my business of lawns being mowed for a couple weeks. I was literally on the couch not moving taking Vicodin, Flexeril and Valium for the back spasms I was having. After 3 weeks of doing what the workers compensation doctor was prescribing, I finally threw all the medications down the toilet and went to my own PCP. He was shocked that I had been bedridden for weeks. It was not my style at all. He got me into physical therapy and off all the meds and I was back to work in a week. But that was the beginning of my chronic back pain.
IN 1994, after being married for only a few short months, my life started to crumble. My spouse at the time accused me of not being mindful about finances when we began the process of filing taxes. I had always had a good refund but because of us marrying, it showed I owed a bunch for taxes. I took the marriage hit because of being self employed. He didn’t understand that there was an unspoken penalty for being married and by me being self employed my taxes were higher than ever. He said it was because I was not doing things right and there started the problems. He insisted we file seperately and so I was hit with the first big bill I’d had since being a single parent.
Just prior to this tax fiasco we had gone to the coast to watch the Superbowl. We got a nice room and went to the bar at the motel and were ready to enjoy ourselves. They had a video poker machine in there and my husband had played them before. I asked him to show me how. Which he did. I really didn’t feel interested…just wanting to do what he enjoyed.
IN April I was out with the girls at a local place and I decided to put 10 bucks into a machine. I ended up playing for a long time and wining enough to treat all my friends to drinks and snacks. What fun. Until it wasn’t. Within 6 months I was writing bad checks, embezzling money and at times leaving my children alone for hours. My family was concerned. I had always been so frugal and mindful of finances. Now…I could care less. The bills were paid…barely.
I was forced into a intervention and started treatment for problem gambling. I also started seeing a shrink. He prescribed my first anti-depressant and said to use the Xanax I had been prescribed and used sparingly….more often. The cycle begins. The first AD (anti-depressant) had a side effect that wasn’t good. So they changed the AD. Then changed it again. In the first 2 years I went through about 5 AD’s.
IN 1996 an article was written in the Register Guard, my local hometown newspaper,about problem gambling. I had been interviewed, one among many. I had walked down to the local market to get cigarettes and a newspaper and there on the front page was my story. The whole entire thing. My name had been changed, but anyone who knew me, knew it was me by how I was described. I panicked. I was so embarrassed. I went home and shut all the curtains and locked all the doors and windows and thought how I could hurt myself. My children were at my father and his wife’s home, as my husband had become tired of caring for them all the time in my absences. I put a pan of oil on the stove and was going to burn myself. I knew no one would understand how messed up my head was. Between the pills and gambling, I really had no desire to live. I ended up in the Johnson Unit (psyche unit) and I was put on Luvox and diagnosed as “Symptomatic of OCD. Now I had multiple diagnoses and was being given multiple medications. By this time my eldest had gone to live with his father. Not a good thing for my son in the long run. By 1997 he was on the of Portland and an IV drug user. More stress.
Later that year, I had my first “almost” suicide. I took about 15 Xanax and drank a bottle of wine. I can recall everything. I was driving my 1988 Oldsmobile Brougham and had gone to my Grammy’s to steal her change jar. I was desperate. My grandmother was still awake, as I had sneaked into her backyard to peek into her curtains. It was about 10pm. I had to wait until she went to bed. It was very cold and was wearing only a light Tshirt and a pair of white jeans. I kept taking the pills and drinking the wine…just wanting the pain to stop. I dozed off.
My doctor later said it had to have been a miracle that I awakened due to the frigid cold. It was about 3am and I awakened to 6 inches of new fluffy snow on the car. I snuck into the garage and got into her car and stole the change I knew was there to get cigarettes. I never went into the house because I just couldn’t bring myself to follow through. I went home and went to sleep and called my dad the next morning and told him what had occurred. He took me to my doctors and had me checked out. It really was a miracle….with 15 Xanax and a bottle of wine I should have been toast. But I wasn’t. I was forced to deal with my life.
IN April of 1997 I made my last bet on the 1st. I had counseling with a Christian Counselor, as well as a secular psychologist. I also was seeing a shrink for meds. Luvox, Xanax and Ambien for sleep. Between the odd shifts at the Brown Truck company and the gambling dreams…I wasn’t sleeping well. Or maybe it was the Xanax I’d been taking off and on now for about 8 years. This was the year I was in the hospital 3 times. Once for my foot surgery, once for a hysterectomy and again for 4 days for pneumonia. I received pain medications as well as antibiotics, inhalers, and prednisone.
I had been having back pain while working at the Brown Truck company and saw a chiropracter as well as MD’s. I received Vicodin off and on with muscle relaxers. Just for bad flair ups. Then in 1999 I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I had been taking Ambien for 3 years solid now as well as I was prescribed Daypro, flexeril, Zanaflex, and I was still on the Luvox and Ambien.
I had gained quite a bit of weight during this time. In August of 2000 I went to my 20 year class reunion and had a really great time. Unfortunately I over imbibed and the next day driving the 3 hours home was rough. I felt like crap. I thought it was just a hangover…but I rarely had those and this wasn’t going away. The next day my stomach hurt worse. I was so miserable my friend took me to ER. I was diagnosed with Diverticulitis and put on Cipro and another antibiotic. I was so sick. I could barely function. All the medications and then this course of antibiotics…I just got more and more sick. My doctor was running tests right and left. Ultrasounds of my abdomen, CT scans, labs galore. I went in to get checked once again and had a little sore throat. My daughter had had mono in the spring. My doctor sighed and did a monospot….and it was positive. Not only was I dealing with Diverticulitis and all the damn meds but I was worn out with mono. My doctor was glad it was just mono, she had thought I had cancer!!! That is how sick I was that time.
It took me 6 weeks to get to where I wasn’t in bed all day. I have never been so sick in my life. I literally hoped to die. The only good thing about this period of time is that I became acquainted with the Harry Potter series. It was all I had in the house that I hadn’t already read, so my daughter loaned me her books. I devoured them!!! Between naps.
I was working as a CNA and attending college for pre-reqs for nursing. I was working 30 hours a week and going to school about 12 and studying like mad.
In 2001 I relapsed with gambling after 4 1/2 years. I ended up being back out for 10 years.
IN 2002 I got my LPN degree, moved to WA to live with my then boyfriend and we got married in January. DUMB DUMB DUMB. He was not a nice man and his adult children were disrespectful and rude. I ended up gambling lots while there. It was not a good time.
In 2003 I was in a bad rear end accident. I was hit at a stop sign by someone accelerating while driving at approx 55 mph. Between my neck and the now bulging discs in my lower back I was a mess for nearly 2 years. I worked…but was in chronic pain. Hence the pain pills again. Also, my son was in Iraq and I was growing gray hairs daily. One of the docs I worked with saw how stressed I was and wrote me a RX for Xanax. And I was already on pain meds. No AD’s at this time tho. I had weaned off them….about the time I relapsed. So…of course my family all thought I need meds to not gamble.
In 2006 I got a divorce and went back to Eugene/Springfield and got a job as a LPN at my old hospital. I applied for nursing school to do my second year and was accepted. I spent the next year living at my parents and going to school…and gambling. I wasn’t on much meds at that time except for about 20 percocets for every 6 months for back pain flair ups. I ate Ibuprofen like it was candy. I took benadryl nightly for sleep…and drank 2 glasses of wine nightly.
After I graduated, my gambling really escalated as my income increased. Stress was huge. I was working my ass off, with more responsibilities than ever before and still gambling and trying to live a dual life. My boyfriend at the time had no idea about my gambling. I thought maybe a move would help. So I moved to Salem. For 5 months I worked and gambled and slept. And I received the bestest gift…a grandbaby in December.
I went to treatment for gambling in Feb. 2010. I was put on Ativan 1 mg 3x a day as needed, Effexor 37.5mg daily ( I thought it was a miracle drug because I was calmer than I had been in my whole life) and also Ambien for sleep. Also sometimes benadryl for itching or sleep.
I left treatment still on these meds as well as my MD prescribed daily Percocet since my pain had increased tremendously not medicating by gambling anymore. It had acted as an analgesic and now pain levels were up high.
I was happy, had a decent relationship with my boyfriend, but sleeping was still bad. Even with the Ativan and Ambien I wouldn’t sleep lots of nights. It was hard on my boyfriend…to the point that in 2001 we broke up just because of sleeping and my stress levels.
In July of 2010, after being back to work only a few months, I injured my back. I also was having horrific diarrhea all the time. Bad enough that I was losing control of my bowels even at work. Between the pain from my back injury and that…my doctor finally said no more work. She took me off permanently due to pain and stress. The workmans comp doctor had tried putting me on oxycontin because my pain wouldn’t come down. That crap made me non functional…no way I could work, drive or even care for myself. I took it 4 days and threw them out.
In September I moved to Southern Oregon with new boyfriend as I was homeless, and was denied disability from work. I got an attorney and was fighting it. After 10 months I finally won a small settlement…about 6 months earnings is all. IN August my boyfriend kicked me out and I paid him for all that he had taken care of during the year and also had already spent quite a bit on his property and left to my own ways. I was on the Effexor and up to 75mg nightly and on daily Percocet and Ativan. I also had occasional flexeril.
My life was deteriorating. I cleaned my landlords house once every other week for 1/2 my rent. It would put me in bed for a day or two afterwards. I did odd jobs here and there to earn a little cash, but not much. I survived on about $400 a month.
I got a new boyfriend and after a couple months he was moving into an abandoned hoarders home in exchange for cleaning it he got free rent. Well…guess who did the bulk of the cleaning? This place was gross. They took a bunch of things out, but I did the bulk of the really nasty stuff…jsut as I had for the last boyfriend and his hoarder hell.
We broke up and I was in a horrid state with pain levels off the charts, never sleeping and anxious like crazy…in spite of taking loads of percocet, ambien, ativan, ibuprofen, tylenol, benadryl and still hving my glass or two of wine a night.
I finally got out of that place and was on an off grid place taking care of a property. The lady there was crazy as a loon and I only lasted 6 months. She was horrible to work for.
This was about the time I was introduced to Cannabis Oil. My doctor had recommended trying cannabis, which I had been intermittently. She suggested I try it as a daily helper. I was at 185 lbs and in bed more than I was out. I only was up about 3 hours daily and the rest of the time I was down in bed due to pain….even with all the meds.
I started off with the CO and also smoking for breakthrough. I slowly started cutting back on the pain pills. This was also when I got my RV and started living in it. I was still doing odd jobs here and there to get my propane and dog food and fuel. I was starting to be more outgoing again and becoming active in the community. I began volunteering at the local library and meeting the townsfolks.
I slowly started tapering down on the pain pills and muscle relaxers. I was still using the Ativan for sleep. I had been off the Ambien for awhile as my new insurance wouldn’t pay for it. When that had occurred years ago when my Psychiatrist prescribed them…he just gave me samples to use…for 5 YEARS!!! So now I have been off them for awhile.
In March of 2015 I was over the top about the situation with my gut. I had severe abdominal pain every time I ate, and was soiling my bed nightly with diarrhea that I couldn’t control. My Nurse Practioner was adamant it was my Irritable Bowel Syndrome and she wanted me to research herbal remedies. I quit eating for 5 days and felt better than I had in my whole life. I knew I had food allergies. I finally convinced her to test me…and alas…I was correct. I am allergic to wheat, corn, , cashews, and sesame and every tree and grass and weed in the Pacific Northwest. I also have a condition called Pollen Cross Reactivity Syndrome, where I can potentially have allergic reactions to many foods that have been cross pollinated with pollen from trees and weeds getting into other foods like melons and tomatoes and all types of things. So, even tho I am very cautious with foods, I still sometimes get hit unknowingly.
When I was diagnosed with my allergens I was finally sent to an allergist and he started me on Zyrtec 3 tablets daily. More pills. He also started me on an inhaler and a nasal spray. I also saw a gastroenterologist and had another colonoscopy done. It was clean this time.
As I became more user friendly with cannabis, I slowly cut out more and more pills. I would push through pain and wait as long as possible before taking a pain pill. I was only using Ibuprofen a little. I had got down to one pain pill daily and one Ativan for sleep. I was still using Ibuprofen and benadryl. On May 9th I took my last pain pill. I ran out and decided not to refill it. I had plenty of cannabis and was functioning at a higher level than I had in years. I also had stopped the medications from the allergist. I was doing fine with my gut as long as I kept a very CLEAN diet.
Sleep was becoming oftentimes non-existant. One day to the next to the next with little bits of sleep here and there. It was miserable. IN spite of it, and probably already not thinking well due to being on meds so long, when I ran out of Ativan on July 10th I decided not to refill it either. The show was on!!!!
So I had eliminated ALL pills except the Effexor 75mg. With the anxiety increased my NP had increased it to 100mg. One pill…okay…I will deal with that.
Then, I started having psychotic moments, and NO SLEEP FOR 7 days in a row. I couldn’t use the CO enough or didn’t have the right strains for sleep. I was losing my shit. And…it had begun to affect my relationship with my love…the one who I thought was my person. He didn’t understand at all this angry tired cranky woman. I didn’t know her either…but I was living with her.
I was dealing with more stress than I had in years, cleaning up yet another hoarders property, dealing with being a property manager for renters who had been friends, but once in, did not keep their word about how things were going to be, and were also critical of everything I did there. Then marijuana growers were brought on. And the deals changed somewhere along the way and I wasn’t informed. All of this while going through DETOX!!! And no one would listen to me about what was going on, because I was just the crazy lady up on the hill.
I ended up having a complete psychotic break the middle of August and was going to hang myself and I busted out a bunch of windows in my boyfriends house that I was managing for him. This was after 4 days of sitting in my RV with the temperatures outside 110+, and many many people I did not know coming up and down the 3/4 mile driveway up on the hill of 50 acres. I was a bit paranoid at the time as well as everyone had been treating me very badly in my perceptions.
The police came the next day and took me to the hospital. I refused everything I was so angry. Angrier than I had ever been. No one was listening and no one cared…they all thought I was crazy and no one would be nice. They all poked me and were condemning.
They increased my Effexor to 225mg daily., started me on Mirtazapine 15mg and clonidine 0.1mg nightly. They also gave me Seroquel 50mg nightly. And benadryl, and Ambien, And Ativan….and I was still up pacing the halls at 4am…when they said I should be out like an elephant. I was in full blown tolerance and not a single medical person picked up on it.
I got out of the hospital to find myself homeless. My boyfriend (EX) had my trailer broken into and moved down the hill without securing the inside things, destroying most of it. I was hit with horrific PTSD upon entering it. I had no tolerance for any more stress after the hospital. I stayed with a friend for a day and then I was homeless in my truck. After a week I wanted some of my belongings but my EX was being stubborn and uncaring about me getting things and his cronies wouldn’t allow me access. Well…I drank a few glasses of wine(I didn’t understand at the time why I was craving alcohol when I had never really been excessive before, but it was because my gaba receptors were all freaked out) and then I went over there barreling through the gate and up the hill only to be met with a shotgun to my head while I was trying to get some of my things. I was so incensed by it all and out of my mind that I drove my truck into the pot field. The old man there busted in my window and was hitting me over the head with a tire iron. Now remember…I had had a nervous breakdown, a psychotic event, and was put on even MORE medications….and THEY are the ones hurting me! Go figure. I ended up getting chased away from my truck by this old dude until a neighbor told him to leave me alone. I had soiled myself in fear. I was so upset about the whole ordeal I ran into the forest for a few hours. I fell in the creek and was cold and wet. I lost my glasses. I was so tired.
I went back to the neighbors and the police were there. They gave me a “courtesy ride” to the town in a DIFFERENT county. They didn’t want to deal with me. I didn’t either.
So…now I was literally on the streets. Fortunately I had some cash as I had recieved compensation from my OMMP card. I got a motel for a couple nights and proceeded to drink and cut (this was a new thing that came about with this withdrawal situation. Not anything I had done before except once) and rant and rave and loose my mind with grief and stress and PTSD. I was undone. I wanted to die so badly. I was afraid to live anymore.
I ended up going to the ER after about 5 days. Since I had been drinking they put me in a detox and treatment place. WRONG place to be. NO ONE understood what these damn pills had done.
The doctor there, whom I only saw once via video for 5 mintues prescribed SEroquel CR 150 at 5pm daily. Great!!! Another full time drug. Right….okay….bunk!!!
When I was discharged I was homeless again. I traveled to Portland to live in a trailer in exchange for groundskeeping on a property. I slept some nights…and others I didn’t. I was grateful for the cannabis. When I had been in the hospital without it, I was in so much pain I couldn’t bear it and Ibuprofen didn’t help.
Unfortunately my new spot was not the healing environment I had hoped for and need so desperately. The property owner had issues of their own and our interactions created more anxiety as well as left me feeling like I was a piece of dirt someone was scraping off the pavement. This person had wealth and comforts I couldn’t even comprehend and they still felt it necessary to demean me and wanted me living a miminal existence with not having proper heat or water or basics for living. I was roughing it to the max and yet still getting grief for trying to stay warm while this person was cozy in their 3000 sq. foot home. I just do not get people at all I guess.
I left there after the snow melted and went to a friends in Salem. I had ran out of the Mirtazipine and Clonidine during the snow and went through detox and so I stayed off them. I also was weaning off the Effexor and Seroquel. The meds had made me gain 30 lbs. And I was not sleeping many nights again. The pills no longer work for anything!!!
That didn’t work there, so then I was couch hopping and a friend let me stay at her place for a week. While I was there, many people helped me get funds to get out of town and hopefully get some stability. So here I am now…in this old dilapidated traveling van, on another horrid hoarders property and not feeling peace at all.
I had stayed with my old landlord for a few days and I was so grateful for that break. It was clean and normal and nice and I felt relaxed for the first time in months. I’ve lost almost all the weight I had gained from the meds. It is good to be back in the valley, yet I do not feel this place is right for me. The person here is not ready to get rid of things and I can’t help hoarders who are still in saving mode. It has never worked in the past and I can already tell it isn’t going to work here. Even if she doesn’t have a big sale like she hopes in May…she will end up with all 4 storage sheds still full. Aside from that, her dogs (2 adults and one baby) are the worst I’ve ever dealt with as far as bad manners. They jump up and bark incessantly and chew up everything in site. I just don’t know quite what to do.
I need to rest. I need to heal. I need quiet and order and a place to feel safe. I already know that I can find some work….enough to take care of basic needs, but I am still unable to work enough to GET AHEAD and get another RV so I can be independent and choose where I want to be. I don’t want to continue putting myself in situations where I am working hard to clean up and care for another, while not being able to care for myself. I am still going to be doing my GoFundMe because I really NEED my own RV to heal. I need a safe healing home. This is not it. Even with only being here 2 nights…I know.
So currently I am only taking Effexor 75mg daily and Seroquel 100mg nightly. I will be cutting on the Seroquel soon. I have lost all my weight gain and the cannabis pretty much manages all pain issues, so I am much more active than I have been in years. And, my brain has healed some, because I was able to write this!!!! My first elongated writing in months.
So can anyone tell me why they put me on so many meds that ended up making me worse, not better? Why was I not offered alternative treatments, like physical therapy or massage, or behavior management or something that might have actually worked. You see, the pills they gave me, opiates and benzodiazepines….they have NO curative properties. Neither do antidepressants. Nor do antipsychotics.. Nope. The only thing they do is maybe treat the symptoms. So for 27 years I have been a guinea pig for the doctors and their pills. I have listened to the people I entrusted with my health for too long. I am taking my life into my own hands now….for healing.
I do still have chronic pain, but it is more manageable, as long as I don’t overdo things. Finding a balance in my situation is very tough. Today, I am still hopeful.
Thanks friends for your prayers and support. I wouldn’t have made it this far without you. Peace.