Day 5 – I’m gonna live!

 

I do not think all medications are bad. There are situations where pharmacological medications are curative or the benefits outweigh the potential risks or side effects. At this time in my life, having been on a variety of pharmacological medications with less than optimal results, as evidenced by my struggles (breakdown) the last month, I am wanting to go a more holistic way. It started with medical cannabis and I now am more interested in what nature has to offer.

One of the main reasons for doing gardening and animal care when I am in such a challenging financial and physical and emotional situation is they give me purpose on days I struggle. I am so grateful that I started that.  Putting in a garden and attracting butterflies and hummingbirds gives me something pretty to watch and look for. Being out in nature and getting a little exercise is one of the BEST medicines there is. On many days when I am in pain or just overwhelmed, having those things I MUST get up for …makes me still have a life. Hey Sigmund has done a nice outline here of a more holistic approach for mental health strategies.

http://www.heysigmund.com/the-non-medication-ways-to-deal-with-depression-that-are-as-effective-as-medication/

I started off using the medical cannabis (MMJ) mostly for pain. I was on fairly high doses of Oxycodone and it wasn’t working. At least not enough.  This contributed to my IBS for certain, causing severe constipation.  MMJ has been a wonderful option for getting off opiates. It also has improved my mood greatly, until I get into a panic situation or PTSD gets triggered. I still having to do some learning on that. I have a couple strains that I have been given or bought (thank you to the growers) and it works. But the medication I need now needs a special license to process and so I can’t get it as easily. Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) was the BEST cannabis medication I have had to date that helped me the most.  I was calm and pain was much better controlled than with the opiates.

To get the strains that I need for anxiety and PTSD challenges I have to now go the dispensary. In one week I went through $100 worth of RSO and other types of MMJ products in addition to my usual use of the tinctures and butter and flower I have already at home. I can’t afford that. I sure hope they don’t take out the OMMP because of recreational. This is my medication now.

I had it suggested to me to try some skullcap when my belly settles a bit more. It’s a nervine. Nervines are an classification of herbal remedies for mental health conditions that have evidence of high anxiety. I was also told a student of herbology that nervines such as Skullcap can actually help in the healing of my brain after long term use of various medications. Hearthsidehealing in Portland, OR presented this article on nervines written by Jon Keys.

http://www.hearthsidehealing.com/nervine-herbs-for-deep-relief-from-anxiety-and-stress/

While the last few days have been incredibly difficult emotionally, I have no desire to take those pills again. I do not crave them at all, which is a bit strange based on dealing with my gambling disorder and the drive I had for that. I feel that with the medications I was more dependent on them, whereas the gambling for me is a true addiction. But in all honesty, I really had no idea I had an emotional attachment to the medications. They were prescribed by my NP for my various ailments over the course of the last 5 years. Some of them I had been on for nearly 20 years off and on.  When one has a number of medications like that there is always concern about them being discontinued, or brands changing (can be very difficult for some), or your doctor saying after a number of years prescribing, “no more, we have to stop this”. Or there is confusion about getting it refilled. It is really a painful experience to be taking 60-90mg of oxycodone a day and then not have it for 36 hours! Very painful.

I think this is the 5th night since my last dose and while life isn’t bubblegum and rainbows, it’s better than it was 24 hours ago. I even ate! That is one of the big side effects with my withdrawal is NO appetite. Additionally, I think I have only had about 6-7 hours of sleep in the last 3 days. For tonight I’ve made myself a nice hot cup of cannabis tea. I feel very tired. But not as despondent  and sick as I was off and on the last week. Yay God!

Only two sleeps and I will see the counselor that I have seen before.  As well as my NP was to be putting in a referral to a psychiatrist for me.

I really appreciate those who are following. I hope you share this all over the place! I really want people to know what detox from a benzodiazapine after on and off use for 20 years looks like. I want people to know it’s possible to improve from a dependency, an addiction, or a number of mental health ailments by making just a few lifestyle changes. And help me remember that the only person I really need to take care is me. 🙂 Peace!

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**This is no way an endorsement for taking yourself off medications.  I have discussed this with my Nurse Practitoner and it has been a slow taper over 18 months.  One medication at a time.

 

 

Self Care for PAWS

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Up and down and up and down and around the bend and back again. Battling through PAWS (Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome) is like being on a roller coaster ride, on the mixer, walking around in the funny house and sick with the flu at times. Add to that my PTSD being triggered and it’s been a rough couple of weeks.

To be honest, there are periods of time I don’t really remember much. I have pieced some things together from those that I’ve talked to on the phone or who saw me during those days as well as various texts and emails.  I wasn’t very nice.  I lashed out at those I love the most during the worst of it. Including myself. PAWS can be a serious medical condition. There are times I have felt very disconnected and it’s taking all my ability to maintain some semblance of “normal”.  I’m sure there are a few of my people that would have liked to see me be hospitalized for a few of those days.

While I did have a long morning in the ER after one of the most rough days/nights, (un)fortunately they let me go home. There had been paperwork filled out to put me on a hold, but I know what the hospital means if you are detoxing and/or going through PAWS. It means being stuck inside, put on benzos and who knows what other meds as well as starving because they don’t have any food I can eat. So I pulled myself together and talked with a little intelligence and very nicely and they literally dumped me out in the waiting room. They know what the PAWS crazies are like. They wanted me out of there!

I don’t want it to sound like I take this lightly. I don’t. I am scared out of my sometimes too smart mind. I just can’t see any way through this other than just doing it on my own using medical marijuana. I can’t go to a treatment facility because they will put me on pharmaceuticals and that is what has been making my life a living hell for the last few years. I can’t go to the hospital because that’s all they have to treat me also. I still am taking my anti-depressant and would be happy to consult with a psychiatrist about my PTSD if I could get a referral. I was supposed to have one over 4 months ago, but that’s how it’s been with my PCP, we talk about it and then a year or two later after me reminding her multiple times it finally gets ordered.. Right now I just am doing my best and trusting that those that love me will still be around when I come out the other side. Cuz this ain’t pretty!

 

I’ve been through PAWS before with my gambling addiction. I vaguely remember the jitters and the crying jags and the frustration with having my brain not working right. I remember getting upset easily and feeling a little “out of body” at times when I first started trying to live life without my addiction activity. What is different about this is I didn’t realize that I had any emotional attachment to my medications. Also, when I was detoxing off gambling (yes, you detox off gambling just like alcohol or drugs, it is truly miserable) they were giving me pain medication and anti-anxiety medications.   I was just doing what the doctor ordered. I was taking medications in order to be comfortable living life. Now that I have been off the opiates for nearly 60 days, I don’t crave the pills…but I wish so much for something to make all the bad feelings go away.  I am not feeling comfortable at all.

What am I doing to take care of myself through this you might ask? I admit, I haven’t been that great to myself. One thing is I have absolutely NO appetite and so making food is a challenge. Fortunately my son has been around and so I occasionally feel a motherly calling and will cook for him and then I’ll eat too.

Tonight I was finally able to drive to town to get a few things at the grocery store. I bought some good healthy foods to cook and eat, including a few easy things like soup and cheese and crackers and avocadoes. Things I don’t have to think about to create something to fill the empty spot in my belly. I also found some specialty teas to help me relax and to be positive. Additionally, I am following suit with millions of others around the world and have embraced the idea of coloring for therapy. I bought myself a coloring book and some colored pencils. Combined with a little medicine that should be a great way to be creative and reduce my anxiety at the same time.

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I am really proud of myself for driving to town. Driving has not been a good thing during this particular time in life. I either find myself extremely anxious while driving or I get road rage. These are new things for me. So, I have not drove much at all the last couple weeks. But, I needed groceries and food for the plants and animals too!

The other things that are keeping me grounded are my furbabies and the other wildlife around here and my gardening. I have my dog who is the best. I freaked her out a little the night things got so crazy for me, but she came around in no time after she saw I was home and okay. Then there is my partially feral kitty that was indoors but escaped just about the time everything else took a dive for me. I am slowly encouraging her out of her hiding spot under the deck. I also love keeping the hummingbirds happy by having their feeder full and water nearby for them to drink or play in. They are so beautiful and I love to hear them buzzing around. Then there are the butterflies and the snakes and lizards that catch my eye. They are beautiful and I thank them for letting me get so close to take their photo. Watering the gardens and tending my first few medicine plants helps keep me focused outside myself also.

Many of the things I have growing were started from seeds. I love watching things grow. It gives me hope. Even the flowers that are less than perfect or the cilantro that bolts before I can get any of it…..they all are such a support and source of encouragement to me. They give me some purpose when I am feeling so out of touch with the rest of the world. The living things that rely on me for their care give me so much back. I am so grateful that II have been able to stay here, where I can grow things and be in nature.

It’s the end of the day now. I have much to be grateful for. I know I have a number of people that are praying for me. Thank you. That is another of the challenges with PAWS and the PTSD.  It seems to darken the spirituality part of my life. I trust your prayers will be sufficient, for praying is a challenge for me right now.  I still have hope and I know that comes from something outside myself.

I thank those who have not been scared away but have said “I love you, how can I help?”. I’m grateful for being able to drive myself to town and for a full fridge and pantry. I will do this!!! If there is one thing I know about me, I perservere! I don’t know what it’s all going to look like on the other side, but I choose to view the future as very lovely and peaceful and full of promise!

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Another Day

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The view out back.

I believe the last day I had any opiates was May 10. That means today is day 51. Whew! What a roller-coaster it has been. Physical pain some days, other days tons of energy and low pain, emotional highs and lows, anhedonia, obsessive compulsive behaviors, restless legs, sweating, raging, sleeplessness, tearful, irrational, sensory overload, lonely (this is my own choice to be alone, yet it still is a lonely place).  Yet, here I am, upright, breathing and doing my best!

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Hidey Hazel kitty

Yesterday was a pretty decent day overall.  I started the day opening the blinds in my bathroom.  My veggie garden is my view out the back of my fifth wheel.  Its coming along nicely for what I’ve had to work with.   The best thing was my kitty that had fled the coop a week or so ago is living under the porch now and I got to see her.  I took her food and water.  I also filled the hummingbird feeder, watered the garden, took some photos, got a shower and went out for pizza with my son after we had a little talk.

I finally asked him about last Friday night. That was a really bad night. In attempting to be social and be out, I over-imbibed in alcohol and it was not a good thing. Alcohol while detoxing off narcotics is a potentially lethal mix.  In more calm and rational times having a glass of wine or two is not a big deal for me. What I learned over the last 2 weeks or so is that if you are removing something that has been part of your pain regimen, it is really easy to substitute alcohol. So a glass or two becomes 3 or 4 and then more. I would not make a good alcoholic.  I found that out in just a short couple weeks of doing some “substituting”. I was somewhat aware I was doing that, but I thought I could control it.  I let it get out of hand.  Right now I have to be very very careful of any thing that might be a potential replacement, other than the medical marijuana.

Even tho I’ve been on a taper for over 18 months, my brain knows that those pills are now gone. Those receptors are screaming for something to fill them up so they can relax. That is what causes me so many symptoms. What I am needing is some better guidance on strains of medical marjuana (MMJ) to use.

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My best forever friend

Since I started using MMJ, I’ve only had strains I received as compensation for work and what I received from the person who grew for me last year. I’ve been give a few names and very basic descriptions of what the strain is good for. What I need is some direction and expert knowledge of what strains will help with the anxiety and some of the other symptoms that I have been recently struggling with. I have decided I need to take a trip to one of the local dispensaries. Most the strains I have are good for getting me up and moving. Right now, I need something a little more calming. I’ve visited a couple with a friend once but have not had the resources to spend on what I considered as “extras”, when I have plenty here. What I have come to realize is that I need some specific components and for my health it isn’t an “extra”. This is my medicine now.

I am coming to truly understand that this is a science. I have much to learn. I know from the great success I’ve already had the last 18 months that it can be done. I want this to work and it is working. Had I been more mindful I may have waited to stop that last pill until I didn’t have so much stress going on around me. Yet, I could have made an excuse to keep that pill for quite some time. It was my medicine. Now it isn’t.

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Each day the smile is a bit more

I’m not good at “fake it til you make it”. My brain doesn’t grasp that. What I do have success with is keeping on keeping on. It might not look pretty all the time, but I’m not giving up, even when my head sometimes tells me that sounds like a pretty good idea for everyone’s sake. I have been through so much and I know that there is good on the other side of dark times like this.

My hope for my loved ones is they too remember that no matter what happens, my track record has been good for waking up and making it through the days. And for all of you reading, I wish you the best day possible. If it’s not so great hang on, because tomorrow can be, if you just get through what ever it is you have to get through.  Peace.

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Storms often bring heavy growth afterwards

The Clash of PTSD triggers and Opiate withdrawal….and the CRASH!!!

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As I look back over the years, so many hopes and dreams, always feeling like I was working hard, trying my best. Right now, it’s actually pretty amazing what I’ve done with the deal I got dealt. My life has handed me circumstances that not everyone goes through. The multiplicity of the stress of various circumstances have created changes in my brain. I do not see things the way you do. Add to that, the medical arena not knowing how to deal with my various symptoms and handing out prescriptions of mood stabilizers, SSRI’s, pain medications, sleep medications, Neurontin for foot pain, anti-inflammatories, anti-diarrheals, anti-constipation, anti-anxiety medications….among the top 10! It’s truly amazing that I am sitting here able to even be partially present in my day.

I have learned over the years what some of my triggers are. Certain smells like old medicine bottles, slamming of a cupboard door, yelling of any type. I can not tolerate perfumes. I notice them right away. The same can be said to the feel of clothing against my skin. It has to be soft cotton and loose and not too hot and able to be layered because I can’t regulate my temperature when my adrenal glands are on overdrive.

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So I’ve been trucking along working my recovery from gambling, slowly tapering off all those medications and got down to where I was hardly taking any oxycodone anymore. For instance, I might even have a day or two that I took none.Unfortunately, in late March on my trip to Chicago,  I got really sick with pneumonia and bronchitis, the flu and pleurisy. I was miserable. So, since I had them, of course I took the pain meds. I was in pain. Right?

Then, just a couple weeks after healing up from that and back down to just one dose a day or less, I have this incredible ride on a 1939 Ford F9 tractor down a hill with no brakes and out of gear which caused me to dislocate a rib, and so I had to take them again. I actually had a rib poking out (still under the skin), and shoved it back in. I awoke the next morning to the bruise from doing it. That was late April.

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In the interim period of time that I am kind of subconsciously getting myself off the meds (this has been a slow steady progression since 11/14) while huge amounts of stress  get added. Big stuff in January, then some big triggers in February. Based on my journaling and emails from February through March, I was trying to share that I was not feeling safe, or in a place of peace. Then after I got well from all my ailments, there were more triggers. I tried telling people. I wrote letters and tried to have conversations about how it felt to be triggered and how someone could help me. But if someone has not had to really feel what having a PTSD flare-up feels like, they can’t understand my language. In my mind, I think it must sound like “WAW WAH WAW WAH WAW: and they think I am just being a complainer.

So here is where I am going to say I gave everyone the best I could and I am really proud I hung on as long as I did without exploding in someone’s face. Well….that is, until I did. But I held on for a couple months under what felt like incredible stress with no one speaking the same language as me. I’m sure over the last couple of weeks not much of my language has made sense. I know my brain feels pretty fried.

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You see, without really thinking about it, I stopped taking the pain pills. I was feeling better. I was using medical marijuana with good success. I had stopped the muscle relaxers and the anti-anxiety medications quite some time ago….except for that night time dose of Xanax which is what the NP prescribes for my severe insomnia. Oregon Health Plan won’t pay for anything less addictive for chronic insomnia, so this was my option for a long time. I still have to wean myself off of it.

Unbeknownst to me, combining ongoing PTSD triggers and withdrawal from opioid’s is a horrible situation. Had I thought about it, I would not have done it, but now I’m 6 weeks or more into it and don’t want to have to go through all this again.

So….things you need to know if you have PTSD and you also are considering detoxing off opiates with medical marijuana!

  • Make sure you are in a really peaceful and caring place. For at least 6 months or up to year. No high stress. No high drama.
  • Do a slow taper.
  • I recommend RSO if you have been on high doses of opiates. A Sativa with high CBD for nighttime for certain. Stay low….stay easy. Ahhhhhh.(this is one place I went wrong. I didn’t have the right strains to help with the additional stress on my body).
  • Make sure you have some creature comforts, like air conditioning, a tub to soak in, someone to maybe lightly rub your back or feet while you breath through the rough moments.
  • Do NOT operate machinery. Especially when titrating medications. It’s not just a balance and clarity issue. The anger that can accompany opiate withdrawal makes driving a serious hazard. I learned the hard way.
  • Be good to yourself. Be kind. Remember it took years to get here. Keep in contact with a medical care provider if you can’t be certain you or others are safe while withdrawing. Realize it takes time.

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I am not having a good time with this and it isn’t looking ladylike when I rage and roar…but I am determined to find peace without handfuls of medications that do nothing in the long run. While all of this is not so great of a time and at times quite embarrassing, if one person reads this with chronic pain or PTSD and keeps from getting themselves from being addicted to prescription pain and anxiety meds then I have done a good thing.

I am sharing this because I want to help others. There are other options to all the pills our doctors so freely hand out. I hope if you are reading this…it’s before you have a 20 year habit that you don’t even recognize it is a bad habit. I was just following doctors orders.