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.

P.A.W.S.

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If you want to try out a really good time, give going through PAWS (Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome) a try.  After a nearly 20 year opiate use that grew and grew to the all time highest of 60-90mg of oxycodone daily about 2 years ago, I have completely detoxed myself off and have now had NONE since May 10.  Woohooo…..Yipppeeee….isn’t that awesome????

No.  It sucks.  It hurts. I hurt.  I hurt me and I hurt others.  I feel like my pain is the only real thing in my life.  Not physical pain but emotional.  Raw anger unlike any I’ve known in life.  It’s amazing what anger can do for physical pain.  The endorphins and all the chemicals that get released being in a constant state of flight or fight mode really make physical pain so reduced.  To the point that I can hurt myself pretty severely and not even hardly feel it when I get the anger to a heightened point.  That’s not fun.

What has me even more concerned is that I have one more highly addictive drug, Xanax, and I only have about 12 tablets left.  Which means this is going to probably get worse.  I have been on this anxiety medication since the early 1990’s when it was prescribed first for anxiety attacks then, for the last 4 years, it has been what has been given for sleep.  This is the best our health plan in Oregon can do.  Actual sleeping aids with less horrible addictive traits are not allowed on the formulary.

The only thing I have been using over the last 18 months to detox myself off all these toxic drugs the physicians kept giving me was medical marijuana, primarily RSO (Rick Simpson’s Oil).  Unfortunately I ran out of that and am trying to keep up with eating home made canna coconut oil and smoking (which I really would rather not smoke…it hurts my lungs).  But, without income and with it still being a Schedule 1 drug, there is no outside help to keep up with what helps the most.

You may wonder (or  not) what is happening in my brain from a scientific view?  Maybe I can explain in a basic way.   Essentially all the receptors that my brain has been creating for 20 years for the responses from taking a pain pill or two are not getting anything to keep them filled.  They are empty.  And they are FREAKING OUT!!!  From my recent readings on this, it could take months to years for my brain to get better, if it ever will completely.

When I detoxed from gambling, I was more a crumpled mess of pain and emotional lows.  My experiences thus far with PAWS after opiate addiction is much different.  While I do  have sleep interruption and at times physical pain, stomach upset, poor thinking, the worst of it all is the anger.  I am breaking my own heart from disappointment.

“Go to the hospital”, you say.  What will they do there?  What they did for the last 20 years.  Pump me full of meds and in a couple weeks let me out and say “you are healed”.  No thank you.  I will find a way to get OFF the rest of these meds and find what I can utilize to make me be okay without them.  The medical profession does not have my best interest at their forefront.  They have money making.  I won’t make them money if I won’t  subscribe to continuing their pills.

I don’t think all medications are bad.  I still am on an antidepressant and will most likely take it indefinately.  But chronic pain and anxiety drugs that make me feel  this bad when I can’t or don’t have them…no thank you.  I refuse to be reliant on anything someone can give or take at a whim.

I have made promises that I will LIVE through this.  I will.  It might not look pretty, but I’ll still be breathing on the other side.  I just am at a complete loss what the next months to year or longer might look like.  Always a journey, that’s my life.   In the mean time, I think seeing a few sights and allowing myself to only be concerned about me for awhile is going to be the best healing path.  Time to work through a few more bucket list items.