Coping With Pain During Covid19 Birthday Reflections
November 8th 2020 and it’s my 53rd birthday!
The country is in its second National Lockdown because of the Covid19 virus and once again we are encouraged to stay home!
We are living in very uncertain times and this plays on our minds and makes us worry, which in turn makes our pain worse.
I’ve been trying to think about all the positives in my life, my 53rd year is so much better than my 43rd year!
I feel as though I slept through my 40’s thanks to opioids , I didn’t know then however, that most of what I was going through was because of the side effects of long term use of opioids. I thought my fibromyalgia and arthritis was gradually getting worse.
Birthday picture from 2016
During my 40’s my health gradually deteriorated to a point where I was living between my bed and my reclining armchair. All movement was excruciatingly painful, every bone in my body ached, every joint hurt beyond belief, I could not stand to be touched because the lightest of touches was painful to me, something my family found really hard to believe, I’m sure they thought I was exaggerating!
I couldn’t tolerate any noise in the house, no music unless it was hardly audible. Sounds were painful! Voices were painful! This is called hyperalgesia. I never took phone calls, we rarely had visitors and therefore didn’t see the family very often, something that makes me extremely sad on reflection.
Over the course of my 40’s my weight increased until I was almost 25 Stone and of course this made the pain even worse. I’m sure everyone thought I just sat home and stuffed myself silly but that wasn’t the case at all. I was constantly trying to lose weight but no matter how hard I tried it just didn’t happen!
I now know that to lose weight you need to have all the key components a) good balanced diet b) good sleep c) exercise and if you only have one of them it doesn’t happen. I only had a good balanced diet.
I also had some very strange symptoms, my teeth hurt more often than not and yet my dentist could find no reason for this. Eventually, however, he discovered that my big back teeth had started to rot from the inside out. The outside appearance of these teeth looked healthy. My brilliant dentist decided to do some X-ray’s and that’s when we discovered what was happening. I’ve since discovered that this is a common side effect of long term use of Opioids. Many people have lost all their back teeth because of Opioids and I lost 4 big teeth. Luckily I came off opioids and my dentist is working hard to save the rest but many people are not so lucky!
My skin suffered too. I developed a condition called Nodular Purigo which meant I had nasty sores on my arms and legs, I still have the scars today. Nasty boils from Hidradenitis Superativa was another skin condition that got totally out of control. It’s something I’ve always had but only mildly, that changed during my 40’s and led to me being on long courses of strong antibiotic combinations, which also have their own unpleasant side effects. I had to have a huge nasty one cut out of my back and it was horrific. I developed many weird symptoms during that time, some of which seemed to confound the doctors too. This has all gone now I’m no longer taking opioids.
I was so depressed with all this going on and I just got worse year on year.
Fast forward to 2020 and I’m celebrating my 53rd birthday in lockdown but I have SO MUCH to celebrate! The last three years since stopping the opioids I actually feel ALIVE!!!!!
I have loud music wherever I go and I dance like no one is looking at every opportunity and sing out of key too. 😂
I walk everyday even when my pain is bad and I can’t go very far, just walk as far as I can that day. I do it because I discovered that I feel so much better when I go outside and walk, experience nature, change my surroundings, breathe fresh air! It triggers the endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers! The ‘feel good factor’ lasts for hours!
Of course as soon as I stop and sit on the sofa, my knees begin to stiffen up and hurt because I have arthritis, but I can control it by keeping active, not sitting for too long. When I have a flare up of pain I will take paracetamol and occasionally naproxen when the pain is really bad.
As we go into the winter months it becomes even harder to motivate ourselves to go out and walk, the skies are often grey and wet but I’ve discovered that it ALWAYS looks worse from inside our cosy warm homes which makes us think ‘I’m not going out in that’ but I guarantee you if you dress for the weather and push yourself out the door even for half an hour, even if it’s only to the end of the street, you will feel so much better for doing it!
There is a saying I love ‘there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing’ and that is so true! Invest in some waterproofs and spend as much time as possible outside this winter. Being outside in nature is the best antidepressant ever!!
You don’t have to walk miles, just go a bit further than you did yesterday! If you don’t normally go walking be careful not to push yourself, remember PACING, increase gradually.
My new passion is swimming in the sea and I am about to go and get in the sea at Torquay with my wife Karen for a birthday ‘SWIMBLE’ (bobbing about / moving) in NOVEMBER! 😃
Another first! We are aiming to carry on into the winter and I have bought a 2mm wetsuit costume to give my core a little protection. The pain relief from getting into the sea is astonishing and we are now addicted. The benefits are well documented, as I mentioned in my last blog post, and it’s also thought to stave off dementia.
I want to take the opportunity to mention that I am writing about MY experience with opioids! I was taking a very high dose over a very long period of time, which evidence now shows is not effective for chronic pain. I advocate for better education for patients BEFORE taking these drugs and more frequent reviews, in order to spot the signs of side effects.
Some people find that low doses of opioid medication enables them to live a life they could not normally achieve.
Take care of yourselves, I’m off for a swimble 🏊🏼♀️