Saturday, 24 July 2010

The chemical bothers.

The thing about blogging is that when your posts go quiet for a while, people assume there's something wrong. It’s not always the case, of course – you might be on holiday or have run off to join the circus or have left an important part of your brain somewhere in a field in Hampshire – but, on this occasion at least, 10 days after my last post, people who know me (whether in person or virtually) would have been right in their assumptions.

In his self-appointed role as my Guardian Of All Online Activity, Dad was among the first to question my blogging silence.
‘I figured you weren’t having a great time lately,’ he said on the phone.
‘Oh? Why,’ I asked.
‘Well, you haven’t been as active online as you usually are,’ he pointed out.
‘Yeah I know.’
‘So I assumed you were a bit blue. That’s why I’ve left you alone for a while,’ he added.
(If this seems mean, I assure you it's not. It’s absolutely the best tactic.)
‘How are you anyway?,’ he asked. (The loaded ‘how are you’. Not the just-arrived-in-the-office ‘how are you’. The kind of ‘how are you’ where the emphasis is on the ‘you’ rather than the ‘how’.)
‘I’m not having the best time, Dad,’ I admitted. ‘I’m getting so down, so easily.’ (I’m always loath to use the word ‘depressed’.)
‘And with good reason, shitface,’ he empathised. ‘Tell me about it.’
‘I’m sick of all the pills I’m having to take. I get up in the morning and see them all in bathroom, and the sight of them makes me feel physically sick. I’ve had enough of them, but it’s tough because I can’t stop taking them.’
‘Is Tamoxifen the problem?’
‘I think so. I know how I felt off it, and I know how I feel on it. Even when I was in the depths of chemo I could find a way of getting through it. But now – when things aren’t even nearly that shit – things somehow seem darker. This week’s been awful.’

I went on to describe how I’d spent the previous evening in uncontrollable tears, and had been experiencing so many hot flushes and night sweats that I’d been sleeping in the spare room so as not to piss off P. I told him how P had worked from home that day because he was so concerned about me, and I told him about the horrendous nightmares I’d been having.

‘I read on Twitter that you’d been in bad pain with your back, too,’ he said.
‘Really bad,’ I confirmed. ‘My Tramadol have stopped working so I’m not taking them any more.’
‘And that’s obviously making things worse.’
‘I spose, yeah,’ I said, stopping short of telling him about the hallucinations and the nervousness and the fact that I’d been Googling rehab centres, convinced I was having a breakdown.
‘But I really think it’s the pills, Dad. I’m convinced it’s chemical. I just don’t feel like me.’

There’s no resolution to that kind of conversation, though, and so beyond agreeing to ‘take care’ and ‘look after yourself’ there’s little more to do than carry on talking about what’s going on this week, how far away the next holiday is and what you’re having for tea. But, of course, after freaking out your old man like that, there’s nothing for tea, because you feel too guilty about having offloaded on him to eat anything. (And ain’t that freedom from guilt just the most wonderful thing about therapy? Screw getting antsy about talking to a stranger. That ‘stranger’ is paid handsomely to listen to your troubles, and it’s amazing how quickly you’re able to open up to them once there’s no longer any worry about how what you’re saying is going to affect the person hearing it. Frankly, I think therapy should be compulsory. I know I’ve benefitted from it. And, cop-out as it is to suggest as much on one’s blog, I think my husband and parents are lunatics for not trying it themselves, given the shitstorm of the past two years, which I’ve had much more assistance in dealing with than they have.) But that’s beside the point. The point being that last night, my awful week came to an equally awful head, with a panic attack and sudden purge of my stomach’s contents in the disabled loo of Nando’s. (I only puke in the classiest places. See also: Costa Coffee, out of a moving taxi window, into a rubbish bin in my student dorm. Oh, and Claridges. Claridges was a swanky puke.)

Frustratingly, it wasn’t a therapist or a rehab doctor – hell even a sodding stuffed animal – who had to be witness to my crappy week’s culmination, but my friend Weeza.
‘Mate, are you sure you’re all right?’ she said as I pretended to nibble on a chicken wrap, following a three-minute car ride in which I’d had five hot flushes.
‘Hm? Yeah, yeah,’ I answered unconvincingly, my eyes darting nervously from side to side.
‘You’re not though, are you?’ she pushed, and I was pleased she did. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on, other than feeling like I couldn’t focus and might drop my corn on the cob from shaking so much.
‘I don’t feel too well, if truth be told,’ I admitted.
‘What, like you might be sick?’
‘Well there’s a disabled loo right behind you, so if you need to, just dash in there.’
‘Yuh, maybe,’ I dismissed, before finding myself hunched over a raised toilet bowl two minutes later.
‘Right you, come on,’ she mothered as I appeared from behind the door. ‘We’re taking you home.’ It reminded me of the time when we were teenagers and I’d left my wallet and house keys in the pocket of some boy I’d been snogging, and she called my Mum from the nightclub to ask her to unlock the front door because doing so myself would have got me a bollocking, while Mum would never have balled out Weeza.

‘I think you were having a panic attack then,’ she said, hugging my tears away when we got back into the car.
‘Weez, I’m going mad,’ I sniffed. ‘I can’t get anything right. I think I’m losing it.’
‘You’re not losing it,’ she asserted. ‘Not at all. You just need to get home.’
‘I’ve hurt my back throwing up, as well.’
‘We’ll get you some painkillers when we get back.’
‘Nah, they’re not working any more. I took four in one go the other night and they didn’t even touch the sides.’
‘But hang on, they were making you so spaced out to start with,’ she half-questioned. ‘When did you stop taking them?’
‘Um, about 48 hours ago.’
‘And when did they stop working?’
‘About a week ago.’

With the conversation unfinished, I began to wonder whether she might have been getting at a solution. Earlier in the week, when I’d whinged to Twitter about my Tramadol no longer doing their job, a cautious reply told me to be ‘very careful’ of the drug and its effects. I checked the leaflet as soon as we got home.
‘Fuck,’ I cried, as my eyes scanned the passage warning of dependency, and the withdrawal symptoms that can follow when stopping the drug after prolonged use. Nausea, hallucinations, nervousness, panic attacks, sweats, difficulty sleeping… it was like I’d written it myself.
‘That’s it! That’s fucking it!’
‘Funny,’ said Jonny, Weeza’s husband. ‘I asked P when you girls went out whether the pills not working might point to a dependency.’
‘WHAT?’ screeched Weez and I, alarmed both by the coincidence and IT-expert Jonny’s sudden medical know-how.
‘Actually,’ added P. ‘When I told my Mum what painkillers you were on, she said they were ridiculously strong and you ought to be careful.’
‘WHY DID NOBODY TELL ME THIS?’ I wailed. Relieved resolution as this was, it was a bit like breaking up with a long-term boyfriend only for your family and friends to admit that they never liked him in the first place.

Concerned that I hadn’t been warned – whether by my GP or anyone else with even the most cursory knowledge of the drug – I messaged a couple of Tramadol-experienced folk I know.
‘Is this right?’ I questioned, simultaneously relieved by the chemical reason behind my wobbly week and freaked out that I hadn’t been smart enough to see it coming.
‘Totally,’ said one. ‘I had a dreadful time with it. Sickness, shakes, the lot.’
‘It’s a fucker,’ confirmed the other. ‘It’s screwed me over every time I’ve stopped taking it.

Now, I’m not usually in the business of public-service blogging (Alright Tit isn’t medically literate, nor particularly useful, nor the kind of resource that your doctor might advise reading – it’s simply the story of someone learning to negotiate life through and beyond The Bullshit as they go), but in this instance, I’ll be pleased to see this post show up in people’s Tramadol-related Googling. (Plus, it’ll make a pleasant change from people stumbling upon this blog having searched for ‘angry miss piggy’, ‘pink nipples jogging’, or ‘this time next year Rodney we’ll be millionaires’.) Because, frankly, this is information I could have done with two months ago.
‘I can give you more if you need it,’ said my doctor when handing me the initial prescription. ‘Just see how you go and listen to what your body’s telling you.’ But given that, if I listened to what my body wanted, I’d be shunning my cancer-preventing drugs for chocolate biscuts, gin and fags, I dare say a better line of advice might have been to, y’know, just go steady.

So yep, that’s why I’ve been quiet. And that, I suppose, is the other thing about blogging. Just when you thought you had nothing worthy to write about and that publishing another post was more of a chore than an outlet after too long since your last one, along comes an episode like that to make you put fingers to keyboard.


Anonymous said...


I took Tramadol for my slipped disc...but thankfully stopped taking them just before dependency, thanks mainly to a chance conversation with a work colleague who had taken Tramadol for his torn ACL knee ligament.

You see HE'D got to the point of dependancy and had suffered in very much the same way as yourself...Now they are 'good shit' (esp if you take them with diazepam! - whoooo-hoo!) but they are dangerous shit, and for once I think 'those bloody doctors' need to be just a tiny bit careful...

Hope the back IS getting better though chuck.

MFA Mama said...

Oh, withdrawal is hell! I was on a Dilaudid drip in the hospital for over a week after my hysterectomy-plus-ovary-and-lump-on-same-removal-turned-peritonitis last summer, then went home from the hospital to find my cow of a mother'd eaten the whole bottle of painkillers I had at home, so stopped it cold while still in horrible pain. Worst night of my life! My doctor gave me more pills the next day but I only took halves and quarters to relieve the horrible symptoms of the withdrawal until it was gone and then stuck to non-narcotic pain relief. I can't see why anyone would ever abuse them and voluntarily put themselves at risk of such misery; glad you've figured out the problem at least and I hope you feel much better soon!

lilianavonk said...

Ohhhh, honeybunny... {{massive hugs for this latest serving of shit sandwich, along with heartfelt apologies for being so derelict in my commenting duties}}

Your friendly non-local former heroin addict--who developed said habit after painful neuromuscular disease led to the horking down of 25+ Vicodin-ES a day (you've heard about that way too many times by now)--was well and truly concerned this might very well happen...not in the least because I used to regularly abuse Ultram, along with any other opiate I could get my acquisitive little paws on.

Congratulations, my love--you've just gone through the DT's (sadly, delirium tremens rather than David Tennant, who one would assume would be a good deal pleasanter to experience).

The main thing I would recommend you do now, if at all possible--the broken back permitting--is to avoid all opiate-based painkillers in the immediate future, because once your body recognises that "luvely stuph"--as I once oh-so-mistakenly termed it--it will only want more, and more, and more...since once you start feeding that monkey, you will find that his appetite is inexhaustible.

You also may have built up a tolerance to the Tramadol, and if the pain gets to the point where your doctor needs to prescribe something stronger, just be hella vigilant about how much you're taking and be sure to wean yourself off it, not just stop taking the pills abruptly, as that will only exacerbate the withdrawal symptoms.

And btw, you will NEVER stop having things worthy to write about, not as long as you have a pulse--just as you will never run out of folks like me who are so honoured to be let into your life via this blog. ♥

Helen said...

Oh hon. I'd noticed you'd not been around as much but, like your Dad, thought best to leave alone. You know where I am if you do ever need a rant/cry/moan xx

lilianavonk said...

BTW, here's what I put in the Cosmo Blog nomination--sorry, it's all I could up with off the top of my head.

Lisa Lynch's account of her battle with breast cancer--and her subsequent life "blogging beyond the bullshit," as she so inimitably puts it--is by equal turns heartbreaking and hilarious. This frequently humorous, always-compelling take on the life of one not-so-average young Englishwoman is a downright addictive read, and one that eminently deserves a Cosmo Blog Award!

Anonymous said...

Babe, that's awful! I have no Tramadol wisdom, but to share your pain a tiny bit, I once vomited while up a tower at York Minster, where there are no toilets, and indeed no places to hide. I was in charge of a party of young people on a trip and the vomming came curtesy of some medication I'd been given to try and control my bulimia, but ended up making me violently sick. Hilarious. I've also been sick on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral, but that's because I was trollied.

Hope you start to feel better soon. If you want an East Midlands girl to rant at, email away.

Pearl xx

Anonymous said...

Lisa, That's the problem with strong painkillers. You need them and then they fuck you up. You'll be right now and knowing the reason for why you felt so lousy does help. Soon your back will fix, your aches will disappear your breast cancer will be a distant memory, and you can get on with your life, full of wit and boldness and best-selling glitz.

Anonymous said...

PS I just voted for you. I'd tell you what I wrote but you might blush.

Freudus said...

Crap, lis, that sounds absolutely horrible. The sooner this back is behind you (honk!) the better.

Voted, btw. Ditto the above - I can't tell you what I wrote, as you'd have to start a new blog about life with a freakishly large head.

Come to think of it, that could be a good read...

MBNAD woman said...

Lordy, Lisa ... you make the ordinary menopause sound like a doddle. In my early fifties (do you know how much I hate saying that?), I crawled to the GP bleating about hot flushes/ night sweats. I'd kept a diary and had 27 in one day. Enough, I said, please. I feel ashamed of being that pathetic.
Get some help with the pain and panic and get well.
Mad x

Fi said...

FFS this is rubbish, Lisa. Must just feel like a treadmill. I'm sorry. Had chemo - not tramadol. Somehow feel chemo is preferable! Hugs xxx

Jo said...

Your a marvel Lisa. I hope every penny raised helps figure out alternative medicines for getting back your good self.
Enjoy the theme music for this post - Battle Scars - 'there's no path to follow'.

Anonymous said...

Voted - fingers crossed!!!

Also, thanks to your latest post I spotted scary signs of this "Terror"dol drug in a friend as she was merrily popping them for her own back trouble. I pointed her in your blogs direction and not only do you now have yet another avid follower (who has also voted) but she also went back to her Dr and he has put her on something more "user friendly"!

Keep smiling, take the good with the bad and remember - you are an inspiration to us all.

misspiggy said...

Just to add re Tramadol, if anyone has been handed it like sweets, 1) ask for Tramacet instead (much lower dosage of Tramadol, combined with Paracetamol which makes it work more effectively) - works a treat and much less awful side effects 2)take it early before pain gets really bad, 3) always take it with or shortly after food 4) NEVER take more than four Tramacet or three Tramadol in one day, unless you really really really need it, 5)expect to feel sick, expect to get a hideous headache the day after taking more than two 6)do not take more Tramadol to sort out the next-day headache: if you can, just take something like Anadin Extra (aspirin, paracetamol and caffeine, and 7) never come off it by just stopping - phase it down over three days to a week.
Grr it makes me cross that so many of us have to find this out by bitter experience rather than being told in advance!

misspiggy said...

ooh, just wanted to add one more thing - I'd hate anyone to be put off Tramadol/Tramacet if they are in severe pain - for 'nerve pain' and some types of injury it is very effective, and has freed me from an utterly agonising time when things like codeine didn't work. But the trick is to use it sparingly in terms of the number of pills one takes - taking it early on in the pain, but not having too many per day, and trying not to have too many consecutive days of taking it. That way you keep just under dependency and it carries on working, with few side effects. As I say, I have absolutely no idea why one is never told this by doctors.