The lighter side of living with pain – chronic or otherwise

Last week, I attended the launch of Stella MacLean’s latest book “A Child Changes Everything.”

It was very nice listening to her as she shared with the several women (and the few men :)) who attended, about her herself, her writings, where she gets her ideas, and so much more. I started reading her book and it was a hook from the very first chapter. I’m not quite done (I’m a slow reader) but I’m enjoying it. I urge everyone to get it. It’s well worth it.

Stella also spoke of her writing on chronic pain which is not finished yet. I’m not good at quoting people, and though I can’t remember her exact words, it reminded me to see the positive in the negative. Thanks, Stella, your words reminded me how truly blessed I am.

In 1978, my doctor prescribed Phenobarbital for epilepsy and remained seizure-free for 30 years. In 2008, another doctor referred me to an “epileptologist” (the spell check doesn’t even recognize this term), a neurologist who specializes in treating epilepsy.

His main concern: Prolonged use of Phenobarbital puts me at risk for osteoporosis (which is in my family). He believed I most likely outgrew my seizures and recommended that I cut back half a tablet every three months. Stopping suddenly would result in withdrawal seizures.

To say ‘I was afraid’ is putting it mildly. The expression If it’s not broken why fix it? came to mind. After 7 months of deliberation, I started cutting back. In March 2009, I was taking 180 mg/day. Now, I’m down to 45 mg/day. So far so good.

I’m very fortunate. Being seizure-free made it easy to live with epilepsy. I took the medication and forgot about it while others who also take medication still have seizures. Epilepsy is not the only thing I’ve learned to live with. I have vertigo (which is also in my family), and doctors don’t know what triggers the spells; I have arthritis in my legs which often keeps me awake at night (as I write this I have discomfort in both legs); and I can’t eat or drink anything with caffeine (it makes me nauseous). But I’ve learned to be content and very seldom complain about these ‘ailments’.

I remember when the doctor told me to stay off the caffeine completely. No dark pop, tea or coffee! I never liked tea or coffee so that part was a breeze.
“What will I would drink instead?” I asked.
“Water’s good for you,” he simply replied.

Ouch! That was hard to swallow—no pun intended.
That’s it? Just plain water???
Oh! And stay away from chocolate too!” he added.

I can just about hear some of you exclaim No Chocolate? I thought he was out of his mind. I can’t live without chocolate, can I? Yes, you can the little voice in my head told me. It bothered me at first and I cheated a few times, quickly realizing that a quick “sweet” fix was not worth feeling sick, and crying wouldn’t cure the problem. I learned to enjoy white chocolate instead. Now, I can hear those same people saying “That’s not chocolate.” When you can’t have the real thing? You better believe it is! 😉

Can I say that these ‘ailments’ have limited me to a certain degree? Not really.

– I can’t go on a roller coaster, or any fast rides that make my head spin (my favourite used to be the Tilt-a-Whirl). But that’s okay. I can still go to the fair and play games, or walk the fair grounds and have a great time.

– I can’t drink alcohol! That’s fine with me. I tried a few drinks as a young adult but it never really appealed to me. Besides, if I go to a friend’s party, I can still have a good time without a drink in my hand knowing that tomorrow, I’ll wake up feeling good and remember the fun I had at the party while some of my friends won’t.

– Speed-walking bothers my arthritis. So I walk slower! 🙂

Medication helps stabilize my vertigo but I need to watch my sodium intake. Shouldn’t we all do that anyway? More than once, I’ve gone to work slightly off-balance, but as long as I didn’t look up or down for any length of time, I was fine. I usually laugh about it because that’s the only thing I can do. I suppose I could cry but. . . it’s more fun to laugh. 😀

As for the arthritis?  I’ve learned—slowly—that, if I stand for long periods of time, or walked too much, my legs get really restless through the night. My work is only a 10-minute walk (Thank God). But overall, it hasn’t been that bad. It’s something that I know I have to live with. I’d rather be content with the discomforts, than complain about it and make everyone miserable.

Life sometimes throws us curve balls. We can accept and learn to live with them, or we can complain. One of our church pastors once said: “If you can’t go over it, go around it.” When your mountains seem too high to climb, try going around them. It makes them seem smaller.

It reminds me of the Apostle Paul, who, three times, asked God to take away the ‘thorn in his flesh.’ God said “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Am I perfect? Nowhere near it . . . But God’s grace is sufficient for me.


6 thoughts on “The lighter side of living with pain – chronic or otherwise

    • Epilepsy and vertigo are not linked. I just happen to have both. And yes, No Chocolate. But you know, it really isn’t that bad!

      What’s so great about chocolate anyway, other than it adds pounds to the hips and thighs? 😉

      • I’ve been meaing to send you another reply as i omitted something in the last one.
        Epilepsy and vertigo are not linked. What is common however with vertigo, is tinnitus. See this link. tinnitus

  1. Dear Renee,
    Thank you for all your thoughtful words, and it was so great to finally meet you at my book party. Yes, any chronic illness/problem requires that you follow what usually amounts to a healthy choices/all things in moderation approach to life. And what is wrong with that?
    I feel that we are sometimes so busy seeing the glass half full, we forget that the rest of the empty glass is our potential for opportunity.

    • Good morning Stella,

      Yes it was great to meet you too. It was very interesting and I learned a lot.

      I was thinking about someone who has major health problems but eats things she know she’s not supposed to. The problem is, not only is she reaping the consequences but I hear about her pain almost every day (that’s where I got the idea for this blog). All i want to say is “Grow Up!”

      I dont mean to sound heartless, but she’ll get No Pity from me! If she can’t take care of herself, she’ll indeed continue to suffer (and I’ll continue to hear about it). As Winnie the Pooh would say so well : “Oh Bother!”

      Have a great day 🙂

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