So I had my SCS trial. I got it put in friday and had it until this morning. It was AMAZING. I kept it turned down to the point I couldn’t even feel it working and I never had  any hip or buttock pain the entire trial. I got it removed this morning and promptly within the hour began hurting again. I was sad to feel the pain again but stoked to know that it meant that the stimulator was working.

Next step.. wait. A lot. My pain doc has to send his dictation over to the neurosurgeon and then I wait for the neurosurgeons office to call me to schedule an appointment. I will have to meet with him to discuss the surgery and then wait some more for a surgery date. At this time I have no clue how long it’ll be before I get my surgery but I am very excited to get it done.

Short and simple post but to the point :)

So… I went back to pain doc yesterday and it turns out we are running out of options. At this point he is recommending a Spinal Cord Stimulator. Essentially, it’s a device that would be implanted under the skin of my hiney which runs wires up into my spinal cord. These wires basically interrupt the pain as it’s traveling up my spinal cord to my brain and trick my brain into thinking that what I am feeling is a paresthesia and not pain.

Paresthesia is a tickly pins and needles type sensation that will take some getting used to. I’m cautiously optimistic as usual because I am always afraid to get my hopes up in case of failure. I have read a lot of stories where it is quite successful in patients with sacroiliitis. It seems to be a very good option for chronic pain that is not responsive to other methods. I have now had 3 sacroiliac injections, a radiofrequency ablation of the  nerves causing the pain, and lots and lots of meds. I have reached the point where my options are to have this implant put in or to have my pelvic bone fused to my sacrum which can cause low back pain and disc problems in the future. Seeing as how I have lived in chronic pain for 3 years now I am not a fan of trading one form of pain for another. So this is my next best choice.

So the process is that I have to have a 5 day trial implant which is required by insurance prior to the actual surgery. They will feed the wires into my spinal cord and they will come out the lower back and attach to a battery pack I wear on a belt. For 5 days I can’t take a shower but I get to trial this device. I get a remote control and can turn it on/off at times I need it and turn it up or down based on how much pain I am having at the time. After 5 days they will remove it and I will have to consult with a neurosurgeon who will schedule the surgery. A device the size of a pacemaker is inserted into my upper bum and has two wires that go up into my spinal cord. I will have a 24 hour stay at the hospital and then a few days to recover. I’m hoping to have the surgery on a Thursday or a Friday to minimize the days I need off from work.

Like I said, I’m cautiously optimistic. Keep your fingers crossed.

Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.~Lance Armstrong

 

So the Tennessee portion of this trip is coming to an end. We leave in the morning for the 4 hour venture to southern Indiana where my other Grandma (Mamaw) lives. Mamaw fell and broke her pelvis and her wrist a few months back and was recently discharged from the nursing home she was receiving rehabilitation at. I can’t wait to see her because I’ve been so worried. I picture her bedridden and unable to help herself so I need to see her up and functioning to help relieve some of the anxiety I have over her going home. The nurse in me fears the worst I suppose.

This portion of the trip has been good. Slightly boring, but good. Granny’s house is always pretty uneventful. The highlight of the day is watching the Waltons with the whole family gathered around the kitchen table. She has recently moved up to watching NCIS a lot which is at least interesting so I can’t complain too much since she used to watch that silly old show Family Matters (remember Steve Urkel?!) at least 15 times a day. I acquired some plants to bring home and repot, assuming I don’t kill them on the ride home. She gave me a little snip of rosebush to root and I stole some “hen and chicks” from her giant plant. Tomorrow she’s supposed to have a calla lilly for me to take as well. I am looking forward to getting some plants out on my patio when I get home. Granny lives in a very small town in rural Tennessee called Winchester. i’ll never forget the first time I came here. We were almost here, maybe about an hour outside of town and my dad called to get directions. My GREAT-Granny was still alive at the time and got on the phone.. now imagine this is the most southern backwoods Tennessee accent you can come  up with.. She says “Now.. when you get to the top of the mountain.. Turn left.” It was absolutely hilarious at the time as she was dead serious.

In a sense I am still climbing the mountain, Granny.. but when I get there I don’t want to turn left. I just want to take in the clean cold air and soak in the beauty that is around me. I will get there someday. I’m getting closer and closer every day.

Be master of your petty annoyances and conserve your energies for the big, worthwhile things. It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out – it’s the grain of sand in your shoe. ~Robert Service


So Ethan and I endeavored across VA, NC, and TN today. As of late even short trips in the car were extreme tests of my sanity and ability to control my temper with Ethan. With my anxiety so high that every time he made a single noise on the drive from home to my mom’s house in the mornings made me lose my temper and blow my lid on him.

I have been on the new medications for approximately three weeks now. I had a follow up yesterday and was given the go-ahead to tweak them based on circumstances. For example this weekend will be highly stressful and he suggested I take an extra dose in the evenings to help me cope. Well… today started out at 4:15 am when I had to wake up, get dressed, and hit the road for Ethans daddy’s house to pick him up and hit the road for our 12 hour trip. I was so anxious about this trip all weekend that my stomach was tied in imaginary knots and my pain was exponentially worse. We hit the road by 6 am and our journey began…

I was hopeful that with the waking up at 5 am he would fall into a deep, quiet, wonderful sleep as soon as we hit the road. Oh boy, was I wrong. He didn’t sleep the entire 12 hours. In fact, he didn’t stop making some sort of noise the entire trip. Whether it was talking, singing, whining, toy noise, DVD sound, or just rustling around he was non-stop making some sort of nerve-racking sound. Now.. PRE-jen-back-in-the-saddle-on-meds I would have literally been screaming and cursing at him the entire 12 hour trip but I handled this remarkably well. I was quite happy with my ability to distract myself, control my irritation, distract him, and just plain ignore it. It’s not how I’ve been able to handle my life lately and I truly believe that the medications are the primary reason.

Now I am not an advocate for immediate medication of symptoms. The most important thing is recognition and treatment of the originating cause of your symptoms in my opinion. However, often times therapy is not enough and in cases like that I believe that it is never shameful to seek medication for your treatment. In three short weeks mine have already changed my life remarkably and I am grateful for that. I have been able to come home from work, shop for groceries, cook, clean, play with my son, and get hobbies done all in one night recently whereas I was literally crawling into bed and letting my son fend for him self three weeks ago. Please don’t be ashamed of the stigma attached to medications in the treatment of depression or other psychiatric conditions.. they just may change your life for the better.

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. ~Walt Disney

Giddyup Cowboys and Cowgirls.. Jen is back on the horse. If by horse you mean meds, of course.

I have been struggling for months again with realizing I was spiraling down into a bad place. It is difficult to recognize when you are becoming dark and twisted. I began having my nightmares again about 3 months ago and have been struggling with sleep deprivation because of it. The sleep deprivation is of course causing wild mood swings and a great deal of anger issues. I have caught myself blowing up on my son for no real reason whatsoever. After a few months I got to the point that I was coming home from work and going straight to my bed, turning on the TV, and not paying any attention to my son until it was time to kiss him goodnight.

Needless to say, this is no way to live and it’s certainly no way for my son to live. I finally broke down and sought out some help. I found a new psychiatrist who is willing and able to do the counseling sessions himself. This is a huge relief since it means I will only be accruing one copay per visit. I started back on my old antidepressant (Pristiq) but was also began on a low dose mood stabilizer called Abilify which has been shown in several new clinical studies to increase the effectiveness of antidepressant therapy by a very significant percentage. I have been on the new meds for only a week and a half but I am already SIGNIFICANTLY better. I have been able to come home from work, shop, cook dinner, clean, play with Ethan, and still have the energy and desire to read before bed. Things are looking up.

My life has been hectic lately. In the last three to four months I have many changes… Some good and some not-so-good. I got a promotion at work which means a new job and whole new load of stressors. Ethan and I moved into our new apartment which has created quite the financial burden. The man I love is in some trouble and I’m dealing with that as best I know how. My car broke and is running me 700$. I could add so many more items to that list but I will leave it at those. That’s enough to push anyone over the edge, right?

I am thankful for my life and my amazing son and I am working very hard to get my life back on track and stay on that hypothetical horse. <3

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…” ~Dr. Seuss (Oh, the Places You’ll Go)

I have not posted in months so here goes!

The appointment with the new pain management doctor ended up being a turning point in my life thus far. Within five minutes of his physical exam he had diagnosed me with sacroiliitis through just a few simple range of motion exams. Sacroiliitis is essentially an inflammation in the joint where the ilium of the pelvis meets the sacrum (low low back.) This likely happened when a patient fell taking me down with her and hanging me over a walker while she grasped onto me for dear life. Dr. Brian Weaver with Southeast Pain Care has truly been a blessing to my life. We went through 3 separate steroid injections into that joint with no real pain relief once the numbing meds wore off. This took about two months to complete the series and then the first week of March I had a radio-frequency ablation procedure done on that joint. Basically he placed four giant needles into the joint, finding all four pain pathway nerves and then burned holes in them. The first week after the procedure I was devastated thinking that it didn’t work, but slowly I am getting much better. I have not been using hardly any of my pain medications and I am only having significant pain 2-3 days a week. For me.. This is huge.

I have been promoted to Staff Development Coordinator/Infection Control Nurse at my job. This came with a nice pay raise and I am really enjoying my new job. I love teaching and I have a lot of clinical experience that I am able to share with the nurses who work in my building. Many of them have been in long term care their whole lives and have never really sharpened their critical thinking or clinical skills. I love what I am doing and I hope to continue to do well.

With the promotion comes the ability to finally find a place to live for my son and I. We are moving into a beautiful 3 bedroom apartment this Friday. My mother is taking it unbearably hard and has somehow decided I am punishing her and taking her grandson away from her. This is absolutely not true but there is no reasoning at this point so I will do my best to keep my spirits up about our new home.

It’s softball season again and I have been having an absolute blast playing again. I have spent darn near every weekend at the fields for the last month.. Whether it be playing coed myself or watching a certain someone play. I’m really enjoying spending time with him as well, although I am completely terrified of getting hurt. I think that’s normal for someone who has not had a relationship in a very long time (just dating.) I haven’t made myself vulnerable in a very long time (protective mechanism??) and I am trying to let myself be vulnerable for the chance at happiness… And I’m quite happy right now :)

These last few years have been a series of very difficult times and a lot of physical pain but lately I have been granted many blessings and I am thankful for the chance to continue to grow as a person, a mother, a nurse, and a friend. I am hopeful that things will continue along the path I have found myself on.

“Pick the day. Enjoy it – to the hilt. The day as it comes. People as they come… The past, I think, has helped me appreciate the present – and I don’t want to spoil any of it by fretting about the future.” ~Audrey Hepburn

I kept telling everyone I wasn’t hopeful and I wasn’t expecting my CT Myelogram to be anything but negative.. I kept telling myself not to be dissapointed or upset. It’s hard to listen to yourself sometimes. I went in for my follow up appointment with my neurosurgeon the other day and was completely calm, nerve free, and not hopeful at all. So why.. oh why.. did I cry when he told me the news I completely expected? I can tell you why… Because no matter how much you tell yourself not to get your hopes up you always do. Am I right?

So I’m a little dissapointed, very overwhelmed, and pretty frustrated. It’s going to be ok, though. I will get through this.. I just have to keep moving forward. After all, that’s all anyone CAN do, right? I have been in chronic pain for three years now officially this month. I would give anything to get some answers, but I don’t think they will ever come. I am going to a new pain doc in the area who is anesthesia trained, fellowship trained, and they say that this is the only clinic of their kind south of UVA. I am hopeful that he will have some great ideas and be willing and able to help me. That appointment is Dec. 13th. A part of me wonders if any of this pain is somehow related to my PTSD. I have read a lot of information suggesting that chronic pain is sometimes a psychosomatic release of the trauma in some PTSD patients. It’s an interesting thought.

On a different note, I came home that day very motivated to get back to working out and lose this last 30lbs. I started day 1 of 90 of Chalean Extreme that night, started wearing my BodyBugg again (now I just need to start tracking my food,) and I will be starting to walk with my dad at night as well. Today is an off day for the workouts, so hopefully I will be getting a walk in tonight. I would definitely be happy to lose some weight, both for the physical and the aesthetic benefits!

Everytime you get up and get back in the race, One more small piece of you starts to fall into place.

Cause when push comes to shove, you taste what you’re made of. You might bend ’til you break cause it’s all you can take.

On your knees, you look up, decide you’ve had enough. You get mad. You get STRONG. Wipe your hands, shake it off.. Then you STAND! -Rascal Flatts

Ok, So I realize I am the worst blogger in the entire world. I haven’t updated since January when I had my discogram. Here is a quick and dirty summary of what’s gone on since then. My discogram was negative, leaving me once again with no answers to why I am in such constant pain. I was “cleared” to finally return to work (though I physically am unable to do the lifting, pulling, and pushing required to be a hospital nurse again) and I was lucky to have a management position fall into my lap. I am now a nurse manager at a nursing home and while it’s not the trauma drama I was used to, I do enjoy it. I feel like to some extent just getting back out into the world helped me learn to deal with my pain better. I still live my life at a 6 out of 10 on that wonderful pain scale you’ve all seen, but I have learned to adapt to it. Friday I have a CT Myelogram scheduled and I have to be at the hospital at 0730. I am once again praying for answers but completely pessimistic about the chances of actually getting any.

Emotionally I am still having a lot of difficulty coping. In April or so I took myself off the antidepressants (bad nurse.. I know!) and I thought I was finally doing better. I haven’t been having as much trouble with the insomnia or nightmares for past few months. I am, however, still having overwhelming periods of anxiety and depression. I realize now that I have been very dissociated, easily distractible, and overall unable to cope with stressful situations. I realize that I need more work. I owe it to myself, my son, and my family and friends to get better.

I had a severe PTSD episode a few nights ago and I am still struggling to get my mind to calm. I unfortunately was in the wrong place at the wrong time Saturday night and witnessed a huge fight involving a large crowd of people that ended in gunshots. No one was injured but I was instantly thrown into a severe panic attack. I couldn’t breathe, my heart was beating a millions beats per minute, I was unable to speak coherent sentences, and I felt like I was watching myself from afar. I have spent the past two days still feeling very emotionally dissociated and I am still struggling to feel “safe.” I realize in my head that I am safe and that this incident has nothing to do with the trauma which caused my PTSD but the overwhelming feeling of helplessness and fear sent me emotionally right back to that place.

Interestingly enough a similar situation happened back in April when a male friend of mine was horse-playing with me at a bar one night. He accidentally grabbed me with his arm a little too close to my throat and I kept trying to grab his arm to pull it off of me but he didn’t realize I wasn’t playing along. The same rush of panic and fear swept over me during that incident as I felt this past weekend. I have been reading a lot about trauma syndromes and PTSD lately and I have learned that any time a trauma survivor has his or her “fight or flight” response activated (caused by the sympathetic nervous system) it can “arouse” or “heighten” the person. I.E. Even though the situation is not necessarily related to the original cause of the trauma, it activates the person to feel like they did during the traumatic event/events simply because the same physical response is going on in their bodies (increased pulse, dilated pupils, fast breathing, racing thoughts, etc.)

I found a wonderful book on PTSD and trauma survivors and I am almost finished reading it. When I do I will give a nice little review for anyone interested. The book has helped me understand more about my condition and all the ways it has affected me. Knowledge is power and I am tired of feeling powerless. I am currently looking for a therapist in my area who SPECIALIZES in trauma syndromes. My last therapist was very kind but after several years I hadn’t really gotten anywhere with her. I am hoping to find someone with more insight into my condition who is able to help me find some somatic and homeopathic therapies in addition to traditional counseling.

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. ~Helen Keller

I had the dreaded discogram yesterday. I can’t even begin to describe it… I will try though.

So a discogram is a test that involves pressurizing each individual disc in the region suspected of causing your pain with CT contrast dye. Each disc is individual filled with CT dye and if the disc in question is causing your pain it will recreate the pain. I don’t remember which of the three caused the most pain but I do know that one of them caused me to yell out pretty loud and almost cry. The back pain was excruciating. Today I am still in horrific pain in my entire lower back area, which is surprising since my friend told me that the pain induced by the test returned to normal within a few hours. That has NOT been the case for me. I woke up this morning and my lower back hurt so bad I could barely walk.. I was taking shuffled little baby steps like a little old woman. I’ve spent the morning waiting on my Percocet to kick in and laying on a heating pad.

I am anxious to find out the doctors interpretation of the results of this test. I go to see my Neurosurgeon next friday. The discogram was a last ditch effort of sorts to find out why I have such severe debilitating chronic pain. I was upset after the test because it didn’t induce the severe left sacroiliac pain that runs down my leg. I did have an SI steroid injection just a few weeks ago so maybe that masked the pain induction.. who knows. All of my CT’s and MRI’s up until now have showed only mild degenerative changes and nothing that would seemingly be the cause of such severe pain. I am hopeful that something comes of this test and there is some sort of answers for me now. I am the kind of person that needs answers. I need to know  WHY I have this pain. While pain management is helping to diminish the pain slightly I don’t know how I can go through life not knowing what the underlying cause is. Being a nurse I have a never-ending need to understand the medical and anatomical cause. I don’t know if I can go through my life taking pain medication regularly for idiopathic pain knowing that there is nothing to do that will make it go away!

So now I wait anxiously for my appointment next Friday with the neurosurgeon to learn if there were answers learned from this test. I am going to be a giant ball of stress until next friday. I am already having major panic attacks just imagining that he’s going to tell me that we learned absolutely nothing at that their is NO known cause of my pain.. Especially since that is what I keep getting told. It’s so frustrating. I just wish I knew what it was.

Hopefully the answers will come.. sooner than later, preferably.

I have spent so much time out of work and in pain that my body has gotten used to being unable to sleep at night, sleeping in all day, and being overall very lazy. I haven’t exercised or ran in over a year. My insomnia is getting progressively worse, even on the meds I take now. I need to get my body into a normal rhythm again.

My goals:

1. Start setting an alarm to wake up at a normal time and try to get my body used to a regular schedule.

2. Clean my room and create a more open workout space.

3. Visit the storage unit to pick up my handweights. I can’t use them right now but I want them here for use in the near future.

4. Work on my resume. It’s time to get myself into the mental place where I can start job hunting as my back continues to improve.

5. Fix my phone or replace it, depending on what it needs. I can’t live without my calendar and todo list on me at all times!

6. Continue to log all foods eaten in my food journal. Purchase a Body bugg when it goes on sale again after I get my refund check from school.

7. Work on the paperwork I have been avoiding for over a month. No more procrastinating.

8. Look into becoming a BeachBody coach. I love their products, I love the company, I love helping people. Why wouldn’t I want to try it?

9. Speak to my therapist about EMDR or referring me to a trained EMDR therapist. I will try to post a blog with more EMDR info soon.

10. Continue to make lists like this every day. You never get anywhere without goals. Goals are useless if you don’t work toward them daily. Let’s do this!

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