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Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Creating Your Own Job When Disability Strikes

When encumbered by a disability many people are faced with sudden unemployment. In many countries there are financial options for helping you survive. In the United States there's help through Social Security, and Canadian provinces have various disability assistance programs. The full scope of countries that have help available is not something I'm going to waste time listing, because the whole point to this post is to help you figure out what you can do to become self-sufficient, or at least get you thinking about the possibilities. Not everyone has that option, perhaps, but there are far more alternatives than a lot of people may realize, and that's what needs to be discussed.

This is where the term 'play to your strengths' comes in. One of the first things you need to do is assess your personal strengths and weaknesses. It's a lot like what you probably did back in high school when you were trying to decide what career you were interested in. After all, in high school you needed to know where you were going, so that you could take the appropriate classes in later grades. You didn't want to discover that the college or university program you were looking to get into was only taking students with physics, when you took biology or chemistry.

The same thing applies when you're faced with disability, and a lot of the same methods can be used to figure out a few things. You've probably discovered by now that the world isn't the same as you thought it was going to be, so you've got a much more realistic perspective on what you consider to be your dream job. Another thing to consider now, aside from the nature of your disability, is whether or not you even want to work for someone else. There's your personality to add into the equation. Are you at a point in your life where you really don't want to be taking orders from someone else, or do you need to have a boss to keep you doing what you're supposed to do? In other words, you need to be seriously self-motivated if you're going to be self-employed, and you also need to be realistic about a few things when it comes to being an entrepreneur of any kind.
  1. It takes time and work to build up business and income, and a large amount of the income will need to be reinvested into your business for the first little while. Do not expect your business to be an overnight success, and be grateful that you aren't likely to be afflicted with that. Overnight successes tend to blow up in people's faces. Lack of knowledge and experience cause companies to implode from over-expansion.
  2. You're going to have to wear a lot of hats at the start of your business. You're not usually going to be able to afford to hire people to do the things that you don't know how to do. This means a very steep learning curve. Business ownership means everything from accounting to marketing to website building - never mind whatever product or service you're selling. You'll need to understand social media, and find ways of utilizing it without overwhelming yourself. If you don't know how to build your own website, most hosting companies provide programs to help you with that, but they can get confusing when it comes to selling online with e-commerce sites.
  3. You have to be comfortable selling, either yourself or your products. Every business involves the exchange of something for money - sales, in other words - be it products or services. If you can't or won't sell, you're not going to get very far. That being said, there are a large number of ways to sell if you're uncomfortable with face-to-face interaction. You can sell through auctions, or market electronically and by mail, and there's the old stand-by of using flyers. Word-of-mouth helps, too. If you have friends that are willing to spread the word, don't be afraid to ask them for help. If you're good with phrasing or writing in general, you may find the electronic world to be your oyster.
There's a little more to it than that, but those particular issues are the ones that you really have to consider. If you feel you're equipped to handle them, now you can start taking stock of your assets. Assets can be anything. Maybe you've got money stashed away, maybe you've got a hobby you've been puttering with, or maybe you've got skills no one has seen yet. Those are all things that can be used to get you started. We'll start with something really simple.

Let's suppose your grandmother taught you to knit or crochet, and we'll assume that your are still physically able to perform those tasks without assistance. Not every hand-knit item is going to have monetary value to the general public, so you'll have to do a bit of research to find out what's currently in fashion that might involved handmade goods. Once you figure that out, you can get to work using either your own pattern, or one you can probably find on the internet or in a craft store.

Now, what if you're no longer able to knit or crochet? What then? If you still have the power of speech you can direct a group of people to make the items that you think will sell, and direct someone else to handle to marketing and sales.

The same goes for any kind of handmade goods. Some items will have huge monetary value, whereas some will never sell. You might find a niche market for a unique product, too. Maybe you can crochet clothing items that look like spiderwebs. There's a pretty big Gothic market out there for anything seeming to do with vampires, and for some reason spiderwebs fit the bill. Of course, you'll have to keep your target demographic in mind when you design your marketing scheme. If you make your website look like the lace-and-daisies crowd shops there, you're not going to bring in the teenagers and twenty-somethings who call themselves Desdemona, Elvira and Esmeralda, and wear patent leather bustiers.

Maybe your skill-set is more esoteric. What do you know that others would be willing to pay to learn? What are you good at? Let's go back to the guidance counselor tactics from high school. Time for those aptitude tests again, and that means it's time to go to a library or bookstore. One book that's been around for a very long time is called, "What Color is Your Parachute?" It's by Richard Nelson Bolles and has been around for decades. New editions get published all the time in order to keep up with the latest changes in the employment market. The latest edition is for 2014, which is as fresh as it gets when it comes to print work. There are plenty of other books out there that will help you discover your strengths when it comes to either employment or self-employment, so take advantage of them. Once you know the kinds of things that fit with your temperament and interests, you can start to look in those directions.

Something else to consider is diversification versus focus. Many people who are employed are surviving on multiple part-time jobs. The same goes for small business owners. They often find themselves operating different businesses and bring in small amounts of money from each. There's a catch-22 here. In order to make a business successful, usually you need to focus specifically on that business. However, it's a risk to drop a business that's providing income that you probably need right now. In some cases the business are the kind that will never really grow, and the market is small for the products or services that are being offered. In that case you may find yourself having to continue operating more than one business. In the long run, though, if one of your businesses has long-term growth potential you're far better off taking the risk of focusing solely on that endeavor. One very good reason is paperwork. Every business generates it, and the more businesses you operate, the more paperwork you have to do. If you can pare down your operations to a single entity, you'll automatically have more time to focus and grow your company.

Don't overlook your previous work experience either, just because you are no longer physically able to do that exact job under the requirements of your previous employer. Maybe you can still do some of the work, but at your own pace. Maybe you have some good periods where you can still do your old job. One option is to sub-contract or do piece-work for your old employers, or even for their competition. In some cases your former employers can make adjustments so that you can go back part-time, or doing a slightly modified task.

If you actually like to sell, and happen to be good at it, there is always a market for that skill. Inside sales is nothing more than making or receiving phone calls, which can be done from home. You have to educate yourself on the products, and sometimes that means taking courses if a field is very specific or complicated. Industrial sales usually requires knowledge of the field in some way or other. If you used to be an electrician, and can no longer walk around job sites, but you know the supplies really well, chances are good you have all the knowledge you need in order to sell those kinds of supplies. Maybe you were a mechanic and you know the parts, particularly for a specific manufacturer.

The key to real happiness with self-employment, though, is finding something you actually love to do. Hence the aptitude and interest tests. You've probably heard this before, but it still applies:
What would you do for free because you love it so much?
Now the challenge is to find a way to turn that passion into profit. Have you always done sketches of costumes in your spare time? If you want to see those sketches turned into reality, you'll need to learn how to make sewing patterns, and you'll need to know how to sew. Once you've done that, you're ready to go. If you know how to make patterns, you can also do custom work, and that can mean a bigger profit.

Often by the time the dust settles, after being diagnosed with a disability that results in sudden unemployment, your financial resources can be strained to the breaking point. Don't let people tell you that you need to have tons of money to start up. Maybe you have to start small, and the amount you bring in is a pittance in comparison to what you used to earn, but gradually you can branch out until you're making a living wage again.

The most important skill you'll need at this point is the ability to be creative in overcoming challenges. That means going to the library to use their computers for going online, or maybe going to a friend's house if they're willing to let you have access to their computer, if you can't afford your own computer or internet service. Maybe you have no choice but to hire a staff if you're going to make your business work, and in that case you'll need to consider either free or subsidized labour - by that I mean students. In high schools there are often co-op programs where the students get credit for going to a job for part of the school day. In colleges there are intern programs. Talk to the guidance counselors at nearby schools and see what they have to offer. Don't forget family members, or friends, or even people you only know online. Get your message out that you're looking for help to get started.

If you need specific supplies that you can't afford to buy retail, there are other places to go for materials. If you need wood, there are pieces getting chucked out at various types of stores or manufacturers. If you need small pieces of fabric you might be able to get scraps from places that need to use a lot of yardage, and have no use for the cuttings. Whatever type of material it is, look for big companies that use those materials, whether it's plastic, fabric, metal, wood, or glass, and then see if they have scraps. They'll either charge you a very small fee, or simply be grateful they have fewer scraps they have to pay to have hauled away.

Not everyone is going to be able to work once disability is a factor in their lives. Some who might be physically capable of working do not, and often because of depression and other factors. However, there are stories out there of people who make it against all odds. They're determined not to rely on others for their existence, and it's not hard to understand why. Even when a person is deserving, and truly in need of, public or disability assistance, there's not only a stigma still attached to it, but often there are so many strings and so much red tape that even qualifying for it can seem an impossible feat. At a time when your emotional and physical reserves are already low, facing social workers and medical tests to prove your case can be very daunting. A lot of people want to avoid that at all costs, so that means becoming financially independent. Not wealthy, but at least independent.

A word of caution, here. Desperation drives many to click on the advertisements for making money online. In most cases, if not all, they're a complete waste of time. In many cases they're also a waste of your money because they ask you to pay for the information that in all probability won't help you make any money of your own. The only people who seem to make money from those schemes are the ones asking you to send in your money. Starting and running a successful business is not something that happens instantly. As is states above, it takes time and work. If you're looking for that fast buck, it's going to lead you to losing money rather than making it. It's a mindset that you have to stomp out, so that reality can be faced.

There's a break in a person's life when they've become disabled. Sometimes it's sudden, and sometimes it's gradual. However it occurs, there's always 'then and now' in a disabled person's life. People look back on how much easier things were when they had their health and mobility, not to mention their full independence. Even if you can't get back your health or mobility, you just might be able to regain your freedom, and that's worth every bit of work it takes to be self-reliant.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Drug Juggling with Chronic Pain

"The person who takes medicine must recover twice. once from the disease and once from the medicine." William Osler, M. D.
One of the biggest issues with chronic pain is pain management and the complications that arise from taking medications to counteract that pain. Addiction to narcotics can become a big problem, but it's not the only danger patients face when dealing with long-term use of pain relievers. Not by a long shot.

Whatever drug you take, there are physical or mental sensations that come along with their use. In many cases there is a rush that patients experience, identical to the rush experienced by those using illicit drugs such as heroin or cocaine. In fact, because many strong pain relievers are opiates - derived from opium, or synthetically engineered to behave like opium - their similarity to street drugs is quite strong. Heroin is derived from opium, but so is morphine. Heroin is actually morphine diacetate, and is only called heroin in its illegal form. It's not exactly the same as morphine, but it metabolizes and becomes morphine within the body.

Narcotics aren't the only available pain relievers, and they aren't the only ones that can become addictive, either physically or psychologically. Anything that alters the way you feel, either mentally or physically, can become addictive. Not just because you get high from it, but because you become accustomed to the sensations generated by the drug. When you no longer feel those sensations, you can become anxious, or any other number of feelings that relate to withdrawal.

Other pain relievers can be things like anti-inflammatories. NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, are commonly prescribed to anyone with no history of intestinal issues. That doesn't mean you won't develop intestinal issues from taking them. It's a very real danger of NSAIDs. Ulcers, intestinal bleeding, and other complaints are notoriously common with this type of pain reliever. Some pills are part stomach buffer for this reason, but even the stomach buffers have been known to cause intestinal issues.

Acetaminophen, commonly marketed under the Tylenol brand, has its own set of problem. The biggest downfall is liver damage. Not everyone is impacted, but if you have to take handfuls of pain relievers, and acetaminophen is your drug of choice, you may find yourself experiencing some of the symptoms of liver damage. It's called hepatoxicity, and is a form of hepatitis brought on by the use of medication.
"Drug-induced liver injury is responsible for 5% of all hospital admissions and 50% of all acute liver failures." Wikipedia
Strangely, one of the symptoms of liver damage is low blood sugar, and it's not something that most patients are aware of. Your age can increase the damage done by acetaminophen, and if you're malnourished or dieting you're also much more susceptible to acetaminophen-induced liver damage. Additional symptoms of liver damage include the following:
  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • abdominal pain
  • loss of appetite
  • jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
  • itching
  • susceptibility to bruising
  • edema (swelling) often in the legs
  • mental confusion or coma
  • kidney failure
  • vulnerability to bacterial infections
  • gastrointestinal bleeding
Another type of drug used for chronic pain, depending on the type of pain the patient is experiencing, is something called a neuropathic pain reliever. They're actually given post-operatively as well, because they reduce the need for narcotic pain relievers. Gabapentin (marketed as Neurontin), and Pregabalin (marketed as Lyrica), are two of the more common drugs prescribed for neuropathic pain. Both drugs were initially developed for seizures and epilepsy, but it was later found that they could be used to treat pain in a certain number of patients. They don't work for all types of pain, and they're only effective for a portion of the population for some reason. The benefit to these drugs is that they are non-narcotic and have fewer side-effects than many other pain-relief medications. However, both drugs have issues with withdrawal and neither should be discontinued abruptly.

It would be impossible to list all available drugs used for pain relief, as the gamut ranges from aspirin to OxyContin and morphine. Some are extremely dangerous, and some are also extremely addictive. A small mistake can be responsible for a patient ending up either in the hospital, or dead. Taking pain relievers with anything other than water can be disastrous, unless it's recommended they be taken with milk to slow absorption even further. Taking medications with grapefruit juice has caused a number of fatalities, mostly in the elderly population. It's not the citric acid or flavonoids in the juice (despite information released in earlier reports) that causes the problem, it is organic compounds that are furanocoumarin derivatives, which increase blood concentrations of the drug. The problem is actually called 'The Grapefruit Juice Effect' and as last reported at least 85 drugs are susceptible to this effect.

Chronic pain has to be treated differently than acute pain. Acute pain is generally short-term, and it's much safer to give strong pain-relievers to someone over the short term, than it is to give them over many weeks, months, or even years, of a patient's life. All medications have an impact on the human body, or there would be no point in taking them, and that impact is only increased over time. Our tolerance to a drug may increase, but that does not mean the long-term effects aren't just as dangerous.

One approach is to juggle different drugs at different times, to lessen the impact of long-term usage. For example, you might take a narcotic for a few weeks, but then switch to a less addicting drug such as regular acetaminophen. Your pain level will likely increase, but you're aware it's a temporary thing until it's relatively safe to go on something more effective. Maybe you're put on Tylenol 3s, which contain codeine (another opioid, but far weaker than morphine). After a while the Tylenol can become a danger to you, so your doctor may try a neuropathic pain reliever. And so on...

This approach is only going to be necessary for those who are on very long-term medications, but since that does happen it's worth taking a look at. In my own case, I've faced all of these potential issues. I've been on one form of pain-reliever or another for the last several years. I've experienced a trip to the hospital from hepatoxicity, as well as a massive drop in blood sugar from another incident with liver damage. After being on certain medications for a while, I start to feel like I'm being poisoned, which is quite likely exactly what's going on. I have a sensitivity to narcotics which makes me nauseous, and means that I have to take Gravol (dimenhydrinate), also known as Dramamine in the United States. The pain medications that have been prescribed for me include morphine, Percocet, OxyContin, Tylenol 3s, and Gabapentin, though not usually in combination. At one point, after surgery, I was given morphine and OxyContin together, along with an antiemetic for nausea. It's not surprising that I have first-hand knowledge of the difficulties faced by anyone who requires long-term pain management.

It's not uncommon for patients to become rather expert on the various medications available for pain. They start mixing and matching, trying to find the most effective solution. You absolutely must talk to your pharmacist about contraindications, however - otherwise known as drug interactions. Some medications should never be taken with other types of medicine. Some will cause severe psychosis, some will cause death. Your pharmacist is your best friend if you need to take any pills whatsoever. They know far more than your doctor will ever know about the medications that are being prescribed for you. A good pharmacist will not only know about prescription drugs, they will also know about the over-the-counter (or OTC) drugs. A great pharmacist, however, will understand the interactions with herbal medications and supplements as well. Do yourself a favour and look for one of those. Find a pharmacist who is concerned enough to take an interest in your medical care. Not only can they help after you've been given a prescription, but they can also make recommendations that you can discuss with your doctor. It might just be the medication you've been searching for that will give you the right balance of pain-relief with as few side-effects as possible.

Don't forget to be vigilant about what is going on in your body. Pay attention to symptoms and make sure you tell your doctor and pharmacist what's happening. You're the only one who knows what's going on there. Your doctor can't feel your pain or symptoms. Above all, be honest with yourself. If there's even the smallest part of you that thinks you're addicted to your medications, do something about it. Have your doctor wean you off the medication and put you on something else. Many patients know they're addicted to their pain medications, but they've given up on kicking the habit simply because they still need pain relief. Don't fall into that trap. There are usually other options for pain relief, but you're only going to know about them if you go looking for answers.
"We are prone to thinking of drug abuse in terms of the male population and illicit drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and marijuana. It may surprise you to learn that a greater problem exists with millions of women dependent on legal prescription drugs."  Robert Mendelsohn, M. D.

Monday, 14 October 2013

How Medications Can Destroy Your Marriage

One of many things a doctor will probably never bother to explain to you are the side-effects from your prescription medications. Not only will they not bother to tell you there might be side-effects, but they won't tell you that some of those side-effects are going to have an impact on your relationships. Part of the reason doctors don't explain these things to their patients, is because they never bothered to learn about it themselves. They blithely accept the pretty brochures handed out by pharmaceutical sales reps, and don't take the time to look into it a little more deeply.

For one thing, they haven't really got the time these days. Doctors are bogged down with paperwork of every kind, making phone calls they didn't have to make twenty years ago, or being forced to see a patient in order to get paid when before they could just handle the issue over the phone. Another reason doctors don't read the full literature or investigate the drugs is because it's not exactly their job to do so. The majority of people look to doctors as their sole healthcare provider, when the reality is that they are only a portion of the system. Doctors should know what the drug is supposed to be prescribed for, certainly, but the real responsibility falls on the shoulders of your pharmacist.

Pharmacists (or chemists or druggists as they're known in other countries), are widely discounted as a minor cog, when they're really one of the biggest pieces of the medical machine. They study nothing but drugs, chemistry, interactions and anything related to pharmacology, and they study those things for years. Doctors study anatomy and the mechanics of diseases. A portion of their study goes to pharmacology, but very little of it in comparison with a pharmacist.

You're probably wondering how this relates to your marriage, partnership or other relationships. Well, here it is. Drugs can cause massive reactions in people. They're supposed to affect your body, because there's no point in taking them if they don't, and when you affect one part of the body you're going to affect others. Every part of you is connected to something else, and in the end every part is connected to everything else in your body. If you take pain relievers for an ankle injury, your body distributes that pain reliever everywhere. It has no idea that it's meant only for your ankle. Some pain relievers work a different way, focusing on the pain centers of your brain, basically allowing it to tune out your pain.

As much of a bad rap as pain relievers get because of their tendency to give people a high, there are many drugs out there that have a much more dangerous impact. There are two families of drugs that are notoriously bad for this - anti-depressants and benzodiazapenes. Anti-depressants are designed specifically to mess around with your brain chemistry, because they're suppose to try to re-balance an imbalance there. Brains are a very dangerous area to play in. After all, our brains are like a central computer system. They control every single aspect of our living bodies. Complete inactivity in the brain means you don't breathe and your heart doesn't beat. The brain sends out electrical signals to make sure those things get done.

Benzodiazapenes are given for their sedative effects for a variety of issues, from insomnia to anxiety. They can have paradoxical effects, however, meaning they can cause aggression and disinhibition. In other words, you might not only be ticked off for no reason, but also lack the inhibitions that would stop you from acting upon your angry urges.

A third type of drug that isn't given a great deal of notice by the medical community is steroids. This has nothing to do with the anabolic steroids taken by body builders, though a similar effect can be achieved. Drugs like prednisone fall under this category. It's a corticosteroid, and despite being considered safe for general use it's really not a drug to mess around with. For one thing it has a pretty big impact on your organs. For another, and this one is important, it will spike your blood sugar and can potentially lead to an unwanted diagnosis of diabetes. High blood sugar has a big effect on mood all by itself, but prednisone has another dangerous level to it. Two of its major side-effects are mania and psychosis. Anabolic steroid user will occasionally exhibit something called 'roid rage, in which they lose all semblance of self-control and passivity. The manic and psychotic side-effects experienced by those on prednisone are remarkably similar.

In legal circles there is something called 'The Prozac Defense' which is when a lawyer defends his client by showing they were on anti-depressant medication at the time they committed the acts they were charged with. Now, as difficult as that might be to swallow, there is a very big element of truth to this defense. There have been many cases where those who have been medicated with certain kinds of drugs have gone off the rails, and a large portion of gun-toting, mass-murderers have been shown to have legally-prescribed, pharmaceutical drugs in their systems at the time they went on their bloody rampages.

So, try to imagine living with someone who is on any one of these drugs. Not everyone experiences these side-effects, of course, but it happens often enough that people need to be aware of it and watch for signs that someone might be out of control. Before you even take your first dose of a new medication make sure you discuss side-effects with your pharmacist, and then make sure you read the entire information sheet that comes with the drug. Even better, check out the drug online. New information becomes available all the time. Once the drug is being taken, watch yourself or your partner for signs of these side-effects. Be aware of them before they're severe enough to be dangerous.

Under certain circumstances a person will not be able to stop taking their medication - either right away or at all. Some medications can't be stopped suddenly because of the dangers of sudden withdrawal. Some can't be stopped at all because they're vital to the patient. Occasionally the side-effects and their risks have to be weighed against the benefits the drugs provide. Maybe it doesn't seem like a big deal at first, and you and your partner feel you can get through it. Sometimes the side-effects ease up after the patient becomes accustomed to the drug being in their system, but then other times they just get worse.

The fact is, marriage is difficult all by itself. When you add the potential for mania, anger, psychosis, sleeplessness, disinhibition, dissociative behaviour, and any other number of possibilities, the toll it will take on your relationship will be unbelievable. If you're aware of it beforehand you might be able to fight your way through it. If you're not, however, and something like this catches you off-guard, you're probably going to assume that the person is just being a jerk for no reason. Suddenly they're screaming at you, or calling you names, which is behaviour that gets old very quickly. As much as we might want to make marriage work, there is only so much strain a relationship can take. Particularly if we don't know that there may be a medical reason for it.

What it all comes down to is knowledge and preparation. If you arm yourself with knowledge every time a new drug enters your life or your body, you're less likely to misinterpret the reason for your sudden problems. Learn, watch, and be ready to take action if something seems off.

Monday, 23 September 2013

The Emotional, Psychological and Social Cost of Pain

When you first start to feel pain, sure you're miserable about it. Still, most of us would assume that it's temporary, and that a couple of pills will take it away if we want to resort to chemical assistance - especially if there's no obvious cause like an injury. One day turns into two and then three. After a week goes by, with no relief no matter how many pain relievers you take, you're in nothing but a blur of pain-filled days. You've booked a doctor's appointment that you don't even feel well enough to go to. You want to curl up in bed with the blinds closed and the lights out, vowing not to get up until the pain retreats. Still, you know you need help, so you go to your appointment, your body tense with pain and anxiety. Whatever is wrong with you, it can't be good.

Stock Photo

Your doctor won't know what's wrong with you at first, so there's going to be a delay in the diagnosis. The length of that delay will depend on how unusual your condition is, and your personal doctor's level of knowledge in that particular area. If you're lucky the problem is pinpointed quickly, and some form of treatment can start. If you're not so lucky, a year or two can go by while they mess around with various tests. That was my personal experience, and I don't wish it on anyone. However, there's a lot more involved with being in pain than what the doctors will ever bother telling you.

To start with, you're going to become a different person, and it's damn shame your doctor won't see fit to warn you about that. It would be nice to be able to tell the people around you that they're going to see some changes in you. You won't necessarily see it happening at first. We all get a little cranky when we're in pain, and that isn't a surprise to anyone. Constant pain, however, takes a huge toll on our emotional state. When the pain doesn't lift, quite often our mood keeps sinking along with our feeling of well-being. Then, when you're no longer as happy as you used to be, and it never lets up, the people around you are going to react to that. They're going to lose patience, no matter how saintly they are when things start out.

Now, here you are, in agonizing pain. Suddenly your understanding partner is no longer so understanding and they're ready to rumble. They don't like being snapped at and ignored. Who does? But then, who enjoys being in pain and feeling like they're being picked on? You're in the weak position at this point. You don't feel strong enough to fight back, but then you certainly get angry enough and you snap. This is where the rage monster, the one you never knew hid inside you, suddenly reveals itself. Quite frankly, the strain on your relationship is more than most people can ever imagine.

Many years ago I went for some counseling to understand certain aspects of a difficult childhood, and I mentioned to the therapist that I'd experience headaches my whole life. They were literally non-stop, 24/7 headaches. I was always on pain relievers for them. Thankfully a year or two later the headaches stopped for no discernible reason. Believe me, it was a weird sensation to stop suddenly one day and realize, "Wait a minute. Where's the pain?" However, when I mentioned this to the therapist she explained something to me about how pain changes who we are. This was in addition to the strain on our personal emotions, and the anger and irritation we're bound to feel. Let me explain.

Pain causes social withdrawal. Imagine you've got plans to go out with Bob and Fred, the couple across the street, for a night of fun and frivolity. Do you really feel up to dancing your butt off to the latest Miley Cyrus twerk-fest? Not so much. Besides, the hammer-licking schtick isn't really up your alley these days. No, what you really want to do is the same thing you wanted to do the day you had your doctor's appointment, and you're pretty darn sure that shaking your body around isn't going to give you any hope of feeling better. So, you cancel. Maybe your partner goes out anyway, which you resent. Or maybe they stay home and give you dirty looks because you're just not a whole lot of fun these days.

You cancel your plans over and over, until one day there are none to cancel because you're just not making plans now. Now you just want everyone to leave you alone with your misery. Misery of that kind does not love company, let me tell you. That misery wants to crawl around in cold dark holes, hissing at every living thing that passes by. It doesn't matter if those living things happen to be your offspring either. Your relationship with your partner and your children can deteriorate very rapidly, and hearing your little ones ask why "mommy is always so mad at me," will break your heart, make you feel shame and guilt, and then piss you off, because, really, why the hell doesn't anyone understand that you're in pain?

You've alienated your friends, your partner and your children, and probably any extended family as well. People get sick of hearing about your days anyway. They don't want to hear the constant litany of complaints that's your only well of conversational topics. What do you do all day besides suffer? You can't talk about the football game you never watched, or the latest movie you haven't seen. There's no point in talking about the lives of your friends, because they could be dead at this point for all you know. You might be able to entertain them with the story of how you watched the dog humping your leg because you just couldn't bring yourself to care.

Situational depression has set in, taking up permanent residence it seems. Now you're not angry. Now you're nothing inside. Your doctor wants to put you on pills. You'll probably take them in the hopes that you'll actually be able to care about something, or maybe you hope they'll numb you further and help you sleep. Either is possible with anti-depressants. The problem of course is that you're not experiencing a chemical imbalance. You're in pain! It sucks! Who wouldn't be depressed by that? The only cure for that depression is to get rid of the pain, which is often easier said than done.

So many people are condemned to pain for the rest of their natural lives. There are medical conditions that there is very little treatment for, and even the strongest narcotic pain relievers aren't enough to relieve all of the symptoms. I can think of several examples. I have a friend who contracted a very rare sort of flesh eating condition. She's in constant pain and there's no cure. I know someone else with ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis that fuses your spine together, among other nasty things. One of the treatments that partially works to slow the condition and relieve the pain can come in at a cost of $72,000 per year. Take a look at Mick Mars' page (lead guitarist for Mötley Crüe) on Wikipedia. He suffers from the same condition, and is three inches shorter than he was in high school. With all the money in the world, he was unable to do anything to help himself.

Mick Mars - Wikipedia
Pain traps you, caging you in misery. Whether or not escape is possible obviously depends on what's causing it, but the long-term effects of living with pain are excruciating beyond the pain itself. If you can't find a way to live with the pain, your former life is over. That's what the doctors won't tell you. Instead they let the knowledge sneak up on you, and then it's too late to prepare yourself or your family. You don't smile at the jokes that made you fall in love, you don't tickle your kids until they're squealing, and your dog never learned to shake a paw or stop humping your leg. Your old friends ask, "Whatever happened to what's-his-face?" But they don't really care what the answer is anymore.

Suicide can happen, particularly with people that have been diagnosed with something incurable. Or they opt for procedures with high mortality rates, because they feel it's worth the risk. In the case of ankylosing spondylitis, patients have the option of a stem cell transfer, which is extremely dangerous. Your immune system has to be completely killed for a short time and then clean stem cells are re-introduced into your body. The risk is that your immune system might not start up again, or that you might catch something while it's completely turned off, so you die. Still, when living with that kind of pain it's something that people seriously consider. It's preferable to suicide at least, since there's a pretty good chance you'll live through it and then quite possibly be cured because your old, diseased stem cells have been killed, and healthy ones begin to spread through your body. If you're curious about the procedure, you can read about it here.

In future posts I'm going to talk about ways to handle your pain, including medications, mental and physical techniques. You may have options you're unaware of, that can take the edge off the pain and make your life more bearable. Be as patient as you can be. The answers will come.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Let Me Entertain You - An Introduction

My name is Rain Stickland, but you probably already know at least that much about me. What you may not know is that I'm a 42-year-old woman (at this writing) who is dealing with a temporary, albeit long-term, disability. The biggest reason for my disability being long-term is a diagnostic one. Basically my doctors didn't know what the hell was going on with me. My personal blog, Torrential Rain, carries a highly-detailed description of my journey toward a diagnosis, so I won't present another long-winded explanation here. You can click the highlighted link if you're interested in reading an encapsulated version of that difficult trip. My intention, however, is to delve more thoroughly into those happenings so that readers of this blog will get real information about what goes on medically, physically and emotionally when you're suddenly facing ongoing disability and pain.

There are a great many unpleasant surprises that come along with an unwelcome diagnosis - things your doctor doesn't mention, and probably doesn't even know about. It's not simply the emotional impact of denial and eventual acceptance. Nor is it an easy matter of learning to get around your own home again, a place you're already very familiar with. There is real fear involved with disability. Some of that fear is well-justified, and some of it may seem silly and paranoid. Some of it is only temporary, but some fear will be with you for a very long time.

I'm not a doctor. I'd better say that and get it out of the way. In fact I'm not very well-educated, in a formal sense. I'm what they call self-educated. I'm a writer, producer and business-owner who does a lot of research for reasons both personal and professional. I didn't finish high school, and what post-secondary education I got after-the-fact was related to computer programming, accounting and payroll. I've taken no courses in medical, psychological, pharmaceutical or scientific subjects. However, what I've managed to learn through my own research has helped not only achieve my own diagnoses, but also assisted others in learning about theirs. I've helped people with everything from diabetes and arthritis, to leukemia. I am very, very good at researching and understanding such topics, and then breaking them down into more understandable terminology, and that's one area where I can help my readers a great deal.

Apparently it was Aesop who predated Plato in saying, "Necessity is the mother of invention," and that's something else I can help with. I'm actually an inventor of some interesting pet products, and tend toward a creative mindset, which I've found constantly helpful during my currently disabled state. Admittedly I am far less disabled than many people who might read this. My disability is basically that I'm not really supposed to be walking right now, and I'm in constant pain that exceeds what I felt during childbirth. I have hip tear injuries that get worse the more I use them, and I'm currently awaiting surgery on both hip joints to repair the damage. That being said, pain is a lot more debilitating than is realized by the general public. There are those who cry and run away at a paper cut, and their whole life would collapse if they had to deal with real pain.

Let's face it, though, when a disability is sudden, or we get a sudden diagnosis that we're going to be disabled, our lives do collapse. The way we're living collapses. We're faced with rebuilding our lives in a new and complex structure, in ways we never imagined would be necessary. Young or old, rich or poor, people become disabled all the time for a wide variety of reasons, in a wide variety of ways. Granted, it may be easier to be rich and fully able to outfit your home with whatever you might need to make living a little less difficult. Having money doesn't negate the emotional and psychological impact, however. They just don't have the psychological strain of wondering how the hell they're going to make ends meet because they can't work.

That's another thing I'm going to be talking about in this blog. In many cases there are ways around not being able to work. In my more political, activism-type writing and work, many people consider me to be a left-leaning liberal, and for the most part they'd be right I suppose. There are some areas, though, that I just don't fall under that umbrella, and one of those areas is in the realm of self-sufficiency. Don't get me wrong. There are many, many cases of people sincerely not being able to work in any way at all. I've been there myself, and I'm still there right now to be honest. I can work doing this kind of thing, but because I'm on medications and I've got surgeries coming up with long recovery times, I'm incapable of maintaining a regular schedule. Freelance work where the people I work with are understanding about my situation, is the best I'm able to do.

There's nothing wrong with being on disability when you need it - I'm certainly not in a position to tell people otherwise. My point is that there are a number of people who can work, but it's in a way that's new to them. People who needed their physical bodies to do their jobs, and are now confined to wheelchairs, will have to find a different type of work if they want to be self-sufficient. So, I'm going to talk about potential employment options, including self-employment. That's something I have a fair bit of experience with, which means the help will be real help from a real person who actually knows what they're talking about. I've been there. I've started a number of businesses for myself and others. I've worked as a business consultant, and in the corporate world. Working in accounting, payroll and investment finance gave me a well-rounded education in business, too, including management and supervisory experience.

You're going to get to know me quite well by reading this blog, I guarantee it. You're also going to learn pretty quickly that you'll get quality information from me as we go along. I do my research, and I'm constantly learning. The more I learn, the more helpful you're going to find me. So, there's not much point in me continuing to ramble about myself here. You're going to find out soon enough. Please leave your comments and suggestions on my posts so that I can learn from you, too. If you've experience a difficulty, or you've found a solution to one, it's only going to help the other people who read this. I won't get to every subject all at once, but my first few postings are going to range broadly in topic and give an overview of what you're going to see from me in the near future. I look forward to interacting with all of you, and good luck with your own challenges!