Coping, Diet, Treatment, Triggers

A Decision. . . Almost

I’m almost definitely going to have my stimulator removed. I’m still scared to give up my security blanket, so I haven’t scheduled the surgery yet. But I will. I know it’s the right decision.

While we were waiting for my doctor when we were in Phoenix in April, after my leads slipped, I asked Hart outright if he thought the stimulator was still working. He told me he didn’t think it ever worked. This was the first time I asked his opinion directly and the first time he gave it to me. (Don’t get angry with him; it’s a very good thing that he didn’t tell me before.)

I only had a few minutes to absorb this shock before my doctor arrived. When he zoomed into the room, I remembered immediately the surprise on his face when I reported to him at the end of my trial. He asked me to put a percentage on how much the stimulator helped during the week that I had it. A Although I’m adamantly opposed to quantifying the subjective (one of the lasting effects of grad school), but I took a stab at it and said 70%. “Really?,” my doc said incredulously. I was too desperate for pain relief to have gotten the hint.

I hit the bottom when I returned after the permanent implant was put in in December 2003. The next year was rough, horrible actually. But it ended with a two-month vacation, with a month of that spent in New Zealand. There was no way I could avoid reflection and, eventually, some sort of clarity during this time.

When we got home in January, I scheduled an appointment with a psychiatrist. The next few months were spent adjusting meds, but I physically felt better than I had in years. I began yoga and two months later, the leads slipped. The pain was then in full force and my depression returned.

The bright spot of the summer was starting starting The Daily Headache, but most of it was spent in pain. So my psychiatrist and I adjusted the meds again. We got the right cocktail at the end of September and I was happy and having less head pain.

In January of this year, I cooked decent meals regularly and ate lots of veggies and less cookie dough. I became more strict about avoiding MSG and changed my diet from mostly organic to all organic. (Pesticides may function as MSG, but I was also eating more veggies, so I don’t know what was responsible for the improvement.)

I broke up with peanut butter in March after finally recognizing what an abusive relationship we were in. And I felt better. While I was laid up when my leads slipped at the end of March, I pinpointed the chemicals used to decaffeinate coffee as a trigger, so I dropped that too.

I’ve had my stimulator off since the beginning of April. I’ve had less pain and am high(er) energy than I have been in a long time. My pain has been reduced significantly. I still have bad days and sometimes bad weeks, but it’s been great overall.

In addition to the forward motion of managing my depression with meds that are also effective for pain management (Cymbalta and Lamictal), eating better and avoiding food triggers, I think a couple of factors have played a role.

I left a high-stress, high-frustration job in a field that I didn’t want to be in and then spent the next 18 months agonizing about what kind of work I would do. I finally realized that my life could be good without a job. Then I began blogging, which lets me help people — which is the job I’ve been searching for since college.

I moved to a city that I love. But that was stressful, too, because we didn’t know anyone here. I made a dear friend after we’d been here about six months. She’s fantastic, but she’s only one person. In the last year finally felt like I have a family of friends here.

I accepted the fact that I will probably never be pain-free and learned that I can still live a good life.

You’ll notice that all these changes have occurred since I got the stimulator. (We moved here in September 2003 and I got the stimulator in December 2003.) I don’t think the stimulator has been significant in any of this, except psychologically, which is powerful in it’s own right.

I’m tired of not being able to do any exercise other than walk and having core muscles that are as supportive of my back as a flat tire is supportive of a car. And I’m tired of missing everything else I’ve given up. I’ve resented the stimulator for a year.

It’s time for it to go, but I’m having trouble giving up the security blanket. I can’t schedule the surgery just yet. I blame it on our schedules, but know that’s an excuse. Maybe I’ll give myself an incentive, as parents do to get children to give up sucking their thumbs. Something that I really want. Like a regular yoga practice or kayaking in the San Juans.

Soon. I’ll do it soon.

To read more about my experiences with nerve stimulation, visit the nerve stimulation category and start at the bottom of the page. Tomorrow Soon I’ll post the story of a friend who also had a nerve stimulator.