Present Day, January 23, 2021

269 days. Not a full year, but closer than not. That is how long it has been since I have found the gumption to sit down and post a new blog entry. Why? Too many reasons to explain, and not the point of this entry. But here I find myself again.

So much has changed in those 269 days (and the 45 or so preceding). How is that for the understatement of the year? New meds. New psychiatrist. Tele-therapy. New job. Family separation…just one of the day-to-day changes brought about by a global pandemic. Again, too much to delve into and not the point of this entry.

What has brought me back? Why now? An acute awareness of how other people live. Of their struggles. Quite literally, of their pain.

Around Thanksgiving, I began feeling a slight jabbing pain at the base of my neck. The feeling of a crick in my neck. Or possibly a mildly pinched nerve. Nothing severe. Nothing to worry about. Except it did not go away. In fact, the pain increased. Slowly, but surely. Different head movements became more and more uncomfortable. Then downright painful. By Christmas, things had grown rather intolerable.

I attempted a telehealth visit. Was placed on a steroid anti-inflammatory medication and advised that if things were not better in about a week or so, I should probably go visit someone in-person. Things did not get better. The medicine had no effect. I started sleeping sitting up.

The week passed and I headed to an urgent care center. A few x-rays, lots of questions, and this time a shot of anti-inflamatory steroids. Another prescription. Another week. No improvement. Nothing even taking the edge off the pain. Increasing uncomfortability.

Back for another telehealth visit. Two more prescriptions, and a referal for an MRI. Results? Three bulging discs. Yeah, that explains it. Now I am in line for an epidural injection and a neurosurgeon consultation. However, even that is not really the point of today’s reflections.

Chronic pain. Mind you, I would not classify my current circumstance as chronic pain. In the big picture of things, it has a fairly recent starting point, and if the experts are correct, an ending point is in the not too distant future. I’m talking about the pain whose beginning is too far in the past to even remember. The kind of pain that has next to no promise of departure. The kind of pain that gets medicated, but to seemingly no avail. The kind of pain that makes common activity difficult, common movements challenging, and common dreams vanish.

My current experience has given me just a glimpse into the life of the individual living with chronic pain, and I do not envy them. In fact, it has taught me (or is at least teaching me) two things. First, you may never know who around you is in pain. If I was not sharing with my co-workers what is going on, they would never know. I try to maneuver as normally as possible. I am very self-conscious of taking my medications in private. And up until this week, most of my medical appointments took place during our 18-day winter shut-down. All of which got me to thinking there may be individuals that I even work with who are in chronic pain, and I have no idea.

Second, it has taught me (or is at least teaching me) to empathize with people going through pain. Especially those for which the pain will seemingly never go away. Not to belittle the broken leg, or a dislocated shoulder, or even pinched nerve in the neck, but there are people for which the pain will not end. For which there is no “Just hang in there until ______” fill in the blank. For which there is no diagnosis other than let’s try to manage the pain. Which implicitly indicates that you are not going to live pain-free. How difficult that must be. How mentally challenging. How physically exhausting.

I have bipolar. This is a blog about living with bipolar. And in many ways, there are similarities between being diagnosed with a mental illness and having chronic pain. My co-workers are unaware of my psychiatric condition. There is no suggestion that it will ever go away. It is “managed”. I take my medications. I do my therapy. I get my sleep. That helps but doesn’t heal.

Over the past few weeks, I have tried to imagine what it must be like to live with the combination. A mental illness, and chronic pain. Could I even do that? How long could I go on? What sustains people in that position?

If you live in chronic pain, I feel for you. I will not claim to know what it is like, but I have been given a taste. I cannot imagine the strength and resolve with which you live life. For those with a mental illness, more of the same. I admire your strength and resolve. While I walk that walk, I rarely do it well.

I once read, have tried to live by, and have failed miserably the following:

“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.”

A few bulging discs have reminded me of the truth of this. Have reminded me to try and be kind. Always.

July 8th, 2017 – Musical Truths

I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that’s real
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything

What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away
In the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

I wear this crown of thorns
Upon my liar’s chair
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
Beneath the stains of time
The feelings disappear
You are someone else
I am still right here

What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away
In the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

If I could start again
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way

June 10th, 2017 – Musical Truths

If you’re standing with your suitcase
But you can’t step on the train
Everything’s the way that you left it
I still haven’t slept yet

And if you’re covering your face now
But you just can’t hide the pain
Still setting two plates on the counter but eating without you

If the truth is you’re a liar
When just say that you’re okay
I’m sleeping on your side of the bed
Goin’ out of my head now

And if you’re out there trying to move on
But something pulls you back again
I’m sitting here trying to persuade you like you’re in the same room

And I wish you could give me the cold shoulder
And I wish you could still give me a hard time
And I wish I could still wish it was over
But even if wishing is a waste of time
Even if I never cross your mind

I’ll leave the door on the latch
If you ever come back, if you ever come back
There’ll be a light in the hall and the key under the mat
If you ever come back
There’ll be a smile on my face and the kettle on
And it will be just like you were never gone
There’ll be a light in the hall and the key under the mat
If you ever come back, if you ever come back now
Oh if you ever come back, if you ever come back

Now they say I’m wasting my time
‘Cause you’re never comin’ home
But they used to say the world was flat
But how wrong was that now?

And by leavin’ my door open
I’m riskin’ everything I own
There’s nothing I can lose in a break-in that you haven’t taken

And I wish you could give me the cold shoulder
And I wish you can still give me a hard time
And I wish I could still wish it was over
But even if wishing is a waste of time
Even if I never cross your mind

I’ll leave the door on the latch
If you ever come back, if you ever come back
There’ll be a light in the hall and the key under the mat
If you ever come back
There’ll be a smile on my face and the kettle on
And it will be just like you were never gone
There’ll be a light in the hall and the key under the mat
If you ever come back, if you ever come back now
Oh, if you ever come back, if you ever come back

If it’s the fighting you remember or the little things you miss
I know you’re out there somewhere, so just remember this
If it’s the fighting you remember or the little things you miss
Oh just remember this, oh just remember this

I’ll leave the door on the latch
If you ever come back, if you ever come back
There’ll be a light in the hall and the key under the mat
If you ever come back
There’ll be a smile on my face and the kettle on
And it will be just like you were never gone
There’ll be a light in the hall and the key under the mat
If you ever come back, if you ever come back now
Oh, if you ever come back, if you ever come back

And it will be just like you were never gone
And it will be just like you were never gone
And it will be just like you were never gone
If you ever come back, if you ever come back now

April 22nd, 2017 – Musical Truths

When, when we came home
Worn to the bones
I told myself, “This could get rough.”

And when, when I was off,
Which happened a lot
You came to me and said, “That’s enough.”

Oh, I know that this love is pain
But we can’t cut it from out these veins,
No

So I’ll get the lights and you lock the doors
We ain’t leaving this room ’til we both feel more
Don’t walk away, don’t roll your eyes
They say love is pain. Well, darling, let’s hurt tonight

When, when you came home
Worn to the bones
I told myself, “This could be rough.”

Oh, I know you feel insane
Tell me something that I can explain,
Oh

I’ll get the lights and you lock the doors
Tell me all of the things that you couldn’t before
Don’t walk away, don’t roll your eyes
They say love is pain. Well, darling, let’s hurt tonight
If this love is pain then, darling, let’s hurt, oh, tonight

So you get the lights and I’ll lock the doors
Let’s say all of the things that we couldn’t before
Won’t walk away, won’t roll my eyes
They say love is pain. Well, darling, let’s hurt tonight
If this love is pain, then, honey, let’s love tonight

Present Day, April 19th, 2017

8 mm. I live in America and have minimal familiarity with the metric system so it seemed like such a small number to me. Eight. Millimeters.

That is what it took to bring me down three weeks ago (See – Present Day, April 2nd, 2017). To practically derail my life for an entire three-week period. An 8 mm kidney stone. The stone. The wait. The stint. The removal. The recovery.

I will not bore you with all the details (you are welcome), or with any of the images (you are SOOO welcome!). Let’s just keep this simple, straight forward and honest. There are awful combinations in life. Take for instance large amounts of cocaine, heroin and alcohol. Terrible combination.

Well, for those who do not know, Bipolar (or any number of mental illnesses) combined with chronic or pseudo-chronic pain? Bad combination. Throw in morphine and narcotic pain medications? Really bad combination. As a final ingredient to the recipe let’s toss in a splash of a highly physical job that starts at three in the morning? Yeah, I was pretty much fucked.

Things were actually supposed to be quite smooth following the insertion of a stint between my kidney and my bladder. Should be minimal discomfort they said. Shouldn’t hardly be noticeable¬†they said.

I really like my entire medical team including my doctor. There was, however, one problem with just about all of them. They were young. Very young. As in, too young to have ever had a kidney stone. In other words, it was all book knowledge. No experience. Or put another way, they didn’t know what the hell they were talking about.

The day after. And the day after that. And the day after that. The pain did not go away. The discomfort that was indescribable to my wife. The inexplicable lack of energy. From the Tuesday the stent was placed inside my body until six days later (two days ago), when I grabbed that string and pulled that son of a bitch out of my body, it had become the physically most discouraging period of my life.

The day of the stone was worse than the day of my heart attack. The week after the surgery was worse than the week after my heart attack. Not. Even. Close!

And so I have been sidelined. With no creative energy to write (or think for that matter) as I suffered through day in, day out of blood clots, cramps, and fatigue. As I took over the counter pain killers to stay awake enough to run my route before popping a narcotic to sleep enough to do it again the next day.

But I have survived. Once again my pee is flowing freely and bright (sorry…couldn’t avoid ALL the details), my energy is back, and life is rainbows and unicorns. At least for today. And for today…I’ll take it.