Massive Trigger Warning: frank discussion of pain, medication and drug withdrawal.
Today feels significant. It’s been one year exactly since I lost took Tramadol, which was given to me for pain relief some 5 years previous. It’s a lot to think about. I’m not even sure what I want to say.
Most importantly, I don’t want to demonise pain medication. Many people I know live a better quality of life for taking pain meds, many people wouldn’t even be able to function without them. And early on, they improved my life no end too.
But it didn’t last. After a few years, I was trapped in a cycle. I was no longer getting any pain relief, I was just on a four times daily rollercoaster of warding off withdrawal drowsiness. I had a bunch of other cognitive and physical side effects that I had just put up with fo years, but I couldn’t take any more.
Going through withdrawal that at the height of a pandemic was a terrible idea. Opioid withdrawal is some serious shit. The first couple of weeks of Trainspotting sweats were the easy bit. Then came the panic attacks. The tremors. Uncontrollable anger. Constant agony through my whole body. Sleepless nights. What felt like heart attacks. I was in A&E several times a month for months. All in, I think it took about 6 months to approach normal. And with an overstretched NHS at the height of COVID, it was a big risk. In April 2021 I was finally diagnosed with Functional Neurological Disorder, believe to be caused by Tramadol. For me that manifested in Parkinson’s like-symptoms; shaking, ticcing, and constant anxiety. That diagnosis came as something of a relief; it gave something to make sense of what was happening to me.
Living with pain is hard. Managing it without medication is a big task. I have system. It’s all encompassing. I’ll talk about it another time. I’m wary of glorifying med-free life. Am I better off without Tramadol? Yes. Absolutely. Ableds, be warned; this is not a green flag to tell disabled people to throw away their meds. I hate pointing that stuff out, but this is not an inspirational tale. Everyone is different. I knew I was slowly being fucked up by them, and had to take the leap. I’m honestly feeling healthier now than I’ve ever felt.
Had I known a year ago what the following six months of hell would be, I doubt I’d have done it. After a few weeks, I thought I was dying. Angry determination set in. It wasn’t even about being medication free. I just wanted to see if I was strong enough to survive. Again, this is not advice. I was repeatedly warned of the dangers of sudden opioid withdrawal. I felt I could beat it though, and I did.
Life is still a bit one-day-at-a-time, but it’s getting better every day. I’ve no idea how I found the strength looking back, but I’m grateful that I did.