Tag Archives: futility

UPDATE: The Broken Bat(mart)

As I described in The Broken Bat(mart) a couple of days ago, not to mention at least half of my posts here on the website, I am suffering from a fair amount of pain, to the point of feeling physically and mentally battered and very close to almost broken. I’d thought that it was pretty bad when I was working in restaurants, but after a six month sabbatical, and subsequent employment at a far more physically demanding job, it turns out that it has gotten much, much worse. Like I mentioned last week, in Agony- 13.5 Years, I was very near the point of quitting before I’d truly managed to get started. Honestly, I believe that it was only the shame of having to give up so quickly which managed to bolster my tenacity and allow me to stick it out and try to find my footing. Pride, however, doesn’t do a lot in terms of pain relief, and even though it hasn’t been as bad as that first day unloading the truck, I could feel the cumulative effects of so much physicality, and knew that I would have to finally do something. Normally, I would have been tempted to utilize “back channels” to locate what I needed (after having had such a miserable experience with my last physician), but because of my employer’s policies, that could have wound up costing me my job. So I waited until payday, and got myself to the local Urgent Care offices.

I didn’t hold much hope, mind you, that anything would happen, considering the hoops I had to jump through (not to mention the hundreds of dollars in co-pays for doctor appointments and medication which didn’t work) just so that nothing would, even in the slightest bit, change, aside from the size of my bank account. And, considering how much time I had to wait before finally being admitted, I’m amazed that anyone actually saw me at all. At least when I go again, I’ll be in the system, and won’t have to sign so much infernal paperwork. I was sitting in the waiting room for nearly an hour, being kicked (I hope by accident) by a parade of toddlers running past me on their way to and from their mommies and the toys back in the corner. I did my best not to scowl at them, as I generally do like children, but considering that I was in there because of extreme (Extreme!) leg pain, every little kick against my foot shot spears of agony up through my legs, resonating loudly just behind my knees as they ascended. Needless to say, by the time that I was finally called back, I was nearly in tears.

Things I learned from this visit:

1) I have gained nearly fifteen pounds since quitting my last job.

2) Apparently my blood pressure is bad enough that both the nurse and the doctor could barely conceal both their surprise and concern about seeing the numbers.

3) The beds they have to sit on in the exam rooms are precisely the wrong shape and height if you are suffering from leg pain.

I’d thought that it was a long and mind-numbing wait to get into the exam room, but it was so much worse once I was in there, despite the fact that toddlers were no longer smacking up against me. If it weren’t for the constant painful throbbing in my legs, I might have actually passed out from boredom. When the doctor finally entered, I had lost the boiling pit of vitriol which I had been nurturing since that morning, and was only able to describe my pain with a sigh of resignation. Considering how everything wound up playing out, that may have been for the best. I told her how this wasn’t something new, and the nonsense that I endured at the hands of my last physician. I told her how my current job was the only one to call me, and though it’s physically destroying me and refusing to provide me with enough hours to live on (especially considering that they’re only paying me minimum wage), it was all I had, and that I needed to find a way to keep going back. I told her that I knew that my expanding girth was contributing to my pain, and that half a year of relative inactivity, while a welcome respite from the pain I’d felt those last few years that I’d been working, had only made it that much harder when I wound up going back to work.

And then the most amazing thing happened: I told her what the physical therapist had told me (which my doctor had ignored) which was that I should be on muscle relaxants, and instead of arguing with me, she just nodded, and motioned for me to continue. For the first time in well over a decade, a doctor actually listened to me. Maybe it’s because most drug addicts aren’t hitting up their doctors for muscle relaxants when they could be there for more powerful narcotics, or maybe it was that she heard the truth of my pain hidden somewhere in my voice. Whatever it was, she told me that she’d be prescribing a muscle relaxant for me, and something for my pain. She then left me waiting for another half an hour, so as to make sure that I remembered that I was still dealing with the health care system in America. The nurse came in again, with the two prescriptions, and wished me well, apologizing for the delay, and reassuring me (though a bit belatedly) that I hadn’t been forgotten. I thanked her, and gimped out past a newly refilled waiting room and off toward a pharmacy.

I normally go Walgreen’s when I fill prescriptions, but my legs were hurting (as I may have mentioned once or twice), and so it was that I finally paid a visit to the little pharmacy less than a block away. I think what really sold me was that they advertised “15 Minute Prescriptions”, and the soonest I could hope to get them from the nearest Walgreen’s was at least an hour, and then, only if there wasn’t anyone in line ahead of me, which, considering that it was almost five o’clock on a Friday afternoon, didn’t seem too likely. I don’t know how much my meds would have cost me, but that day, at least, I was more concerned about sooner than cheaper. Within eight minutes, measured from when I first walked in the door, I had my bottles of Tramadol and Baclofen. They’d cost me $47.00 (and the Urgent Care visit had run me $45- which meant that I had spent almost half my check on medical care for the next week), but for the first time in what could have easily passed for forever, I felt almost human again. The walk back to my apartment didn’t hurt, and I was able to greet my waiting son with loving attention instead of pained tolerance and distance.

Obviously, I cannot continue to spend half of every paycheck on medicine so that I can keep working at that job, but for now, at least, I feel the future is at least slightly brighter than it was before. My fingers are crossed, and my knees are no longer killing me. Here’s to the future!

The Broken Bat(mart)

I am broken into a million pieces, each smaller than the last, and throbbing in an electric pulse of agony which threatens not only my physical well-being, but also that of my mental state. Tomorrow, or the day after, I will have to pay a visit to the Urgent Care Center and find a way to convince them that I’m going to need something stronger than prescription-strength Aleve. I mean, were I not employed by a ridiculously cartoonish corporation who feels threatened enough by the successes of labor unions back when they were relevant in America to paint them in an obviously nefarious light (I mean come on: That video was essentially Reefer Madness 2!), I would take advantage of my wife’s reluctant acceptance of at least the concept of medical marijuana and be done with it. But because my employer insists on random drug tests (to which I have not yet had to submit myself), and the fact that marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I narcotic (meaning it has no medicinal value whatsoever and a high potential for abuse), even if I were to possess a valid prescription for the THC which would be floating around inside of me for the foreseeable future, I would lose my job for having used an illegal substance. What that means is that, instead of the possibility of taking one thing to combat the pain, muscle tension, loss of appetite and anxiety, there exists the real possibility that I will either have to take something with a higher risk for dependence (or multiple things), or simply receive no help at all.

That was what happened back when I had a regular doctor and health insurance. He refused to actually listen to me, and insisted on writing ineffective prescriptions, which I had to dutifully fill (still costing me money, despite the discount from the insurance), and give a chance while the side effects wound up being worse than my original problem. You see, I made the mistake of letting him know that I have Bi-Polar Type II, hoping that he could just write me a prescription for lithium and order regular blood draws. So when we were trying to address the constant pain from which I was suffering, he decided that it would be better to try to kill two birds with one stone. Obviously that didn’t work. Anti-depressants have never worked for me, as they don’t actually address the mania (lithium, for those of you who aren’t aware, is an anti-manic. It works by limit the scope of the mania, which, in turn, means that it can mitigate the depression.), and indeed, have a tendency to make my psyche go a little… off. By the time he finally got around to referring me to a pain specialist, I was out of time and money (each of his useless visits also coming out of my pocket, $20 at a time). Why is it so hard to get proper medical help in this bloody country?

I realize that there are a lot of people who just want opiates to get high. I can respect that, as life is kind of a bummer, and opiates make all of that just sort of go away. I had a prescription for a little while for Vicodin, and I could understand the appeal. But, having had my fun during my late teens and early twenties, I’m really not that much of a risk for abuse. You see, as much as I would love to fall into the bottom of a bottle of whichever poison lays before me, I’ve got things to do. I have a son to worry about, a job to keep, and bills to pay. There’s a reason that I gave up drinking (aside from just a handful of times per year), and it wasn’t because I couldn’t afford it (though my love affair with high-end Scotch could have presented just the slightest bit of a problem were it not for hard-earned wisdom). I don’t want to get high, at least, not like that. I’m sure there will come a day when I just can’t take it any longer, and I invite the world to come crashing down upon me, but today is not that day. For whatever reason, it seems that I have to stay alive for at least a little while longer, and I promised myself that the next time that get back into harmful things, I’m doing it for keeps. I just want the pain to go away.

I have tried naproxen, aspirin, caffeine, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, epsom salt baths, massage, those handheld electrocution massagers, stretching, and everything else which I can purchase without medical assistance. I’ve also had to deal with a disturbingly high number of anti-depressants used off-label (to deleterious effect) upon the directions of my physician. The only times I’ve ever been pain-free were when I was given the opportunity to take something actually designed to combat chronic pain. And it’s a vicious cycle: as the pain increases (or at least, refuses to abate), I am able to engage in significantly less physical activity, and unable to stomach even the idea of eating more than once or maybe twice a day. So my weight increases, which puts more of a strain upon me, increasing the standard of pain. What I have gotten used to, insomuch as someone can get used to this agony, I would refer to as about a “7” on the pain scale, but that means (to me, at least) only that I have found a way to push temporarily through it, while awaiting the spikes of “9” or “10”. If you were to give that pain to myself from even six years ago, he would describe it with a much higher number. If you were to inflict it upon the me from the mid-nineties, he would probably go catatonic. I just want to be pain-free.

And this job I have isn’t helping. It’s a physically demanding job, and it’s beating the holy hell out of me. If I were my own doctor, my advice to me would be to find anything else. But here’s the thing: I’ve looked. After months of trying to find something I might have a chance of not despising, my current employer was the only place to call me back. I know it’s a shitty job, and I know it’s a shitty amount of money, and I know what it is doing to me, but I need it all the same. When you’re making minimum wage, you have to take whatever hours they will give you, and you can’t do that if you cannot get out of bed. That day hasn’t come yet, but I know it will. I can’t get to sleep until the sun goes down (near enough to 8:30 in the evening, and that means that it doesn’t even start to get properly dark until somewhere closer to 9), and I have to be awake again by 3 a.m. at the very latest, so that I can get out the door by 3:20 to make the walk to work. Do the math. And then, when I get home, David is awake, and the chances for me to sleep are nonexistent (this, by the way, has been one of the reasons why I haven’t been able to write these past few days). Add that in with the worsening pain, and tacked-on responsibilities at work due to consistent demonstrations of competency, and it’s a wonder that I’ve made it as long as I have.

So yeah, I’m feeling a little broken right now, both physically and monetarily. I know that at some point, things will get better, but I can’t honestly believe right now.